The term “sugar cookie” might be stating the obvious because, after all, are not all cookies laced with sugar.

By definition, a sugar cookie is consists of sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, and either baking powder or baking soda. Sugar cookies may be formed by hand or rolled and cut into shapes. They are commonly decorated with frosting, sprinkles, or a combination of both. They can also be cut into decorative shapes and figures. In North America, sugar cookies are popular during the holidays of Christmas and Halloween.

However, the modern incarnation of the authentic sugar cookie can be traced back to the mid 1700s in Nazareth Pennsylvania. There, German Protestant settlers created the round, crumbly, buttery cookie that came to be known as the Nazareth Sugar Cookie. Sugar cookies probably derived from an earlier, unleavened cookie called a “jumble,” which is a biscuit that gained popularity in the 17th and 18th century in Europe chiefly because of the fact that, as a non-leavened food, it could be dried and stored for many months.

As the decades went by, the Nazareth Sugar Cookie was not to be taken lightly. It was adopted as Pennsylvania's official cookie by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through a House bill (yes, more than adopting a resolution.) House Bill 1892 was introduced  on September 5, 2001 to designate and adopt the Nazareth sugar cookie as the official cookie of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

A delegate of nine people from the city of Nazareth traveled to Harrisburg to deliver 350 cookies to the desks legislators, the Governor, and the Lieutenant Governor.

Modern Cookie Traditions

The modern Nazareth-style sugar cookie has gained enormous popularity in America. Sometime in the 1930s it became traditional for children to leave sugar cookies and milk out for Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. Because of how easy it is to cut and shape the sugar cookie dough, custom cookies have become wildly popular.

According to culinary historians, the first historic record of cookies was their use as test cakes. A small amount of cake batter was baked to test the oven temperature.

Each country has its own word for “cookie.” What we know as cookies are called biscuits in England and Australia, in Spain they're galletas, Germans call them keks or Plätzchen for Christmas cookies, and in Italy there are several names to identify various forms of cookies including amaretti and biscotti. The name cookie is derived from the Dutch word koekje, meaning “small or little cake.” Biscuit comes from the Latin word bis coctum, which means, “twice baked.”

All kinds of sugary cookies!

Biscotti. In Italian, biscotti means, “twice cooked.” The word biscotto is derived from bis (twice) and cotto (cooked). Biscotti is also the generic term for cookies in Italian. The dough is formed into logs and baked until golden brown. The logs are then sliced, and the individual biscotti are baked again to give them their characteristic dryness. The shelf life of biscotti are three to four months without preservatives or additives.Other countries have their version of this cookie.

Chocolate Chip. The first chocolate chip cookies was invented in 1937 by Ruth Graves Wakefield (1905-1977), of Whitman, Massachusetts, who ran the Toll House Restaurant. The Toll House Restaurant site was once a real toll house built in 1709, where stage coach passengers ate a meal while horses were changed and a toll was taken for use of the highway between Boston and New Bedford, a prosperous whaling town. The Wakefields sold the restaurant in 1966. It burned down on New Year's Eve in 1984.

Big Figs. The Nabisco Co. has maintained that the Fig Newton was invented in 1891 by Philadelphia inventor, James Henry Mitchell. Mitchell is said to have invented the duplex dough-sheeting machines and funnels that made the jam-filled cookies possible. This machine was patented in January of 1892. The cookies were named for Newton, Mass.

Snickerdoodles.  A snickerdoodle is a type of cookie made with butter or oil, sugar, and flour rolled in cinnamon sugar. Eggs may also sometimes be used as an ingredient, with cream of tartar and baking soda added to leaven the dough. Snickerdoodles are characterized by a cracked surface and can be crisp or soft depending on preference. Snickerdoodles are often referred to as “sugar cookies.” However, traditional sugar cookies are often rolled in white sugar whereas snickerdoodles are rolled in a mixture of white sugar and cinnamon.