Friday, June 22, 2012

Snickerdoodles and Irma S. Rombauer

In this era of glossy cookbooks full of mouth-watering images and detailed photographs of each recipe step, Joy of Cooking may seem a bit old fashioned and out of date. Between its covers are recipes. Just recipes. Well, and some cooking tips, too. No glossy images and only a few basic illustrations. However, I bet you have a copy in your kitchen cookbook collection. And so did your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

This week, as I catch up with the Gourmet Live 50 Women Game-Changers, the focus is on number nine: Irma S. Rombauer. In the midst of the Great Depression, she self-published the first edition of Joy of Cooking as a guide for women who, because of hard times, had to start cooking for themselves. The instructions were basic and easy to follow, which is probably why it became THE wedding gift for almost every newlywed wife. (Image is from the website of current publisher Scribner/Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

A native of St. Louis, Rombauer financed that first 1931 edition with the insurance settlement she received after her husband committed suicide. (Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!) Publisher Bobbs-Merrill picked up the book in 1936 and it has been around ever since. Rombauer’s daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker, took over and did the revisions of each edition until 1975. Grandson Ethan Becker oversaw the publication of the current edition, which celebrated the book’s 75th anniversary in 2006.

I remember using my mother’s copy many times growing up. I also have memories of Mamaw using her copy from time to time. Mine is the latest edition, often my go-to book when I start to develop a new recipe.

If you are looking for a recipe, it is probably in Joy of Cooking.

This is my favorite.


Adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
For coating:
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or spay with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, blend together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the coating. Shape spoonfuls of the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the coating mixture. Place the balls on the baking sheet 2 3/4 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Place the cookies on a rack to cool.


  1. These look scrumptious and have caused me to have a snack attack :-).
    It's a great recipe to represent Irma's style of cooking. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  2. You're so right...this IS in my kitchen and almost every kitchen I've seen. And I absolutely love of my faves!

  3. Hi Linda! I adore snickerdoodles! They are such a beautiful yet simple cookie ... a true classic!

  4. Hi. How is the recipe adapted? What did you change? Thanks

    1. The ingredients are the same and common to most recipes. I wrote the instructions myself according to how I made the cookies.