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Cakespy: Spiced Jumbles With Vanilla Frosting

Note: Jessie Oleson (aka Cakespy) is a good pal of Serious Eats and all-around super cool gal. Every Monday she will be chiming in with a delicious dessert recipe.

When I ponder the long and arduous journey the pilgrims made from Europe to the New World, one question rises in my mind above all others: what did they eat for dessert? Jumbles, of course.

Jumbles are cookies originally documented as early as the late 1500s in Europe. Since they fared well on long sea voyages, they were one of the first cookies brought over to the colonies. Strictly speaking, they aren't really a remarkable cookie. Made with a basic mix of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, they're more of an empty canvas, taking their personality from various mix-ins.

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Early versions were either baked or boiled, often in figure eight shapes. Some say this made them easier to eat, as they tended to become dense and hard (incidentally, this also may explain the name jumble, which is derived from gemel, meaning "twin" in Latin). Rock-like or not, they were undoubtedly a step up away from hardtack.

Jumbles have come a long way since the Mayflower.

Today, they're generally baked as drop cookies with lightly mixed ingredients, and the sky's the limit when it comes to flavor variations. My favorite recipe yields a soft, pillowy cookie which is spicy and only lightly sweet. Coarsely chopped pecans add a pleasing richness and slight crunch. They're wonderful as is, but when topped with a generous dollop of vanilla frosting, they're even better.

Spiced Jumbles With Vanilla Frosting

About the author: Cakespy is the alter ego of Jessie Oleson, a Seattle-based writer, illustrator, and cake anthropologist who runs Cakespy, an award-winning dessert website.

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