Busti Woman Has Hosted Cookie Exchange For 40 Years

Old and new friends are brought together each year on the first Monday night of December at the home of Brenda Franzen in Busti. Left to right-back row: Shannon McCray, Christine Frankson, Megan Walz, Ginny Walz, Colleen Colley, Edna Dinkins front row: Biancia McCray with Alex McCray, Bruce Walz, Jr, Brenda Franzen

Many families have holiday traditions that have been carried over for several years, sometimes decades. One local group of friends has carried on a Christmas cookie exchange tradition for many years. The length of time depends on which one you ask. Hostess, Brenda Franzen knows she began inviting friends and neighbors to her Busti home “over 20 years ago.” One of the original attendees and close friend, Virginia Walz, insists it has been at least 40 years or slightly longer.

Although cookies from years past are accepted at the gathering that takes place the first Monday night in December, Mrs. Franzen has some rules about what is not.

“No bar cookies, no chocolate chips and no no-bakes,” she said. “You bring 10 dozen and you go home with nine dozen. We sit around and gab and eat a dozen.”

“One year we had 15 people and it was too many,” said Mrs. Walz.

“Ten is a good number,” added the hostess.

This year’s weather was mild when the ladies got together, but Mrs. Walz said it isn’t always that way.

“Usually when we have it we have a snowstorm,” she said.

“We haven’t had one for five years,” said Colleen Colley who thinks she has been attending the event more than 10 years. She admits she began to worry about being included this year when she hadn’t gotten a call by Thanksgiving. “I thought, oh my gosh, I’ve been kicked out! It’s nice being together. It’s like a girls’ night and we get cookies!”

Christine Frankson, who owns Peterson Candies with her husband, thinks she was another original attendee. She said she makes a different recipe every year, but brought Sand Tarts again this year, due to her husband’s request.

“They’re from Steve’s grandmother’s recipe, who gave it to his mom, who gave it to me. It may go back even farther.”

Biancia McCray, the granddaughter of the hostess, confessed she was hoping Mrs. Frankson would bring the same Chocolate Mocha Cookies she brought to last year’s exchange.

“They were covered with chocolate,” the granddaughter said. “They were amazing.” When her mother, Shannon McCray, didn’t remember the cookies of which her daughter referred, Biancia seemed to recall she had confiscated all of her mother’s cookies of that variety.

“I think I took Grandma’s, too,” she said smiling.

Ms. McCray’s brothers, Ethan and Alex, brought cookies to the exchange this year as well. Fourteen year old Ethan made Peanut Butter Blossoms, the recipe his mother Shannon McCray had planned to bring. The ninth grader said he learned how to bake in Home and Careers Class, even though he rarely bakes at home.

“I always add a lot more peanut butter than it calls for. My son used the recipe I was going to make, so I made them with Snickers,” said his mother.

Her younger son, Alex, convinced his uncle to bake his cookies. Alex claimed he frosted 200 cookies.

Mrs. Colley told about ten dozen Cherry Shortbread Cookies she made last year and how she tasted one when she was nearly finished baking them.

“I didn’t like them and threw them away and started over.

Edna Dinkins said she always makes a different cookie each year. She was a neighbor for six years, before moving to Frewsburg.

“We had a path worn between the houses. It was a wonderful friendship.”

Megan Walz brought Peppermint Sugar Cookies this, her second year of attendance. She was concerned the peppermint pieces with which she had topped the pretty cookies had been left too large.

Megan’s grandmother, Mrs. Walz, thought she found an easy recipe in the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies until she realized she had to make 20 dozen cookies, because she had chosen a sandwich cookie recipe. She thinks the Raspberry Cheesecake Cookies are “like the cookies sold at a well-known sub shop.”

More stories and confessions came out.

“Ginny and I tried to bake together once, but never, ever, ever again, because she levels everything off,” said her friend, Mrs. Franzen.

“Because I’m precise,” her longtime friend defended with a grin. “She shakes and pinches and uses a dash of this and a dash of that.”

Mrs. Franzen’s granddaughter added to the conversation.

“If my grandmother burns cookies she sets them aside telling my grandfather, ‘Oh Robert, I put these here for you. He bites into them and says they are really good.'”

She goes on to tattle about the exchanges that took place when she was much younger.

“One year a little boy came. Back then boys weren’t allowed to come. Grandma sent him outside to play and then she went out and slid downhill with him,” she said while laughing.

