This recipe for cookies has changed a little in its 130+ year history. Originated by my many times Great Grandmother Baker (yes, a cookie recipe by a Grandma Baker; how quaint,) the original name of this cookie was “Monkey ****.” Not joking.
One childhood summer vacation approximately 1985-87, I was going through old recipes at my Grandma’s house (Mom’s Mom) at her kitchen table, and saw the recipe when searching for a different recipe. Writing faded on an old recipe card, I should probably thank whomever named it originally because it caught my attention and I wanted to ask about it.
Asking what the recipe was… well, I tried to describe it instead of saying it. Grandma, not wanting to put her glasses on or Mom, not wanting to walk over to read it, my Grandmother and Mother asked me to simply say the name of the recipe. I told them they weren’t going to like it. “Just say it.” I did. They didn’t hear it the first time due to my having a quieter voice than normal about saying it, so I had to repeat myself louder. There was disbelief on their faces when they heard the title, and I asked if they wanted me to repeat it again. They replied “No,” and immediately put on glasses, walked over, and jointly reviewed the recipe.
I had been in the process of looking at recipes and organizing according to type of recipe and had been talking about what each one was as I went through them until they asked me to do it silently. After they came over, they asked what kind of recipe this was. I said, “I didn’t know. It just said “Monkey ..Stuff” and so I was asking because I didn’t know what it could be.” I had already read the ingredients before mentioning the title, and Mom and Grandma figured out from the directions that the recipe was for cookies. I mentioned that a chocolate cookie recipe with walnuts probably looked like what the title described when they cooked. Little brown piles of… and left it trailing. No one could remember how they tasted or if they’d been made since my Grandma’s childhood. Too intrigued to let it go, we made the recipe.
Preferring not to use cuss words when talking about cookies, we made them without the original walnuts because I can’t stand walnuts and re-named them for the sake of sharing the recipe. Great recipe, bad name. RE-NAME! We came up with some other names, and this stuck because they are cocoa and have a cloud-like texture. Include walnuts if you like.
Here is the “Reformed Version” via Mem herself from a 2004 email to friends:
This recipe has been in my family for 5 generations; it makes rather decadent chocolate cookies that look like poofy little clouds. I like peppermint glaze on them, they are also very good just plain, & cheap to make.
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk or slightly sour milk (To make buttermilk substitute, put 2 T apple cider vinegar in a one cup measure, fill to 3/4 c mark with milk)
1 T vanilla or good imitation
1 3/4 to 2 cups white flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 cup chopped nuts–I like walnuts/pecans
Beat butter, sugar & egg with electric mixer until fluffy.
Stir in milk & vanilla.
Add dry ingredients & mix well. Drop by slightly heaping teaspoons
onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in top half of oven at
400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
Variation: Omit cocoa, add 1 t cinnamon, & an extra T of vanilla.
Now you have vanilla clouds. These can be left unfrosted, they are
quite decadent with peppermint or spearmint glaze & sprinkles.
Typically made as part of Christmas or for Church gatherings. Year-round recipe. Makes a few dozen.