Traeger's Bakery in Demopolis, Alabama first popularized these soft spice cookies, which are named for their hard cinnamon glaze that glistens like a glossy turtle shell. Though the bakery—and its recipes—were lost to a fire in the 90s, residents of Demopolis continue to bake versions of the treats, refining and tweaking the recipe in an attempt to replicate the original. This interpretation, filled with chopped pecans and spiced with cinnamon and cardamom, comes to us from writer Meredith Bethune.
Featured in: Turtleback Cookies: Alabama's Almost-Lost Recipe
- 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
- 3⁄4 cup brown sugar
- 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
- 20 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 tbsp. heavy cream
Combine flour, pecans, 1 tsp. cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom, and 1⁄4 tsp. salt; set aside. Combine 1⁄2 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 16 tbsp. butter, and 1 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl; beat on medium-high speed with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; add dry ingredients; beat on low speed until just combined. Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, whisk remaining cinnamon and salt, plus the powdered sugar in a bowl; set aside. Place remaining butter and brown sugar in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium, stirring constantly; boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining vanilla and the cream. Using a mixer, add the powdered sugar mixture and blend until icing is completely smooth.
Heat oven to 350˚. Roll dough into 1 1⁄2” balls and flatten into circles about 1⁄2” thick. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned around the edges; cool. Top each cookie with a thin layer of icing, spread almost to the edge (about 1 tablespoon of icing should suffice). Allow the icing to harden completely before serving.