Recipe | Martha Washington Jumble Cookies


Jumbles are an ancient cookie-like pastry popular for centuries. The recipe changed and adapted over time.

They have a long history in the South. A popular baked good with travelers, jumbles may have made their way on ocean passages between England and Virginia in the late 17th and early 18th century.

By the mid-to-late 1700s, they became a part of the American diet. Martha Washington has directions for them in her A Booke of Cookery recipe collection.

In the historic tome A Virginia Housewife (1826), Mary Randolph [LINK] gave these instructions for “Jumbals”:

“Put one pound of nice sugar into two pounds of flour, add pounded spice of any kind, and pass them through a sieve; beat four eggs, pour them on with three quarters of a pound of melted butter, knead all well together, and bake them.”

This recipe, from the book, Dishing Up Virginia (Storey, 2013) [LINK], contains pecans, one of the many nuts George Washington favored. He planted pecan trees, then known as “Illinois nuts,” at his Mount Vernon estate and tradition has it that he often carried a handful of pecans in his pocket.

We think this is a tasty recipe for President’s Day – or any day.


 Cookie Ingredients

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1-1⁄4 cups flour

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup chopped pecans

 Orange Glaze Ingredients

1 cup confectioners’ sugar 1⁄2 teaspoon orange zest

2–3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Cookie Method

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat to incorporate.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne into the mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the raisins and pecans, and mix well.

Drop the dough by the heaping tablespoonful approximately 2 inches apart onto a baking sheet; do not crowd the cookies. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool and repeat with the remaining dough.

Orange Glaze Method

Stir the sugar, orange zest, and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice together in a medium bowl until combined. Add the additional tablespoon orange juice if needed to thin the glaze.

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies. They will keep in an airtight container for a few days or can be frozen.

Yields 6–8 dozen cookies

This recipe is highlighted on the Feb. 16 broadcast of The Virginia Eats And Drinks Show. Tune in! Dig in! Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on air in Coastal Virginia at AM 790 WNIS and broadcast online everywhere at [LINK]. Show podcasts are archived HERE [LINK]

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