Don’t come looking for a giant cookie baked in a skillet here. These skillet cookies are little no-bake wonders that could almost qualify as confections. The recipe is both charmingly retro and uncannily timely in its use of minimal components in an unexpected way.
Chopped dates and sweetened shredded coconut were power players in 1950s and 1960s dessert recipes. You’ll notice them called for in all kinds of cookies, cake fillings, and quick breads. Date skillet cookies are an unusual treat from this period that capitalizes on this ingredient duo.
Throw in some puffed rice cereal for structure and you’ve got something akin to Rice Krispie treats, with way more personality.
Even Picky Kids Like Date Skillet Cookies
My daughter scrunches her nose up at dates, but she’s been scarfing up these cookies. I did the same thing when I first tried date skillet cookies decades ago.
While digging around in her recipe file for something from our usual Christmas cookie lineup, my mom came across a recipe card in my great aunt Priscilla’s distinctive cursive handwriting. We didn’t see her more than once a year, but I adored Aunt Priscilla because she once gave me wooden refrigerator magnets shaped like ladybugs.
I was maybe eight or ten, and mom suggested I make Aunt Priscilla’s recipe. The idea of making cookies in a skillet was offbeat enough to pique my curiosity. I stuck the recipe card to the fridge using one of Aunt Priscilla’s ladybug magnets and went to work.
About half an hour later, we had a tin full of coconut-coated balls and a sticky skillet I neglected to wash up. So yes, the cliche holds true: this is a recipe so easy even a kid can make it.
How To Make Date Skillet Cookies
While I couldn’t find Aunt Priscilla’s original recipe card, I did find the transcribed recipe. To make the cookies, you start by whisking a cup of sugar and a few eggs together in a cold skillet, then add chopped dates and cook the whole mess over medium heat until it becomes a thick paste. It seems like the eggs will scramble but they don’t, making the recipe a marvel of transformation.
I brought a dozen date skillet cookies over to my parents’ house unannounced and mom immediately opened up the container and popped one in her mouth. She closed her eyes and was quiet for a bit, smiling, remembering her beloved aunt.
Time Travel Baking
My Aunt Priscilla was the youngest of 11 kids in a family that was neither rich nor poor. They lived on what my mom calls a “muck farm” in northeast Ohio. Aunt Priscilla went on to marry a man who had the very same birthday as her. He sold the insurance company he’d founded and they lived well-off in Columbus.
Aunt Priscilla was fancy and feisty. She collected Hummel figurines, loved to travel, and was quick to speak her mind. After mom graduated from high school, Aunt Priscilla invited her to live with her in Columbus for a year, allowing mom to experience something beyond her small hometown. Under Aunt Priscilla’s tutelage, she became the confident, free-thinking woman she is to this day.
I think one of the reasons mom never made date skillet cookies regularly is that they could so effectively summon up that era of her life; their poignancy was perhaps too sharp. The emotional portal that opens up when you cook a recipe can emphasize how many people you’ve lost over the years. But me making them from a safe removal and looping mom in did the trick.
I think Aunt Priscilla’s recipe card is hiding in that recipe file somewhere. I’m determined to find it. Until then, we have the cookies themselves.