Amish Sugar Cakes

I posted this recipe on my main journal back in 2001 and probably haven’t made it since, for one reason or another. Which is strange, because I do really like these cookies a lot. They’re classic soft sugar cookies — light and fluffy, not overly sweet, with a yummy crispy bottom and a chewy inside. Perfect for decorating in various holiday icings or just sprinkling with colored sugars for a pretty presentation. They were some of the first cookies I ever made from scratch and this used to be my go-to recipe for when I wanted to bring sweets to work/parties/what-have-you. They also hold up to freezing remarkably well, both as batter and as cookies. Just toss either in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for future use. The recipe is enough to make around 30 ginormous cookies or 60 normal sized ones. That’s a lot of cookies for one household, even if we do give them away to friends and family.


My very large pile of cookies from this morning’s baking session. They turned out a little on the flat side (they sort of look like pancakes heaped like that, don’t they?), something that I’ve noticed my baking has been much more sensitive to since moving here. Since I have made most of my cookie recipes numerous times and had them turn out flawlessly fluffy and chewy, I know it has something to do with differing conditions or ingredients from after the move. I’ve narrowed it down to either the flour or the heat, so I’ll be trying a different flour formulation and chilling my batter before baking next time to see if that will slow down the rampant spreading that is making them look so flapjack-like. They still taste the same and remained soft, though, so that’s a relief. Hardly tweaked from AR’s Amish Sugar Cake recipe.


A very simple ingredients list. 1 cup of butter (the original recipe calls for butter-flavored shortening, but I’ve made this recipe with all of them — shortening, butter, margarine — and had them turn out great), 2 cups of white sugar, 3 eggs, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 3 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 pinch salt, 1 cup of buttermilk, and 1/4 cup white sugar on the side for decoration.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare your cookie sheets. Soften the butter by letting it sit at room temperature for half an hour or so. Some recipes will let you fudge this step and just melt the butter, but this is not one of them. For maximum fluffiness, you really should take the time to let it soften. Add 2 cups of sugar to the butter.


Cream together the butter (or butter substitute) and sugar until thoroughly mixed.


Stir in the eggs and vanilla.


I usually combine everything in one bowl to save on dishwashing, although the recipes tell you to mix together the dry ingredients in a different bowl before adding. This has rarely had any effect on my recipes in the past, but now that I’m having fluffiness problems, I might have to start sifting my flour again to see if that helps. Stir baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt into the batter.


You’ll now want to alternate adding flour and buttermilk to the batter as you mix. Here I’ve put 2 cups of flour in and worked it into the batter.


Then I added in the buttermilk and stirred some more.


Then added the remaining 1 and 1/2 cups of flour and combined thoroughly.


The resulting mixture will be more batter-like than dough-like. This makes for a soft cookie, but can be difficult to spoon onto the cookie sheets. Chilling the batter in the fridge for an hour will help with shaping and placement on the sheets, and will also help them hold their shape in the oven until they set.


Place big spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets — parchment paper is great for easy cleanup! Sprinkle cookies with sugar (either the normal white kind or the pretty colored stuff, if you have it).


Bake for 10-15 minutes in preheated oven — the time will depend on the size of your cookies and the individual oven. Mine took 15 minutes. They are done when the edges begin to turn golden and the tops are no longer shiny-looking. Cool cookies and store in an airtight container to maintain their softness.


  1. Mmm, they do look nice. I have a handful of biscuit recipes I default to- the Green and Blacks soft baked ones, the Economy Gastronomy chocolate brownie biscuits (which are best baked on ricepaper, like macaroons, since they’re so soft and so sticky) and these lavendar & lemon butter biscuits (but with fresh lavender), that I like and that I know work in my oven.

    That said, one of the most useful things I’ve ever got is an oven thermometer– it makes a lot of difference when you’ve figured out the conversion on what your oven says and the actual temperature it is. Plus, easier to find the hotspots in there.

    • Lavender biscuits! I’ve been meaning to make those for a while now, but was waiting for the weather to cool down enough to be bearable for using the oven 🙂 I’ve got this big bag of lavender in the freezer from when I last pruned the plant and could really use a good recipe for it.

      I’ve heard about oven thermometers, but never really got around to getting one. Probably would be a good idea, especially now that I’m using a new and unfamiliar oven. Still trying to get a feel for which areas are best for each recipe. I also need get a microplane and a few other kitchen accessories that haven’t been readily available at the typical grocery store, though. Time to start checking the Turku yellow pages for specialty shops, I guess.

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