Orange Cookies



Growing up we had traditions. Boy, did we have traditions. Growing up Latino in a Mexican American household doubled any single tradition under our roof. We sang “Happy Birthday” and “Las Mañanitas” during birthday celebrations, has piñatas as well as cake, and not only popped champagne during New Year’s Eve but snacked on my grandmother’s delicious Bunuelos. I never realized that many of the food and musical traditions we practiced weren’t related but came from two separate cultures, and I remember the surprise when I realized my other friends’ families didn’t spend days in the kitchen making tamales during Christmas.

As soon as I was able to recognize the distinction between the two cultures in my life I became interested in how others celebrated, specifically with music and food. I’ve been blessed to join the table of friends, tasting everything from amazing Passover Seders to traditional Ethiopian meals and so much in between.

(hint: if you invite me to dinner I’ll answer with a yes before you can even finish the question!)

When I met my partner Adam I was interested in finding out what food traditions his family had. I learned about their big elaborate French toast breakfasts on Christmas morning, Pizza Nights on Fridays, and also about Granny’s Orange Cookies that she had made for years. When we moved into her house after she passed away I discovered the actual handwritten recipe and was pleased to learn that not only did she make these cookies during the holidays, but so did her daughter and grandson. It only took my first bite of these orange cookies to realize why they were so loved–they’re moist, cake-like, topped with a slightly bitter orange frosting that has a slight sour zing. Of course, having a huge orange tree in the backyard always helps, too.

We’ll make these orange cookies a few times a year, giving out batches to family members or just eating them all ourselves. And with every bite I will always think about Granny Pat and wonder if she knows how much we still enjoy them.

Frosted Orange Cookies
Recipes for these orange frosted cookies can be found online, and I have yet to locate the exact origins. The original recipe calls for shortening which leads me to believe that it was created within the past 80 years or so. I’m not a fan of shortening (those pesky hydrogenated trans fats!) and this recipe can be made with butter if you wish. Makes 4 dozen

Cream together 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup shortening and 2 unbeaten eggs. Add 3 cups of sifted flower and 1 teaspoon salt.

Juice 1 orange and grate the rind. Fill 1 cup with juice and rind and enough milk to make one cup. Add 2 teaspoons baking power to juice and then add to the flour mixture. Grease a cookie sheet or use parchment and bake 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes, depending on oven.

For the frosting, mix the zest of 1 orange, 2 tablespoons orange juice, 2 tablespoons melted butter and 3 cups of powered sugar. Mix until it is a spreadable consistency. Adam says it’s not an exact science so add more or less juice and sugar to get the desired consistency. Spread on cooled cookies and enjoy.



  1. tania says

    First off. I LOVE your blog. Awesome writing and the most beautiful photos!
    This cookie recipe sounds wonderful, but you failed to mention how you got those perfectly round, uniformly sized shapes. Did you roll out the dough and use a cutterP please tell me you didn’t just drop identical sized teasponfuls on the sheet! Or are you really THAT GOOD??

  2. says

    what a sweet, heartfelt posting, matt. i love recipes that a) are beautiful to taste, and b) are steeped in tradition. coming from a big italian family, i know about christmases and new years that my family celebrated differently than any of my friends, and i’ve grown to love that. every christmas as far back as i can remember, my grandmother made billions of these short, crumbly finger-shaped cookies filled with apricot preserves called chifle. (pronounced “kiff-lee”) i still fantasize about these cookies, and miss them terribly every christmas.

    thank you for the wonderful orange cookie recipe – that’s definitely another one of your recipes i’m going to use!

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful family recipe with us! I’m looking forwards to trying it as soon as possible…
    I really enjoyed this post a lot.

  4. Marion says

    Be sure that I’m going to make these cookies in the upcoming months…at the latest around christmas.

    My grandma just told me about the family recipe for an apple pie/cake…and now I can’t stop making it!

  5. Alphonse the Noble says

    There is a delicious sophistication and professionalism about your blog which is lacking in most of the others (on food and associated topics)that I read, daily. There is also an effervescent happiness that is catching – I smile, involuntarily, when I read your blog and it makes every day a happy one for me! So, thank you Matt!

  6. says

    Delurking to say that I have really enjoyed your ‘blog. Thank you for the recipe (and the stories, the photo styling tips, etc)! If you and Adam are ever in SE Minnesota (I know, such a flyover state), you’re welcome to come over for dinner.

  7. says

    Wonderful post! Nostalgia seems to be in the air in the food blogging world, and I’m loving the recipes and memories it’s bringing out :) I adore citrus so will have to give these a try before our warm season makes them disappear!

  8. says

    What a great post – and what gorgeous old family photos. I am always deeply suspicious of people who had no family food traditions – I think it indicates a fundamental lack of enjoyment of food (or worse, food is seen as some sort of sin of the flesh!!)

    And if you ever come over to London, I’d be happy to introduce you to some South African foodie traditions!

  9. says

    What a beautiful way to pay tribute to a lovely grandmother and her delicious cookies!

    My ovenless-until-the-end-of-the-month-self thanks you for this wonderful recipe!

  10. says

    I made these last weekend for a dinner party – so first off thanks so much for the recipe – delicious! But I wanted to let you know what we ended up doing with the leftover uniced biscuits – sandwiched them together with chocolate spread (fancy italian dark chocolate spread if you want details) – and they turn into the best jaffa cakes ever!

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