Snickerdoodles: What's in a Name? — Adventures in Taste and Time (2024)

Stress baking during times of crisis is one of my coping mechanisms. When the going gets tough, I ignore the going in favor of perfecting difficult pastry making.

However… With three kids at home, sometimes you just need a tried and true standby. For me, that is the Snickerdoodle.

Snickerdoodles are the perfect children’s treat; a tender cookie with a slight tang, covered in cinnamon sugar and baring a very silly name.

There is speculation as to the origin of the word “snickerdoodle,” which appears to be a complete nonsense word in English. 1931s Joy of Cooking claims the term snickerdoodle is based off the German word Schneckennudel—a German pastry whose name literally translates as ‘snail noodle’. A Schneckennudel is a yeast dough roll that more closely resembles a cinnamon bun, not a snickerdoodle cookie.

The Oxford English Dictionary Describes the etymology as “uncertain." They suggest it is perhaps a combination of the words snicker, a smothered laugh, and doodle, a silly or foolish fellow. (Side note: If you have time and access to the Online OED, listening to the British and American pronunciations of snickerdoodle, alternatingly, is deeply entertaining.)

However, the name origins become much clearer when you discover the snickerdoodle cookie wasn't originally a cookie at all. The treat started as a German coffee cake called a snipdoodle. The snipdoodle received its name from the Pennsylvania Dutch and other early German immigrants. While the term snipdoodle appears to have been used for any sort of coffee cake initially, including those featuring fruits.

By the early 20th century, it had developed to refer to cakes baked in wide pans and cut into quick and easy bars, topped with cinnamon sugar.

These cake bars seem to have been made specifically to be quick to make, serve, and eat. Being baked in a large pan made them easy to cut and serve, but also would have led to them drying out if not eaten quickly. Stella Parks of Bravetart believes that it is this quick process that led to the development of the name. Using a Pennsylvania Dutch dictionary, Bravetart discovered that “snip coincides with shnit, “to Slice,” or shnipla, “to snip,” and “a few possible origins for the word doodle as well: hoodle and doomel. Both translate as hurry.” Both Bravetart and my husband commented on how this gave them new insight into Lewis Carrol’s “The Jabberwocky“: The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!”

The first recorded recipe of a “snickerdoodle” isn’t the cookie as we think of it but was the cake sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and cut into bars. The recipe appeared in the 1889 Home-Maker.

They is absolutely delicious and, indeed, quick and easy to make. It was a massive hit with the family.

The next significant evolution for the snickerdoodle came in 1891 when Cornelia Campbell Bradford was commissioned by the Cleveland Baking Company to come up with a recipe using their baking powder. She developed her recipe for “Snickerdoodles” that replaced baking soda and cream of tartar with baking powder. This mellowed the flavor, making it less tangy and allowed the cinnamon to show more prominently. While many people loved this new mellow flavor, the original baking soda and cream of tartar were still used in recipes going forward.

Quickly after that, in 1895, the snickerdoodle we know and love appeared AA Cookbook. The recipe returned to the baking soda and cream of tartar recipe but was now made as a drop cookie. As a cookie, the sweet would last a little bit longer and was still quick and easy to eat.

In the early 20th century, both snickerdoodle and snipdoodle recipes were easily found. Snipdoodles had come to define the cake pan version of the treat and snickerdoodle the cookie. The next and final introduction to the cookie we see today was added in 1923: shortening. As part of an ad campaign, Crisco created an all shortening recipe for the snickerdoodle cookie. With America slipping into the great depression and then into WWII, butter became scarcer, and Americans flocked to the dairy-free snickerdoodle.

As Anne Byrn points out in her book American Cookie, the inclusion of shortening is what gives snickerdoodles a gentle rise. Shortening has a higher melt point and traps more air than butter, which leads to a more mounded cookie with a softer middle. Butter, however, lends itself to a lovely buttery flavor. As Byrn points out, a mix of the two is the ideal combination of buttery flavor and shortening texture. And by the 1960s, a combination of the two had become standard, first appearing in the holy bible of cookie books, Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book.

Currently, the recipe is available on the Betty Crocker website.

Despite being relatively modern cookies, snickerdoodles, perhaps ironically, remain in popular favor with the Mennonite and Amish community. These cookies remain a popular cookie in the United States but have not caught on as much elsewhere. For Americans, though they remain a love for children and children at heart, such as poet James Whitcomb Riley (whose poems inspired such things as Little Orphan Annie and influenced Raggedy Ann), he declared them his favorite cookie.

For the re-creation, I made the traditional snickerdoodle bar cookie using the 1889 Home Maker recipe, and then, just to spice things up I included my Rumdoodle recipe which is a boozy take on the traditional cookie. It is definitely worth trying both recipes and seeing which one you prefer. Both cookies and cake freeze well, so don’t worry about having too many.

Snickerdoodle Coffee Cake Bar Recipe

Adapted for a modern kitchen from 1889 Home Maker Snickerdoodle recipe


2 eggs

½ cup butter

2 cups of sugar

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar mixture


1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line or grease and flour a full sheet pan.

