A Classic Cookie from the 1950s
You can’t have too many cookies at Christmas.
In a recent discussion on Pfeffernüsse, I mentioned that when I was young, my mother baked Christmas cookies in quantity every year – usually more than a dozen varieties. Although many were family favorites like the Pfeffernüsse or the Best Chocolate Drop Cookie, she frequently added new recipes to the rotation.
One that I always enjoyed was Cherry Winks. This cookie was born in 1950 — as a winner in the second-ever Pillsbury Bake-Off contest.
Cherry Winks are tasty and very easy to make. And they’ll definitely make you a winner in the kitchen!
Recipe: Cherry Winks
Cherry Winks are flavored with dates, pecans, and maraschino cherries, and finished with a crunchy corn-flake coating. They have a faint almond-like taste, no doubt from the maraschino cherries.
This recipe is adapted from the the original recipe on the Pillsbury website and yields about 5 dozen cookies. They keep for several weeks when stored in airtight containers at room temperature.
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt (a bit more if you’re using Kosher salt)
- ¾ cup butter (or shortening, if you prefer)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs (consider using pasteurized; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1/3 cup chopped maraschino cherries, plus an additional 30 or so halved cherries for garnish
- ~3 cups crushed corn flakes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until all ingredients are well incorporated, and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together (a stand mixer works best, although an electric hand mixer works too).
- To the mixing bowl, add eggs, milk, and vanilla. Beat until you have a well-blended mixture.
Add pecans, dates, and chopped cherries, mixing until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture and beat until well blended.
- You can cover and refrigerate the dough at this point (put dough in an air tight container if you are refrigerating overnight) and bake the cookies later, if you prefer.
- When ready to bake, drop rounded teaspoons of dough into the crushed cornflakes and toss lightly to coat.
- Place the cookies on cookie sheets, allowing an inch of two of space between cookies. Use cookie sheets that are lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; if you don’t have liners, you can lightly grease the sheets with butter.
- Lightly press a piece of chopped maraschino cherry onto the top of each cookie (see Notes).
- Bake for about 12 minutes. Cookies are done when they just start to brown. Do not overbake.
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized eggs for cookie dough. Although it’s unlikely that the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk? I don’t know about you, but I find it’s impossible to make cookies without tasting the raw dough!
- You can easily identify pasteurized eggs because they usually have a red “P” stamped on them.
- Step 2 calls for mixing the dry ingredients together, then setting them aside while you combine all the wet (or not-totally-dry) ingredients with a mixer. You can add in the dry ingredients at any point after you cream the butter and sugar (step 3). I prefer to add them at the end of the mixing stage. I find that they mix better this way, allowing all the ingredients to be distributed evenly throughout the dough.
- The original recipe specified shortening, but these cookies taste better when made with butter. In fact, almost everything tastes better when made with butter.
- The original recipe calls for each cookie to be topped with ¼ maraschino cherry. That gives the cookies a more obvious “wink” effect, but it seems a bit stingy. Mrs. Kitchen Riffs (the chief cookie baker here at K R Central) likes to use half a cherry on each cookie.
- I prefer red maraschino cherries, but green ones (or a mixture of green and red) can add a seasonally festive touch to the cookies.
- I know from experience that these cookies keep well when stored in airtight containers at room temperature. I’ve never frozen them. I would assume that freezing works, but I can’t testify that it does.
- The Washington Post has an interesting alternative recipe for Cherry Winks that includes almond extract but not dates. It also calls for toasting the pecans, which is an interesting idea.
- The original recipe was created by Ruth Derousseau of Rice Lake Wisconsin, who won the Junior First Prize for these cookies in 1950 at the second Pillsbury Bake-Off contest.
- The Bake-Off contests originally were held yearly. Starting in 1978, they became an every-other-year affair. For more history about the contest, see Pillsbury’s Bake-Off contest history webpage.
Christmastime Is Cookie Time
As you’ve probably noticed by now, cookies are synonymous with Christmas at the Kitchen Riffs household. In the past couple of months, we’ve discussed three types of cookies that appeared around holiday time when I was growing up: Pfeffernüsse, the Best Chocolate Drop Cookie, and now Cherry Winks.
There are many more great cookies I want to share. They’ll have to wait until next year, though.
In December 2012, we’ll again be cookie crazed here at Kitchen Riffs. So mark your calendar!
You may also enjoy reading about:
The Best Chocolate Drop Cookie Ever
Easy Peach Cobbler
Rich and Easy Bread Pudding
Homemade Meringjues with Strawberry Sauce
What an adorable cookie and sounds so tasty too!
I've never had cherry winks but they look and sound delicious! I love the crushed corn flakes in them. A friend's grandmother makes chocolate chip cookies with grape nuts and they're just wonderful.
What a cute little cookie. Also wanted to mention that I made your chocolate drop cookie yesterday! Everyone liked it. I soaked the raisins in rum and added bittersweet chocolate chips. Thanks for the calories! They were very good!
@Vicki, thanks! It's really a great cookie. Those 1950s and 60s Bake-Off contests really produced some real winner recipes.
