Cemetery Recipes: Mom’s Christmas Cookies

Christmas time is almost here! For me, Christmas is synonymous with holiday baking! What better time of year to warm the house with the sweet smell of cookies in the oven? So, I thought it’s the perfect time to try out another tombstone recipe. I have been saving this one specifically for this time of year—Mom’s Christmas Cookies. 

This cookie recipe can be found on the backside of a beautiful, large black marble tombstone. This is the gravestone of Maxine Menster.1 It can be found in Cascade Cemetery, in Cascade Iowa. The front of the stone has a beautiful sand-blasted winter scene, of a lovely detached house surrounded by forest. You can view the front of the stone on Maxine’s memorial page on Find A Grave.

Maxine’s family wanted to do something special to remember their mother and chose the sweetest way—with the family sugar cookie recipe. Jane Menster, Maxine’s daughter has said that when they were trying to think of something specific to her mother to put on her stone, “It was her cookies.”2 

Maxine passed away in 1994, so this recipe has marked her grave for decades. According to Atlas Obscura, this recipe was part of a long-standing family tradition, where they would bake this cookie recipe on Christmas Eve, then hang the sugar cookies on the Christmas tree. They would be an early morning treat on Christmas Day.3

Here’s the recipe:

Mom’s Christmas Cookies

Cream:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oleo

Add:

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Add:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

Add alternately with 1 cup cream.

Chill and roll out with flour.

Bake 350 degrees oven, and frost.

Most tombstone recipes use short form when it comes to the instructions. Instead of turning to Google, I thought I would ask my Mom. We went through the recipe together and talked about each step, and how long to chill the dough. My mom is an avid baker, especially at this time of year. We had a nice chat about baking instructions and tombstone recipes in general. I have yet to find a Canadian one. 

I was also surprised to find out that my mom was familiar with the tradition of baking cookies to put on the tree for Christmas morning. It’s not something we ever did when I was growing up. We also had dogs. She recounted a story about putting candy canes in the tree one year and coming home one day to find the tree on the floor. My dog Shadow had gotten a little too excited about finding candy in the tree. No foodstuffs ever went into our tree after that. 

After our chat, I got to baking cookies! This recipe is very straightforward. There is one ingredient that some people might question, the 1/2 cup of oleo. What is oleo? Turns out that it is just an older term for margarine. Mixing everything was a breeze and didn’t take that long at all. The biggest question I had about the recipe was how long to chill the dough. My Mom had suggested an hour. After an hour in the fridge, I got to work on cutting out the shapes. 

I am not a traditional Christmas person and don’t actually own any Christmas cookie cutters. I choose to go with a skull, tombstone, and bat for my shapes. I also didn’t have any frosting on hand, so instead, I opted to use sprinkles. My usual go-to for baking is cupcakes, so I have a lot of sprinkles on hand—just not Christmas ones. So I used black sanding sugar, red and black nonpareils, black bats, and purple, red and black sprinkles. 

I left the cookies in the oven for about 10-14 minutes and ended up baking 4 trays of cookies. This recipe makes a pretty big batch.

They turned out delicious! I think this will be my go-to sugar cookie recipe moving forward. They are very easy to make and so tasty, especially right out of the oven. I ate way more of them off the cookie sheet than I should have, but I just couldn’t resist. I also really enjoyed making this recipe because it prompted some good conversations with my Mom. Usually, when I make tombstone recipes, I talk out loud to the deceased, talking through the recipe. This time around it made more sense to talk about Mom’s Christmas cookies with my own Mom.

Thank you, Maxine, and the Menster family for sharing this delicious recipe with the world!

Have you made this recipe before? Or do you have a go-to Christmas cookie recipe? I would love to hear about it in the comments. 

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Maxine Kathleen Poppe Menster | Find a Grave
  2. Family cookie recipe stands the test of time | The Gazette
  3. The Menster Christmas Cookie Gravestone | Atlas Obscura

Cemetery Recipes – Kay’s Fudge

Last year I posted a news article on my Facebook page about an interesting tombstone. What makes Kathryn Andrew’s stone so unique is that it features her go-to fudge recipe. Kay had asked for her recipe to be engraved on her tombstone as a way to share her delicious recipe with others. According to Janice, Kay’s daughter, Kay would often share her fudge with friends and family1

Kay passed away in 2019, at the age of 97. She was laid to rest beside her husband Wade. Her now-famous tombstone has been circulating on the internet, with many folks trying out her famous fudge recipe. 

To learn more about Kay and see more photos of her tombstone, visit her memorial page at findagrave.com.

Here is the recipe, as listed on Kay’s tombstone:

  • 2 SQ. CHOCOLATE
  • 2 TBS. BUTTER
  • MELT ON LOW HEAT
  • STIR IN 1 CUP MILK
  • BRING TO BOIL
  • 3 CUPS SUGAR
  • 1 TSP. VANILLA
  • PINCH OF SALT
  • COOK TO SOFTBALL STAGE
  • POUR ON MARBLE SLAB
  • COOL & BEAT & EAT

Interestingly, when the recipe was first engraved, there was a typo. It originally called for a tablespoon of vanilla. I’m told that that would make for some very runny fudge. The tombstone was updated to read a teaspoon of vanilla. I wonder if this correction was made while Kay was still around, and how she would have felt about it?

Of course, I couldn’t write about this unique tombstone without trying my hand at making Kay’s fudge recipe myself. I have dabbled in the past with making candy but never had much success, so I was a bit worried about ruining it. I made sure to take my time and follow the instructions, although I did need to take some time to Google a few things. I used a candy thermometer to make sure I didn’t overcook the ingredients. I did have a little trouble at first as I was not reading my thermometer properly. I started talking to Kay out loud as I poured out the mixture into a bowl. It looked too runny to me. Talking it out with Kay, I put the mixture back on the stove and took a closer look at the thermometer. A Google search clarified that the softball stage is reached between 112 to 115 Celsius. You don’t need a candy thermometer though.

To tell when you have reached the softball stage you can use a spoon to drop a little bit of the mixture into a cold glass of water. If the mixture forms small malleable balls in the water, you have reached the softball stage. After getting that sorted, I watched it carefully to get to the right temperature.

I don’t have a marble slab so I opted to pour the mixture into a bowl to let it cool. I did another Google search to see how long it should cool for. After 15 minutes, it was time to beat the mixture. Again I had to do a little bit of research to see how long to beat the fudge. Traditionally it would be beaten on a marble slab, but I read that you can beat it in a bowl with just a spoon. The trick is to beat it until it is no longer glossy. I was a little unsure about this step as it did not seem to be losing its shine but after a few minutes it did, and it started to firm up. I then poured the mixture into an 8×8 square dish and let it set.

I am very happy with how it turned out! It’s sweet and chocolatey with a lovely texture. It also made a decent size batch. In the spirit of Kay’s generosity, I brought my batch of Kays fudge to a small gathering to share with my friends.

Thank you so much, Kay, for sharing your recipe with us!

To read more about Kathryn’s unique tombstone, visit: Headstone for woman who died at 97 includes her signature fudge recipe | ABC Action News

After all the fun of making this recipe, I started to wonder if there were other tombstone treats I could try? If you know of other cemetery recipes out there, please share! I would also love to hear how your fudge turned out, if you attempted Kay’s recipe.

Thanks for reading!


  1. We tried the famous fudge recipe engraved on a late grandmother’s gravestone | Today.com | June 2, 2021