2. Cream together butter and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy.

3. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk. Then add to the sugar-butter mixture.

4. Add flour, cream of tartar, and salt.

5. Spread thin over prepared sheet pan. Using a rubber spatula to spread to all corners. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top of the batter.

6. Bake at 350 for 22-25min.

7. Slice and eat.

My Snickerdoodle Recipe

I love the Betty Crocker recipe, but I don't love shortening. When I do mine dairy-free, I use a butter substitute, such as Earth Balance, not a shortening. However, I love that soft pillow top the shortening gives to the cookie. My take on the snickerdoodle adds a little spiced rum to the mix. Not only does this add an additional spice note to the cookie, but the alcohol and added liquid also react with the baking soda to add a level of tenderness and puff that would have otherwise been lost.

Rumdoodle Cookies (Snickerdoodle variant)


1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup butter, or butter substitute

2 eggs

2 tablespoons spiced rum

2 ¾ cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar*


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and rum. Mix until incorporated.

3. Add your flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until incorporated

4. Using your hands or a scooper, portion out 1-1.5 inch round balls of dough. Roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on the baking sheet giving plenty of space for cookies to spread.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

*Typical cinnamon sugar is 2 parts sugar, 1 part cinnamon. For example, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon. I personally like a spicier, less sweet coating and do a 1-1 ratio of 1 tablespoon cinnamon to one tablespoon sugar.

Snickerdoodles: What's in a Name? — Adventures in Taste and Time (2024)


What does "snickerdoodle" mean in slang? ›

The Oxford English Dictionary Describes the etymology as “uncertain." They suggest it is perhaps a combination of the words snicker, a smothered laugh, and doodle, a silly or foolish fellow.

Where did snickerdoodles get their name? ›

A few cookbooks explain that snickerdoodles are German in origin. They state that the cookie's name comes from the German word shneckennudel (which is a kind of cinnamon bun). Others trace its origin to New England's tradition of whimsical cookie names.

What are the names of snickerdoodles? ›

“Snickerdoodles, also called snipdoodles or cinnamon sugar cookies, have been around since the late 1800s. They probably originated in New England and are either of German or Dutch descent.

What are snickerdoodles supposed to taste like? ›

What does a snickerdoodle taste like? Snickerdoodles are chewy, soft, tender, melt-in-your-mouth, and bursting with cinnamon flavor. They have a slightly tart flavor that sets them apart from a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon. They're just a little bit crisp on the very outside edge.

What does the nickname snickerdoodle mean? ›

The Oxford English Dictionary claims the word's origin is "uncertain", and possibly a portmanteau of the word snicker, an "imitative" English word with Scottish roots that indicates a "smothered laugh", and doodle, a German loanword into English meaning a "simple or foolish fellow", originally derived from the Low ...

What does cookie mean from a guy? ›

informal. dear; sweetheart (a term of address, usually connoting affection)

What is an interesting fact about snickerdoodles? ›

The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word , a Palatine variety of schnecken. It is also possible that the name is simply a nonsense word with no particular meaning, originating from a New England tradition of whimsical cookie names.

What is the meaning of snickerdoodle? ›

ˈsni-kər-ˌdü-dᵊl. plural snickerdoodles. : a cookie that is made with usually butter, sugar, and flour and that is rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking.

What is a snickerdoodle classified as? ›

Snickerdoodles may be considered a type of sugar cookie but the truth is that they are not prepared in the same way. A proper Snickerdoodle cookie recipe calls for cream of tartar, an ingredient not commonly added to cookie doughs. In fact, cream of tartar is most often added to egg whites when making meringue.

Why are snickerdoodles hard? ›

Snickerdoodles might turn out hard if they are overbaked or if the dough is too dry. Be sure to keep an eye on them as they bake – when the edges are set but the centers are still soft and puffy, they are done. Also, make sure you're not adding too much flour.

What flavor is Oreo snickerdoodle? ›

Snickerdoodle Oreo

The taste is understated, but it works so, so well. The cinnamon isn't too strong or overpowering, but it's there, and the sugar crystals in the creme center are slightly crunchy just like a snickerdoodle. They've also got this subtle tart flavor, too, almost like a carrot cake.

Where did the name snickerdoodle come from? ›

The Joy of Cooking claims that “snickerdoodle” comes from “Schneckennudel,” a German word that literally means “snail noodles.” Schneckennudels don't have anything to do with snails or noodles, though—they're actually delicious-looking German cinnamon rolls.

Why do snickerdoodles have a weird aftertaste? ›

The snickerdoodle flavor is best described as a mix of vanilla and cinnamon with a singular tanginess thanks to the cream of tartar. Sounds weird but tastes delicious.

What is a cookie in drug slang? ›

(slang, drugs) A piece of crack cocaine, larger than a rock, and often in the shape of a cookie.

What did the popular slang cookie refer to? ›

Informal. dear; sweetheart (a term of address, usually connoting affection). Slang.

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