It’s a sweet recipe that’s been handed down through one family for over a century.
Samantha Black’s great-great-grandmother, Lewellyn Kerstetter, was born in 1889 in Pennsylvania and raised four daughters on her own during the Great Depression, supporting her family by working as a typesetter and a soda fountain server, in addition to holding other odd jobs. Kerstetter, whose grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Germany, was also one of eight children and loved taking care of her family members — especially cooking and baking for them.
From Kerstetter’s kitchen came a sugar cookie recipe that’s been handed down over five generations. Black recently shared her great-great-grandmother’s famous recipe on the Old_Recipes subreddit, giving her fellow Redditors a chance to test out a tried-and-true holiday recipe from her family.
“These cookies are part of Christmas memories for me and my sister and cousins,” Black, who is from Baltimore, Maryland but currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, told TODAY Food. “At the holidays, the kids would sleep in the basement and wake up to our parents and aunts and uncles laughing so loudly in the kitchen above us. We never minded though, as the morning after the reunion we got to eat cookies for breakfast.”
Because of COVID-19–related travel restrictions, Black said she won’t be seeing her parents and sister this holiday season. But sharing comments on her Reddit post from others who have made her family’s cookie recipe has been an unexpected way to connect with her mother during the pandemic.
As I planned my own Christmas baking schedule, I decided to give Black’s family recipe a try, to see if these sugar cookies are truly Santa-worthy.
Kerstetter’s cookies are made from basic sugar cookie ingredients, with cream of tartar going into the mix of flour, sugar, eggs and oil. After mixing up some batter and refrigerating it for a full day, my cookies were ready to bake.
This dough rolls out smoothly and bakes in just eight minutes on 350 F. I decorated my cookies with holiday sprinkles prior to baking, but these firm-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside delights would be perfect for decorating with icing, too.
The flavor of the cookies is buttery and sweet, and warm from the oven, my kids could not get enough of them.
The verdict? We’ll definitely be leaving great-great-grandma Kerstetter’s cookies out for the man in red at our house this Christmas Eve.
Black said she’s thrilled that so many Redditors love her cookies — but she’s not surprised.
“My family has always been about sharing this recipe, as we all really feel they’re the best sugar cookies ever,” she said. “I thought a few people might enjoy making them and perhaps could start new traditions for their holidays — something about sugar cookies is so quintessentially Christmas.”
“I didn’t expect so many people to want to try them,” Black added, “but looking back I am not that surprised, as they really are a damn good cookie.”