These bite-size fruitcake cookies are perfect for cookie boxes or tins. They are our Editor-in-Chief’s favorite cookies because her late mother always made them. Cut down the recipe if you don’t need 16 dozen to give away!

Photo by Jessalyn Cairer

Jeannine’s Christmas Cookies

Contributed by Sandy Selby, Missouri Life editor-in-chief

Editor-in-chief Sandy Selby says, “This gem was the foundation for my mom’s much-loved Christmas cookie boxes. A single recipe can make up to 16 dozen. It’s up to the baker to decide how large to make the cookies, but Mom made them bite-sized so they would tuck into a little candy cup.”

Here’s the recipe. Be sure to half or quarter it if you don’t need to make 16 dozen. The recipe is followed by Sandy’s editor’s column sharing more of her memories of helping to make this cookie growing up. You could take a shortcut and buy prechopped, mixed candied fruit, but Sandy won’t, as she explains later.

2 pounds dates, chopped
½ pound red candied cherries, chopped
¼ pound green candied pineapple, chopped
¼ pound yellow candied pineapple, chopped
1 pound pecans, chopped
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the chopped dates, candied fruit, and pecans. Add flour and stir gently until the fruit is coated. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the eggs. Beat until smooth. Fold the creamed mixture into the fruit and mix with a spoon until well combined. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Don’t overbake.

This recipe makes up to 16 dozen bite-sized cookies.

Here are Sandy’s memories, shared in the November/December 2022 My Missouri Life column.

Marty and I have been married for 33 years, but we didn’t discover until last week that we shared the same childhood torment—at least it seemed like torment when we were children. Every year at Christmastime, both our mothers made desserts that required several pounds of candied fruit, and it was our job as tiny free laborers to cut every piece of that colorful, sticky stuff into right-sized chunks.

In Marty’s household, the dessert was an elegant ice-box cake with layers of ladyfingers, whipped cream, and candied fruit. At my house, fruit was an integral ingredient in Mom’s Christmas cookies.

My mother was a gifted baker and the tins full of cookies she gave out every year were highly anticipated among our friends and neighbors. Christmas Cookies, which never had any other name, as far as I know, were the foundation of the holiday gift assortment because the recipe makes—and I’m not exaggerating here—16 dozen cookies. She would add other cookies and candies to fill out the boxes but getting those miniature fruitcake concoctions baked was the first and most essential step in the entire operation.

For a string of days in December, our kitchen turned into Cookie Central. I would be stationed on a tall stool at the counter, dutifully cutting up candied pineapple and cherries. You may be saying to yourself, “Don’t they sell that fruit already cut up and mixed together?” Why yes, astute reader, they do. But they don’t sell it in the precise mix that my mother demanded, so there I’d sit, with the dull scissors we set aside for that singular purpose, cutting those gooey, gluey little fruits into pieces. At least the candied fruit had a jewel-like quality that I thought was pretty, but the recipe also required dates, which were harder to
cut and not nearly as sparkly.

The best part of the week was that, as cookies began to fill every available surface in our kitchen and dining room, we got to eat our meals on TV trays in the living room. Eating anywhere other than at the dining room table was a radical concept in our house, so I treasured those dinners in front of the TV during cookie days. Dessert would be cookies, of course, but only those cookies that, due to some often imperceptible flaw, failed to meet Mom’s gift-box standards.

Mom is gone now, but as I think about which cookies I’ll be putting into gift boxes for my friends this holiday season, her Christmas Cookies will be in the mix. Sure, I could use the candied fruit that’s already cut up and mixed together, but I won’t. I think, somehow, those cookies wouldn’t taste quite the same.

You can download our entire Great State Cookie Exchange Recipes booklet here.