Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Are These Called Jewish Cookies?

I recently bought a binder full of hand-written recipes from someone in Texas and was intrigued by a recipe called "Jewish Cookies" (which appears right across the page from a Christmas cookie recipe).  So I made them.  And I still can't figure out what makes them Jewish.  A friend offered one explanation:  These cookies were made by one of the few Jews in a small Texas town, and were so identified by others based on the religion of the cookie baker.  Well, that sounds as plausible as anything else.

So, if you want to try your hand, these are "Very Good" according to the recipe card.  Typical of southern desserts, these are really, really sweet.  And, while I was expecting to make drop cookies or even rolled cookies from the batter, it was far too liquid-y to make anything but bar cookies.  (These are also quite dense and, while not my cup of tea, my co-workers really liked them. The DH deemed these "not very good."  He ate two.)

I lined the pan with parchment, so as to create a sling with which to remove the entire cake after baking. These still stuck to the paper -- next time I'd also grease the paper.

Let the cake cool before frosting.

Frost first, then cut into squares.

Recipe below, and below that is the method I used.

Jewish Cookies

Preheat oven to 325 F
Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch pan.

4 eggs
1 box (16 oz.) light brown sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. coconut (sweetened or a mixture of sweetened and unsweetened)
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt

Beat eggs.  Add brown sugar and combine.  Add in flour and salt.  When combined, add coconut and vanilla.  Mix well and pour into prepared pan.  Bake about 30 minutes.

1/4 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 c. confectioners sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
cream or half and half

Beat butter.  Mix in sugar and vanilla.  Add cream until it is of spreading consistency and cover cake.


  1. This is very weird, Susan. I was just going through a cookbook (within the last three weeks) from Texas as my mother in law is Texan. My husband converted. In that cookbook, I also saw a recipe for Jewish cookies. This was a church cookbook, I believe. I'll compare the ingredients and let you know, but I thought it quite bizarre.

    1. Maybe there's a genre of Texan Jewish cookies!

  2. It looks very moist.....probably all that brown sugar. Would you mind sharing info about buying recipe collections? I looked on line and can't find a thing about how or where. I love your blog and my daughter-in-law does also. We both love to bake.

    1. Sure thing, Barb. I used to buy them at estate sales and vintage stores, mostly in Ohio, but they are getting harder to find. So now, I buy them mostly on eBay (searching under handwritten recipes). The disadvantage is I can't really see the recipes prior to purchase, but the advantage is I now have recipes from all over the country!

    2. Thank you Susan I appreciate the information.

    3. Susan, Thanks for posting this. I stumbled across your blog while searching for "Jewish Cookies" (trying to find an old recipe by the same name that we got from a church friend in the 1970s in Spring, TX), and the basic ingredients and proportions of flour, eggs, and brown sugar are the same (or very close) as the recipe you've discovered, except the recipe my family used had chopped dates and pecans instead of coconut. Raisins also work if one likes them. I also add about a teaspoon of cinnamon. The reason they are called "Jewish Cookies" is the absence of leavening (e.g. no baking soda, baking power or yeast) in keeping with the tradition of unleavened bread and baked goods during Passover. The batter still manages to rise due to the "chemistry" from the eggs and from air being trapped in the thick batter when beaten. To improve texture and done-ness, try using a larger pan (along the dimensions of a cookie sheet with sides) to make a thinner layer. To tone down oversweetness, one might skip the icing (I usually do), and/or experiment with the ratio of sugar to flour.

  3. Hi Y'all,
    Sorry, I couldn't resist! I'm from Texas and I just found my mom's Jew Cookie recipe. We had them every year in the 60-70's for Christmas. I recently made some and her recipe has cinnamon and pecans baked on a cookie sheet to make bars. Also, you cut them while hot and pour the icing over the top. Many of my cousins also made these (were Italians).

  4. Mon made "Jewish" cookies in the 50's but no coconut and lots of cinnamon. If anyone has that recipe please post.

  5. Hi, My family calls them Jewish Squares and they have more chocolate than this recipe - the icing is also chocolate. It is basically a brownie on the bottom, coconut in the middle with fudge on top. Been making these myself since the 70s and got the recipe from my grandmother.

  6. Susan I think it was you that show the copy of the Jewish cookie recipe right? Well I am from Texas and I swear to God that is my mother's writing. She used to make these things she called Jewish cookies and my sisters and I looked through every cookbook she had every little scrap of paper trying to find that recipe and never could. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I looked at that recipe because I don't think one handwritten recipe of my mother's did not have a smear on it but that is my mother's handwriting. I am positive of it. It really did my soul good and my sisters also to see it. Thank you so much for taking the time to post that. I would love to hear from you if if you would consider ever calling my sister and I. My name is Jenny and hers is Kathy and our numbers are 361 779-1038 and 361-333-6428. I have one more question you don't remember where you got that cookbook you found that recipe and do you?
    Hoping to hear from you and thank you. That was really bright spot to see my mother's handwriting and the Jewish cookie recipe 2

  7. I believe this recipe is very old. My great grandmother (an East Texan) gave this recipe to my grandmother. The icing is a bit different, remove the coconut, and add nuts, and this is exactly that same recipe.