Saturday, November 17, 2018

Shaping the Holidays One Cookie at a Time

Bakers, wives, and mothers have been passing out creatively-shaped treats ever since the early Egyptians first made small molded cakes sweetened with honey and spices. 

GodeNehler, MEK-Pfefferkucheform,
In the 1500s, creative German woodcutters perfected sweet-dough molds by adding metal edges or inserts to the forms, and from there, other Europeans developed tinned steel shapes with crossbars for support. Some molds embossed patterns and designs into the top of the dough, much like a cookie stamp.

However, *cookie cutters as we know them soon followed with flat backplates that conformed to the cutter’s shape. Often a hole was punched in the middle of the plate through which a woman could push resistant dough from the form.

Side A                                              Side B
In the 1700s, tinsmith peddlers thrilled American homemakers with tinned steel cutters, many with tin “strap” or wooden handles. By the late 1860s, companies looking for profitable business in the post-Civil War atmosphere began producing cookie cutters stamped with their name, such as the Dover Company and A. Kreamer Co. from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Aluminum sliced its way into the business in the early 1900s, and plastic pushed through following World War II.

Aluminum strap-handled cutters
Family cookie cutters are often passed from generation to generation, and I have several of my mother’s aluminum cutters from the early 1900s, as well as old handled biscuit cutters that were passed down to her. (Let me just say that it’s startling to discover the kitchen tools you grew up using are now considered antiques!)
American biscuit cutters
Regardless of the material or maker, cookie cutters have long pressed imaginative designs into people’s lives during special holidays such as Christmas or Easter. They’ve also been used to cut vegetables, cake, fruit, tea sandwiches, and fondant icing. Not to mention salt dough for small, playful hands.

Cookie cutter shapes are limited only by the designer’s imagination: birds, animals, people, geometric designs, and the ever-popular circle, star, and heart. If you’d like to try your hand at making a heart-shaped cookie cutter, click on this video link for a quick and easy tutorial: Make a cookie cutter.

For fun collectibles that don’t take up much space, try shopping antique stores and estate sales for old cookie cutters. They can also be used to decorate the Christmas tree by hanging them with colorful yarn or ribbon. It’s a fun way to display a piece of history in your home during the holidays.

And if you’re anywhere near Joplin, Missouri, stop by the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum and check out their amazing collection. Or you could join the Cookie Cutters Collector's Club.

Speaking of cookie cutters, do you have a favorite cookie you’ll be making for the holidays? Let us know by mentioning it in the comments below.

In British English, cookies are called biscuits – not to be confused with those wonderful sourdough, cast-iron skillet concoctions upon which the American West was established.

Lena Carver works as her physician brother’s medical assistant, housekeeper, and cook despite her disfigurement from a childhood accident. Each year, the Christmas holidays come with contradictions—cherished memories of a mysterious encounter and painful recollections of a great loss. She lives with the belief that she is beyond love’s reach, until a dark-eyed cowboy arrives broken, bruised, and bent on changing her mind.
Wil Bergman wakes in a stranger’s house with a busted leg, a bullet-creased scalp, and no horse. Trail-weary, robbed, and penniless, his dreams and plans for a future are suddenly unattainable. Forced to recuperate in the home of a country doctor, he finds himself at the mercy of a surgeon whose sister’s healing touch has power to stitch up his lonely heart and open his eyes to the impossible. 

Bestselling author and winner of the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction, Davalynn Spencer keeps busy #lovingthecowboy and writing heart-tugging romance with a Western flair. And she’s fairly certain her previous career as a rodeo journalist and crime-beat reporter prepared her for life in Colorado wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Learn more about her books at


  1. This was fun! I always used to make gingerbread men, of course, at Christmas and the pressed butter cookies. Spritz is one of the names used for that one. I can still taste that dense, buttery goodness! Sweets don't come around much in our house anymore, and visitors don't come often enough for me to indulge in baking. This post brought back great memories. Thanks, and your story sounds wonderful! Also, it was fun participating in your Mid Month Madness party...thanks for doing that.

    1. Connie - Thanks for stopping by. I made spritz cookies for many years, but like you, the crowds and children have thinned out and so has my baking :) But I have countless cookie cutters. Love them!

  2. Wow that was a great read! I've never read about the history of cookie cutters. I have great memories of frosting my mother's butter cookie shapes at Christmas, but I have to admit I don't like decorating cookies. A couple of years ago I gave myself permission not to do it. Now, the white plastic gingerbread man and the rocking horse outlines that I used with Mother are Christmas ornaments. The memory is still there, but the stress of forcing myself to do something I dislike is over. Win-win LOL.

    1. A fair decision, Stephanie. The decorating is indeed labor-intensive, and I used to love it. I also have a rocking horse cutter that I keep with my favorite shapes in a glass jar on the counter. Memories for sure.

  3. I have those same cookie cutters and a biscuit cutter with a red handle. I've had them since we married 59 years ago. I still have a plastic baggie full of cookie cutters I no longer use. Think I'll see if my granddaughters who are married might want them. Good to know their history. I don't make Christmas cookies like I once did when my boys and my grandchildren were young. It's not as fun anymore :( Thanks for the interesting post.

  4. I know what you mean, Martha. I have dozens of cutters and I love them. I also have three old biscuit cutters with green handles. If your red handle is bullet-shaped, it's from the war era.

  5. My favorite homemade cookies are oatmeal Scotchies and also chocolate chip with nuts. I don't plan to make any for the holidays, but that could change.

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  7. I have a small collection of cookie cutters. One is a gingerbread snowman. My favorite is a copper angel. I have them in a heart shaped basket in the hallway by the kitchen. There are some old small plain cutters. I do have my original biscuit cutter someone gave me when they found out I didn’t have one. I got it 47 years ago. It has the removable center.
    I saw a show on making those old cookie cutters on a woodworking program. Fascinating.
    Great post!

    1. Thank you, Paula. I would love to have seen that program on making cookie cutters. Thanks for stopping by.