Recipe Roots™ - Grandma Appolonia's Travel Cookies

I just love recipes with some history.  When you make them, it feels like you are connecting to the past and sharing traditions with the future.  I'm going to share some legendary family recipes with you in a series called Recipe Roots™ - Great recipes worth digging up and sharing!

Grandma Appolonia (on left) on a white water rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, 1963, at age 68.

First up, are Grandma Appolonia's Travel Cookies!  Grandma Appolonia or "Lonia" as she was called, was my Dad's mother and I used to love visiting her apartment in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She was a widow and used to babysit for some wealthy families to earn money to travel.  She had amassed a great collection of travel souvenirs on her adventures and I can remember oogling them all!  I'm sure she loved when all six of us came and touched her stuff with our sticky little fingers!

When Lonia would come from Ohio to visit us in Pennsylvania (12+ hours on a Greyhound Bus - yikes!), she would often make these sugar cookies on her visit.  Now, we were a large family and I don't recall having cookies and treats around very often, so when they did appear, they wouldn't last long!  In an attempt to make the cookies last until dessert time, Lonia would hide them in my Mom's roasting pan.  My brothers caught on to that hiding trick pretty quickly and would hunt down that old roaster no matter where she had tucked it away.  

Mom's roasting pan AKA the Travel Cookie hiding spot.

Those cookies became the treat we would bring with us in the big ol' family station wagon on the long treks to visit family in Cincinnati.  Eventually, they became our "travel cookies."  The travel cookies are still made frequently.  They are my go to sugar cookie for any season.  I just add some sprinkles to match to the occasion.  My girls love to help make them!  When the family gets together for Christmas, I still have to hide them or they would disappear before dessert! 

I've spent some time trying to figure out the exact origins of the recipe, but I haven't come up with anything.  The recipe from my Mom's recipe box (below) appears to be clipped out of a magazine.  The recipe has to be at least 40 years old.  I'd love to know what magazine it comes from.  If you recognize it, let me know! 


Recognize this recipe from anywhere? 

Grandma Appolonia's Travel Cookies:

These are my favorite sugar cookies!  They are buttery, soft and have great vanilla flavor.  Grandma Appolonia always added a little white icing to the top of them.  I find it really keeps the cookies moist!  The icing is just a simple combination of a tiny bit of butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla and milk.  Keeping the butter amount small helps the icing firm up a little bit on the outside.  You still have to be gentle when packing them up as the icing does not totally harden as royal icing would.    

Make the Cookie Dough:

Cream together butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs and vanilla.  Add your dry ingredients. 

Form the Cookies: 

Scoop and roll balls of dough.  Butter the bottom of a flat-bottomed drinking glass.  Dip the glass in some sugar.  Use the glass to flatten the cookie balls.  Bake your cookies! 

Make the Icing: 

Beat together butter, vanilla, confectioner's sugar and milk.   


Ice the Cookies:  Video

You can swirl the icing on by hand or you can pipe it on.  I find the piping to be quicker.  I just use a Wilton disposable pastry bag and snip off the end.  I start around the edge and swirl inward.  Add your sprinkles after icing a few cookies as the outer part of the icing tends to firm up quickly. 

Grandma Appolonia's Travel Cookies Recipe: 

Cookie Recipe: Source Unknown

Icing Recipe: Christina Verrelli

Makes 4 dozen cookies

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (plus extra for greasing pan and glass)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (plus extra for flattening cookies)

2 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into balls.  

Place the balls 2-inches apart on greased baking sheets. (I use the shiny half-sheet pans)

Butter the bottom of a flat-bottomed drinking glass.  Spread some sugar on a small plate.  

Dip the buttered glass in the sugar and use to press down on the cookie balls.  

Hold the glass level and press until the cookie is a little thicker than a 1/4-inch.  Repeat until all the balls are flattened.

Bake the cookies for 7-12 minutes or until just golden around the edges.  Time may vary depending on oven.

Let cool on baking sheet 1 minute before removing to cooling rack.


1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 cups confectioner's sugar

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon milk

In large bowl, beat together butter, vanilla, 3 cups of confectioner's sugar and 1/4 cup milk. 

Gradually add more sugar and milk until you reach desired consistency.

If you want to ice the cookies by hand, make a little thicker like peanut butter.

If you want to pipe the icing on the cookies, make a little thinner like ketchup. 

(I used the exact measurements for the icing I piped on my cookies.) 


More Recipe Roots!

Love the backstory of recipes?  Me too!  That's why I was thrilled to recently meet Jessie Oleson Moore ( at a great local book store, Towne Booke Center in Collegeville, PA.  She was there to sign copies of her new book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods!  We got to meet and share some treats, YUM!  I searched her book to see if I could learn anything about sugar cookies and sure enough there is a story about "Pink Frosted Cookies"!  They are popular in the Northwest regions of the USA.  I wonder if people there hide them like we do with Travel Cookies!  LOL!  

Jessie, my friend Brett and Me! 

A great read for anyone who loves baking or eating baked goods!!

Thanks for spending some time in the cloud with me!

 I hope you like the story and recipe!   Tina ( :