@Katherine, it's a fun cookie. Tastes great and it's pretty - what more could you ask for? Chocolate chip cookies with grape nuts sounds really intriguing.
Thanks to both of you for commenting.
Hi thisishowIcook/Abbe, delighted you enjoyed the chocolate drops! Soaking in rum is an excellent idea! And bittersweet anything is always a good idea. The Cherry Winks are really cute, I agree. Thanks for stopping by!
I love recipe throwbacks! These are adorable.
I wonder how they'd be if you replaced the dates with golden raisins ... I'm not much of a date fan (nor a "regular" raisin fan either) so curious about the substitution.
I may just have to try that!
Hi Kimberly, I agree they're pretty cute! The dates don't actually have that distinctive a taste in this cookie. However, I do understand why you'd not want to take a chance. You might try the Washington Post recipe (3rd Note from the end of the list) - that recipe doesn't call for dates. Otherwise I think it'd be interesting to try the golden raisins (or just skip the dates altogether). If you do, let me know how they turn out! Thanks for commenting.
What beautiful cookies! They remind me of a cookie my mother used to make. I'll have to check her recipe files for that one!
Hi Beth, they really do have great color & texture. I'm sure you'll have a pleasurable time checking your Mom's recipe file! Thanks for stopping by.
Saw your cookies and had to write. My mom used to make these all the time when I was little. I haven't seen them in years.
Thanks for the memories. :)
Hi My Man's Belly, glad to bring back the memory! I hadn't had them for years either. In an email exchange with my sisters (we were reminiscing about Christmas cookies we used to have, the impetus of discussion being the Pfeffernüsse and Chocolate Drop Cookies I featured recently on the blog), my youngest sister mentioned Cherry Winks. Of course once I had that cookie in my head, it had to be made! Thus, this post. I haven't seen them around for years, either, but they used to be a real popular cookie in the 50's, 60's, & 70's. Thanks for commenting.
The cookies are a classic! I love that they look cute and yummy too. My little girl would love these cherry winks. Cool post!
Hi Anna, thanks for your nice words. They're a great cookie, aren't they? You really need to make them for your little girl sometime! Thanks for stopping by.
It's great to keep such classic alive! The cornflakes and the cherries definitely put them in the era.Even though I was around in the 50's I've never had these cookies (that I can remember :) ); however, it's never too late to try! These look absolutely delicious and may kind of cookie - and - you're right - everything's better with butter! Thanks for bringing back a classic!
Hi mjskit, thanks! These really are a nice cookie - I'll bet you'll enjoy them. These truly are 50's - I think the recipe was even on the corn flakes box (seasonally, of course) at one time! Thanks for commenting.
I say YES to cherry winks! I don't think I ever had one but any recipe that has corn flakes in it is a winner in my book. Thank you for sharing the recipe. And I love that shot with the reflection. Two cookies is always better than one. :)
Hi zenchef, glad you like that black acrylic shot. I'm hopelessly addicted to that style of shooting at the moment. You should try making the Cherry Winks - they're quite good. Not a cookie you'd want all the time, but definitely worth sampling. But ... I've got half a box, at least, of corn flakes left. What on earth am I going to do with those? Well - I'm sure I'll think of something. ;-) Thanks for stopping by.
Thank you so much for converting the old shortening recipe to butter. I was specifically looking to make these today but didn't want to go buy shortening. Going to make these today and will be featuring on my own blog..will definitely be linking back! These are my FAVORITE cookies on the planet... :)
Hi lifeistooshort, welcome! Aren't these a great cookie? And they taste much better made with butter rather than shortening. Look forward to reading about these on your blog! Thanks for the comment.
I've never figured out a way to store these cookies so that they remain crunchy. Any suggestions?
Hi Carolyn, we've frozen them with mixed results. The cookies still taste delish when frozen, and sometimes they remain crunchy. But not always. I think airtight containers at room temperature is the best way to go, but they often do soften up a bit when stored that way. Still awfully good, though. Thanks for the question.
I have been married for 49 years and got this recipe from my Mother-in-law as these were my husbands favorite Christmas cookie! Have been making them every year with the original recipe. Not the same without the dates but her recipe calls for walnuts. Great cookie!!
Hi Anonymous, aren't these a wonderful cookie? My mom only baked them at Christmas, so these always say "Christmas" to me. We should try a walnut variation -- sounds like fun! Thanks for the comment.
I made these cookies yesterday and I am in LOVE...lol...they are delicious. Next time I will do the chopping the day before. Its a keeper. My new Christmas favorite. BTW...This cookie was mentioned in a book I was reading, the Hannah Swensen series and I became intrigued...
Hi Anonymous, aren't these wonderful? Such a flavorful cookie! And really pretty too, I think. Thanks for the comment.
Yes you can freeze these cookies. I have made them for years and freeze all cookies before shipping them. I also freeze all my cookies for family I won't see at Christmas.
Hi yadcare15, thanks for letting us know that these cookies do freeze well! This is a great cookie, isn't it? :-)
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