Posted by: tinkande | December 19, 2010

Soft Italian Cookies

My family is a little funny about recipes. Most recipes that have been handed down to me by my mother or grandmother are really more lists of ingredients, some general guidelines about how to throw them all together, and rarely is there an exact cooking or baking time provided. But isn’t that what’s so wonderful about old family recipes? Everyone has the opportunity to tweak it to their own liking. My mother and grandmother, of course, no longer need these recipes to whip up fabulous family favorites, so it’s been up to me to perfect my way of cooking these dishes by trial and error.

These cookies are a good example. They’re an old favorite and are definitely a repeat on my holiday baking list every year. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table with my sister when we were children helping my mother frost them. One of us would dip them in the frosting, and the other would add sprinkles on top. In recent years I’ve realized that they come out slightly different every time I make them. This year, I finally made some notes in the margins of my cookbook about what I did so that I can have similar results next year. I love the cake-y texture of these treats, and it’s fun to change things up with several different frosting flavors in each batch.

Soft Italian Cookies
Source: The DePalma Family Cookbook (Aunt Grace)

For the cookies:
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
The zest of one orange
The juice of two oranges (1/2 cup of juice)

For the frosting:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange, anise, or almond extract

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of these ingredients, add the butter and mix until incorporated. Beat the eggs, orange zest, and orange juice together. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined – do not over-beat.

Place the batter in 1-inch mounds on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake until the bottoms and edges are slightly browned, 10-12 minutes.  Cool the cookies completely before frosting.

To frost the cookies, add the confectioners sugar and desired flavoring to a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon water to the bowl and mix. Then, continue to add water one teaspoon at a time, mixing after each addition, until you reach the desired consistency. The frosting should be just thick enough to stick to the top of the cookies and not run off too quickly. Dip the top of each cookie in the frosting and move to a cooling rack until set. If desired, decorate with sprinkles or shredded coconut.

Yield: 40 cookies



  1. Are these the same thing as Italian Wedding cookies? A friend made a batch last year and they tasted delicious and slightly like licorice.

  2. Sarah: no these are actually different than Italian wedding cookies (which I also love). The cookie texture is softer and they are iced with a mixture of confectioners sugar and water rather than just being rolled in confectioners sugar.

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