Betty Cass’ Brown Sugar Cookies

Posted on Dec 2 2009 - 12:32pm by RetroRuth

Hines001Happy Wednesday, All!  So, for this Christmas I decided I was going to give Tom a break from the Mid-Century Menu for dinner for a month.

I decided it would be a nice change to do something GOOD for a while.  Besides, with Thanksgiving past and done my mind has switched gears over to Christmas cookies.  And since I was digging through all my vintage cookbooks looking for cookie recipes, I thought it would be a great time to showcase some vintage Christmas Cookies.  So, for the month of December, I am devoting the Mid-Century Menu to cookies.  Sounds good, huh?  I know Tom is excited.

This week I am starting with cookie I picked out from the Duncan Hines Dessert Book, which was published in 1955.  Now, for those of you who don’t know (like me before I picked up this book) Duncan Hines is not just a company that makes cake mix.  I know, shocking, isn’t it?  Anyway, Duncan Hines was actually a man who wrote travel guides and then happened to start a cake mix business on the side.  Hmm…I wonder which became more popular?  In any case, Mr. Hines would often ask people for recipes if he really liked what he was served, and those recipes became the basis for this cookbook.  There are a lot of interesting cookies in this book, but I decided to start with something simple right off the bat to get the ball rolling.


A brown sugar cookie with nuts?  Sounds good to me.  Easy yet tasty.

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Simple ingredients. 

Ah…so nice not to have anything creepy staring  up at me from the prep board.  Like sardines.  Yuck.

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The shortening, butter and brown sugar.  I thought this was an interesting because these cookies use both shortening AND butter.  I am not sure if that was common back then, but it is the only cookie recipe in this book that does that.

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The sugar, butter and shortening, all creamed together.

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Adding the egg.

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Adding the flour, vanilla and baking powder after the egg was in.

If you haven’t noticed already, there is no salt in this recipe.  I was a little thrown off by that, but I kept going.

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The finished batter with the nuts mixed in.  Looks good!

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The cookies, all neatly portioned thanks to the Pampered Chef disher my mom brought me over Thanksgiving.  Thanks, Mom!

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Finished and ready for the oven, complete with a little nut pushed on the top.  It is supposed to be a pecan half, but I figured since it was a test run I could get away with a third.  Or quarter.  It was pretty small.

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Here is a finished cookie, fresh from the oven.  Unfortunately, Tom is at work and not able to do his regular first bite shot.  I will have to take a picture when he comes home from work.  In the meantime, I didn’t mind being the first one to take a bite this time.

It was pretty  good, but not great.  I could tell right away that the cookies were missing salt, and they were also a little too greasy for me.  And a little plain.

The Verdict:  A little plain, not good Christmas cookie material.

If I was going to make this for a Christmas cookie, I would a a 1/4 tsp salt, decrease the shortening by half and add a cup of toffee chips.  Or broken up toffee. And maybe drizzle some chocolate on the top, just to make it look fancy.

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (, No Pattern Required (, and I Ate The 80's (

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10 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Sara in AZ December 2, 2009 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Ruth! You should have gotten a pic of yourself taking that first questionable bite – he he! I can just picture you aiming the camera at yourself while taking the bite. 😉 Bummer that they did not turn out that good. I wonder what prompted Mr. Hines to include this particular recipe since it was not really that great. Hmmmmmm???

  2. Marsi @ The Cottage Cheese December 2, 2009 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Don’t you hate it when a baking recipe turns out just kind of so-so? Because there are so many good recipes out there. Too bad about this one too because I love brown sugar. You still have me craving a cookie. Can’t wait to see the rest of the recipes! 🙂

  3. Annie B. December 2, 2009 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Sorry, Ruth, that this cookie recipe didn’t pan out; might be time to fire up that vintage Mirro cookie press.

    Ah, Christmas cookie time!!!! The “most wonderful time of the year”…..!!!

    All over mid-century-loving America, you will soon hear the metallic squeaking of the handles of vintage Mirro cookie presses as tons of spritz cookie dough are forced through the Christmas tree disk, the star disk, etc.
    And, don’t forget those cheese straws!

    Christmas in my ’50’s childhood was not complete without the making of batch after batch of those crumbly, buttery spritz cookies which were always adorned with red and green sugar sprinkles, silver balls, cinnamons, etc. Fortunately, vintage cookie presses are fairly easy to find and usually inexpensive; many happy Christmas memories evoked by the cookie press. Ruth, I know you have one!

  4. Paulette December 2, 2009 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Huh, the recipe sounded like it’d be better than that. Actually, it reminds me of my grandma’s “icebox cookies,” which original recipe called for lard and “5 cents worth of walnuts.” They are still my dad’s favorite holiday cookie, bar none. I think they’re kinda greasy, but he loves them dunked in his coffee. Maybe that’s the key to making them taste better! 🙂

  5. sablemable December 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm - Reply


    What, no Spam? LOL!

    I’ve had brown sugar cookies where they were darker in color. I don’t have the recipe, as someone else made them a loong time ago.

    Mom always made a butter cookie recipe, rolled out the dough (very thin), cut it into shapes and iced them with powdered sugar icing tinted in Christmas colors. Best part of Christmases in the Fifties/Sixties was those cookies!

  6. Alex December 2, 2009 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    My mother’s side of the family is Moravian, so she always baked WONDERFUL cookies at Christmas. The best are the very thin ginger ones. I’ve been dying for one of those cookie presses!

  7. sablemable December 3, 2009 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Alex! I almost forgot about the Moravian cookies! So thin, so crisp they are wonderful!

  8. RetroRuth December 3, 2009 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Ladies! I just had a great idea! Email me your favorite vintage recipes at nopatternrequired at and I will post them for Christmas. That way we can all share in each other’s Christmas memories!

    Sara- I will have to have Tom take a picture of me next time. 🙂 I have no idea why he included the recipe, maybe just to fill a space???

    Marsi – I DO hate it when they turn out like that, I always think it is a waste of ingredients, especially butter and shortening!

    Annie – Your memories are so poetic, I can almost see them! And you totally have my number, I have a Mirro cookie press stashed away in one of my drawers somewhere. I am going to have to break that out this year for Spritz!

    Paulette – I WANT that recipe. Sounds great, I even have the dreaded lard in my pantry sitting around radiating calories.

    Sable – Wouldn’t it be hilarious if there was a Spam cookie???? 🙂 If there was, you know it would be my next recipe.

    Alex – If I see a press, I will pick it up for you. They are all over the place around here!

  9. Barbara December 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Maybe they needed to be chilled first, since they’re basically butter cookies.

    You have to make the Elevator Lady Cookies from Peg Bracken’s I Hate To Cook Book (circa 1960). You can find the recipe online by typing the name.

  10. Annie B. December 4, 2009 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Ruth – what a wonderful idea about posting recipes! It will be interesting to see how many vintage recipes we have in common; also, a great way of vicariously experiencing the mid century Christmases of our posting friends.

    I, too, will be glad to pick up a cookie press (or two) for anyone who’s interestsed in one. They are such a hoot to use; kids can have a blast with ’em…….adults, too, especially after a few egg nogs!!!

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