Snickerdoodles! Just saying the name brings a smile! Rolled in cinnamon and sugar and baked to perfection, this easy-to-make cookie is a year-round classic.
When I think of snickerdoodles, I always think of my dad, snapping up a cookie still warm off the rack as he passed through our kitchen on his way outside.
Snickerdoodles, I have found, are cookies that brings up memories; and memories are one of the best things I can make for my family.
Why are Snickerdoodles called Snickerdoodles?
According to The Joy of Cooking, "snickerdoodle" is most likely a corruption of the German word Schneckennudel (which literally translates to "snail noodle"), a German word for cinnamon roll. (Finally getting to put that three years of high school German to good use!)
I'm not sure I'm convinced of the German connection though. While Snickerdoodles do have the same basic ingredient list as a cinnamon roll, there are some glaring differences; namely, one is a formed pastry, and the other is a cookie.
This corruption seems vague at best, and Germans tend to be international champs when it comes to simultaneously infusing specificity and nuance into a single noun. (The German language includes some of the best compound nouns on the planet!)
There are a handful of additional etymological theories about where the name snickerdoodle came from, most with ties to Scotland and England, but none are particularly compelling.
Instead, I prefer the theory that speaks to me best: that snickerdoodle is just bit of whimsy, conjured by some witty bygone baker in a cinnamon-filled, sunlit kitchen.
I am a big supporter of Whimsy. We need more of it in this life: all the more reason to make a batch of Snickerdoodles asap!
What Goes into this Recipe
You can only tinker with a basic recipe so much. Compare our snickerdoodles recipe to ten others and you'll see that the list of ingredients varies little from one to the other. However, one of the things that makes this recipe stand out is the brown sugar.
Traditionally, Snickerdoodles are made with all white sugar. However, as my girls all know, if there is any rhyme or reason to add brown sugar to a recipe, I probably already do it. (I put at least a teaspoon or three in everything from spaghetti sauce to spinach curry.)
Snickerdoodles are no exception. I like the subtle, caramelly flavor brown sugar adds to snickerdoodles, and I personally think it improves the texture of the cookies over an all-white sugar recipe as well.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
- Scant cup: A scant cup is just a little bit less than a standard cup measurement; traditionally by about 1 to 2 tablespoons. (I tend to be a little freewheeling when it comes to measuring ingredients, so I use "scant" in this recipe to remind myself not to heap the cup.)
- Kosher salt: I use kosher salt because I like the tiny pops of saltiness in the cookie. If you use table salt or sea salt, reduce the amount to ½ teaspoon.
- Vanilla: My family knows that "1 teaspoon of vanilla" really means at least 2 teaspoons. Just saying.
- Cream of Tartar: Did you know that Cream of Tartar is a byproduct of wine production? (Check this great little non-Wiki explanation on CakeSpy to learn more.) If you don't have and on hand, you can sub in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice for every ½ teaspoon of Cream of Tartar.
- Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon has a shelf-life of 6-12 months. How old is yours?
How to Make this Recipe
This recipe uses a standard Creaming Method to mix the dough: sift the dry ingredients, cream the butter and sugars, add the liquids; and finally, add the dry ingredients to the wet.
Preheat oven to 325°F | 162°C. For best results, all ingredients should be at room temperature.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and set aside.
Sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients: ¼ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and brown sugar, by hand or with an electric mixer. Add vanilla, and beat in eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary until completely incorporated.
Slowly add sifted flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Do not over-mix.
At this point, you can bake the cookies immediately, or put them in the fridge for a few hours to chill. (See FAQs below.)
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. (We use a 1" cookie scoop for this.)
Roll dough-balls in the prepared cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Place cookie balls on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Snickerdoodles can really spread out, so don't crowd the baking sheet.
Bake for 10-11 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
FUN FACT: In the Portland area, in the latter 20th Century, if someone said they were making "snickerdoodles," it was just as likely that they were making a cinnamon-sugar topped coffee cake as it was that they were making cookies. Snickerdoodles (the cake) were a regular staple on local school and summer camp menus.
Expert Tips & FAQs
When Baking Snickerdoodles, Timing is Everything
Oven temperatures vary, so keep an eye on your first batch when it goes in. When it comes to baking snickerdoodles, a minute or two one way or the other can make the difference between raw dough and soft, chewy perfection.
Snickerdoodle cookies typically rise up to a smooth flat dome shape, and then fall and wrinkle slightly after being removed from the oven.
Do you prefer your Snickerdoodle cookies soft and chewy, or crisp and crunchy? Either way, it's all in the bake.
- For soft, chewy snickerdoodle cookies, set oven to 325°F | 162°C, and bake chilled dough balls for 10-12 minutes. When you remove them from the oven, the underside should be barely golden brown when done. Add 1-2 minute(s) to baking time for refrigerated dough.
- For slightly more crunchy snickerdoodles, raise the oven temp to 350°F | 176°C, and bake 12-14 minutes. When you remove them from the oven, the underside should be uniformly golden brown when done. Add 1-2 minute(s) to baking time for refrigerated dough.
You can bake these Snickerdoodles immediately after you mix them up, or put the dough in the fridge and chill it for a few hours. (Of course, then you may discover that you have significantly less dough when you pull the bowl out of the fridge than you had when you put it in. That happens a lot at our house.)
Baking the dough immediately yields a slightly wider, flatter cookie, and the texture is a bit more dense. It does not, however, affect the flavor at all.
In the case of snickerdoodles, Cream of Tartar’s main job is to activate the baking soda. It also gives the cookies their signature tanginess and helps them stay chewy.
Yes! Both the baked snickerdoodles and the raw cookie dough freeze extremely well.
Baked Cookies: Allow the cookies to cool completely, then transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.
Shape and roll individual cookies in cinnamon-sugar mixture, then transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag. Freeze uncooked dough for up to 2 months.
Baking frozen dough:
• Defrosted: Bake 11-12 minutes from room temp.
• Frozen: 13-15 if baking frozen.
Classic Snickerdoodle Cookies
- 1 Cookie Sheet
- Preheat oven to 325°F | 162°C.
- Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and set aside.
- Sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients: ¼ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
- In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and brown sugar, by hand or with an electric mixer.
- Beat in eggs and vanilla, mixing until completely incorporated.
- Slowly add sifted flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Do not over-mix.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls. (I use a 1" cookie scoop for this.)
- Roll dough-balls in the prepared cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place cookie balls on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 10-11 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack.
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Post Updated April 13, 2021 (Originally published March 7, 2016)