“This is a good bunch of ladies,” Mrs. Franzen said more than once. “They don’t gossip, they are a good group.”

Even though she invests a lot of time preparing for the cookie exchange each year, she is unable to enjoy the end result. Due to the side effects of throat cancer treatment she has been unable to eat anything sweet, spicy or made with citrus for the last several years.

“I’ve been cancer-free for the last nine years,” she proudly stated.

Her guests say she is a tough woman who has had a stroke and sustained a severe head injury causing a blood clot to form on her brain all within a four year period.

Do you have an interesting family history story? Did your great-grandmother bring some delicious recipes from the old country? Are you willing to share? bkehe25@gmail.com

Cream Cheese Cookies

½ c margarine or butter

3 oz cream cheese

1 T milk

1 c sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1 c flour

½ tsp grated orange peel

Cream butter, cream cheese and milk. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, then orange peel. Drop on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Raspberry Cheesecake Cookies

½ c butter

2 T shortening

4 oz cream cheese

½ c brown sugar

2 eggs

¾ c flour

2-7oz boxes raspberry muffin mix

1½ c white chocolate chips

Cream together in a large bowl, butter, shortening, cream cheese and brown sugar. Add eggs and beat until combined. Fold in flour and muffin mix until combined. Stir in chips. Chill for 30 minutes. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Bake on lightly greased sheets in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until edges are just golden.

Magic Peanut Butter Cookies

1½ c flour

½ c cocoa

½ tsp soda

½ c sugar

½ c brown sugar

½ c margarine

¼ c peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg


¾ c peanut butter

¾ c confectioners sugar

In small bowl, combine flour, cocoa and soda. Set aside. In large bowl, beat sugar, brown sugar, margarine and ¼ cup peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and beat well. Stir in flour mixture until blended. Set aside. In small bowl, combine filling ingredients, blending well. Roll filling into 30 1-inch balls. With floured hands, shape 1 tablespoon dough around each peanut butter ball, covering completely. Flatten with bottom of glass than has been dipped in sugar. Bake in 375 degree oven for 7-9 minutes. Decorate as desired.

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

1½ c sugar

2½ c flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 stick, plus 6 T butter, room temperature

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp peppermint extract

½ c crushed peppermint candies


Chocolate for drizzling, optional

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and flavorings and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture. Beat until combined. Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes. Form approximately 2 tablespoons of dough into balls and then roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets. Flatten each ball to ¾ inch thickness with a buttered and sugared glass. Sprinkle with crushed candy. Bake on middle rack at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until edges are barely brown, but set and centers are still soft and puffy. Cool on sheet for 10 minutes. Drizzle with chocolate when completely cool.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

1 box red velvet cake mix

½ c butter, room temperature

2 eggs

1 can cream cheese frosting

Sprinkles, optional

Beat cake mix, butter and eggs. Dough will be quite stiff. Drop by level tablespoon 2 inches apart on parchment-lined sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely. Spread frosting on bottom of one cookie and top with another, placing bottoms together. Roll in sprinkles.

Sand Tarts

2 c sugar

3 sticks butter, room temperature

4 c flour

2 eggs, plus 3 yolks, divided


Walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

Place sugar, flour and butter in a large bowl. Mix by hand. Add eggs and one yolk and continue hand mixing until dough becomes crumbly like pie crust. Chill. On a floured surface (may add some sugar to flour), form dough into flat ball. Sprinkle with sugar. Roll out dough with rolling pin. Cut dough into desired shapes. Place on greased sheets. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon and nuts. In another small bowl, combine 2 yolks with a small amount of water. Brush yolk mixture on each unbaked cookie with a pastry brush. Sprinkle nut mixture on each cookie. Bake in 325-350 degree oven for edges start to brown.

Holiday Snickerdoodles

2 c sugar

1 c butter, room temperature

1 egg

1 tsp rum extract or vanilla

4½ c flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp soda

1 c eggnog

1/3 c sugar

½ tsp nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, cream of tartar and soda. Set aside. Cream together 2 cups sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat in egg and flavoring. Add dry mixture to butter mixture alternately with eggnog. In a small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup sugar and nutmeg. Roll rounded tablespoons of dough into sugar mixture. Bake 2 inches apart on ungreased sheet at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are just set and starting to crack.