Family Recipes: Cherry Winks

Cherry Winks


My favorite cookie, Cherry Winks, is from my Christmas collection, and even though it’s my favorite,  I only make it once a year – maybe because I just associate it with Christmas.

It’s not a cookie I grew up eating as I have no memory of my mother baking cookies. She was not a sweet baker except for her famous Lemon Pie; I am craving one now that it’s popped into my mind. Her expertise was just plain old-fashioned Southern cooking. There is no better…fried chicken and home-made biscuits than my mama’s anywhere! But back to cookies…

When I married and moved to Connecticut, quite a change after growing up in Georgia, I discovered all about baking cookies from my mother-in-law. Every occasion she baked cookies and I soon acquired an overflowing box of recipes.

Weddings and showers required everyone to bake and the women brought trays of their favorite cookies all tied with pretty ribbons. The cookie tables were always the favorite place to check out when you arrived… and where you lingered before leaving. The one piece of advice my mother-in-law gave me was, “don’t wait too long as all the good ones will disappear fast, and if you see pignoli cookies, grab them first.” She was right too as I watched the ladies leave with piled-high plates.

Christmas Eve is the next best place for cookies besides weddings and showers, but often different type of cookies. Last December (2015) I participated in Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories… Day 14 was Christmas Cookies. Hope you check it out!

They sure make a pretty site!

Through the years there has been one cookie that always stuck with me, and as I bake less and less, it is still my one favorite to bake at Christmas – for myself; sometimes I share with my daughter, as it’s her favorite also! Nothing better than a cup of coffee and a few Cherry Winks to dunk; Yes I’m a Dunker!. That was always my favorite activity on Christmas morning as I watched my children rip through their presents.

One night my husband brought home a small cookbook found in his mother’s basement and thought I’d enjoy looking through it as it was produced by the Kellogg company; one of those send-a-way cookbooks. Years ago companies offered free cookbooks in return for saved box tops or UPC’s from their products; I don’t seem to see those type of offers as much anymore. Today we just turn to the Internet or Facebook.

As I flipped through the pages of that little cookbook I began noticing how smooth and glossy the paper was. I even sat there and laughed at some of the recipe names like Martha Washington Pie and the side-bar perforated coupons for 7 cents that were offered for their Kellogg products. By the way, all the coupons were still intact so that told me my mother-in-law had not been a coupon clipper! I do know that my father-in-law clipped coupons as I got him hooked years ago, and he became quite good at it!

I caught myself talking out loud as I continued flipping through the book, wondering if she had baked any of these recipes, but the smooth touch of the pages told me she probably hadn’t. I soon answered my question on one of the last few pages I turned to. My eyes quickly caught the name – Cherry Winks – on the top of page 55. I now know where her recipe actually came from. The book showed wear and creases of being folded several times – and you know the feel of your cookbook page when you have it too close to your mixing bowl! My personal cookbook, that my daughter has laid claim to, wears lots of cooking DNA … it adds character; Cherry Wink DNA is definitely on that page! Hmm, if I sent that page to Ancestry, do you think they could analyze the DNA.


If you decide to try baking my favorite Christmas cookie, I would love to have you please come back and comment; I want to hear from you after eating or dunking one! Oh, and if you’d like to send me a care package, I’ll gladly give you my address, as I’m really wanting one right now!

Cherry Wink recipe wins $5000 as top prize!

After reading a comment on my Facebook blogger group…. asking me what the “wink” meant” – well that had me thinking and of course, I had to do a little more sleuthing. I’m not sure if I agree with the idea that they can be made in the quick of a “wink”, as I’ve found it a timely process in preparing the batter, but they certainly are a colorful cookie when you add both red and green cherries; I always forget to buy the green so mine are often just red. I soon found an Ad for the Pillsbury’s National Bake-Off – dated June of 1951. The winner, Ruth Derousseau of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, entered her creation, “Cherry Winks” in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest of 1950  – where she walked away as a lucky “Junior Winner” of $5000!

Note that I wrote walnuts over my original nuts in the recipe!

The original recipe seems to have called for pecans instead of walnuts, which we find today in most recipes.  I wonder why the change, but I have recipes that I’ve noted in the recipe, walnuts or pecans only; for whatever reason, different nuts taste better than others in certain recipes. In my Butter Ball cookie recipe, pecans give the better taste to me. I’ve tasted ones with walnuts and they just don’t have as good a taste, well in my opinion. Just like in my Cherry Wink recipe, it’s the walnut that gives a better taste than pecans – so go figure! The recipe above that was in the book my mother-in-law had only listed nuts – I guess they were allowing the baker to decide on their choice. After making them with walnuts one year because I only had nuts written in my recipe, forgetting which nut….I quickly crossed off nuts and wrote: “use walnuts only.”


Recipe found in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) on December 21, 1950. I found many requests written to several newspapers looking for just this specific recipe.

Besides the change of pecans to just “nuts” in later recipes, they also changed shortening to now butter/margarine. I do have a few older recipes that I still use the original shortening in and I just might have to remake this one with shortening to see if I taste a difference.

But whatever nut you choose to use, just be forewarned, these cookies will quickly disappear in the “wink” of an eye!  Stay tuned for more recipes as we head into the holidays….. Feel free to share yours with me in the comments below.

Want to read more…. Family Recipes and Memories

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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10 Responses to Family Recipes: Cherry Winks

  1. Michael says:

    You don’t often hear about cherry wink DNA in family history blogs! Love the imagery and story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carolyn Busch says:

    I made them for Easter tonight. The recipe I used is on the internet, and it’s exactly like yours. I used walnut too. The bakery that worked in after high school, in Montebello, California, used to sell these. I think they had brown sugar and bigger pieces of dates, but they were my favorite. Love the nostalgia!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loretta Brunclik says:

    This was my mom. Ruth Derousseau. She just passed away a week ago. People who ho remember her game called her the “cookie queen.”
    Thank you for the beautiful story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Renee says:

    This was my mom also I’m the 7th child! She was an extraordinary woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gisele says:

    I wish you could of meet my mom (Cookie Queen) you really would of loved her. I’m numeber 8 out of 16. Yes 16 children.

    Liked by 1 person

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