Robert Chambers Jr. first opened the joint in Homewood in the late 1980s and moved it to this roadside spot a decade ago.
Ten years ago the Gingerburghs of Western Pennsylvania introduced the wedding-cookie table to their guests at the National Cookie Cutter Collectors Club Convention. Now the national group is back to connect again at this weekend’s 20th convention.
“Everybody loved our tradition of the Western Pennsylvania wedding-cookie table so much. It has been embraced by every convention since then. We had to ask ourselves, ‘How can we top that?’” says Lynn Maguire of Carnegie, who is the president of the national organization.
The local Gingerburghs club mascots — still dressed in pearls and a bow tie — wear fishing vests to greet more than 100 cookie-cutter enthusiasts coming from as far away as Canada and Sweden and representing 15 groups with names such as the Tusky Valley Dough Girls and Rocky Mountain Cut Ups. The public is invited to attend this biannual summer celebration on Saturday, June 28 -- at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Green Tree -- by registering today or Friday via email at email@example.com.
The gathering is called “Camp Gingerburgh.” Guests will be goin’ fishin’ for cookies with a twist that combines the wedding-cookie table with the camping theme representing this year’s charity recipient: Butler County’s YMCA Camp Kon-o-Kwee Spencer. Sugar cookies are shaped as fish, trail signs and lanterns.
The idea to use fish bowls to hold the four dozen cookies each person brings in his or her suitcase (the empty space being filled with more cookie cutters) came from the wedding of Gingerburgher Kate Schneider to her husband, Brock.
“The fish bowls are labeled, and it separates the gluten-free and nut-free cookies to accommodate allergies, as well,” explains the bride’s mom, Darlene Farrell, one of the founding members of the local club. She was president 10 years ago when the Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund was the charity recipient for the movie-themed “Lights, Cameras, Cookies” convention.
The founding Gingerburghers met last week at “The Clubhouse,” as the Maguire home is known. They shared the group‘s history while preparing for the convention. In 1972 Women’s Circle magazine printed a letter from Phyllis Wetherill, who wanted to “exchange correspondence” with others who shared her interest in cookie shapers. Mrs. Maguire was one of four people who responded from different regions of the country. The national club formed with five members.
Mrs. Farrell and Mrs. Maguire met at the Minnesota convention in 1996 and then met Virginia Reeping, now a retired nurse, from Sewickley, in 1998 at the national convention in Ohio.
They started the local chapter in August, 1999. Local members donated cutters for the exhibits that show the history and variety of cutters at the National Historical Cookie Cutter Museum that opened in 2004 at the Joplin Museum Complex in Joplin, Mo.
The national club petitioned for the first week of December to bear the designation of National Cookie Cutter Week. “If you signed the petition you got a horse-head cookie cutter since the member starting the petition was from Kentucky,” remembers Mrs. Maguire.
The local group hosts regional events in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky. One featured the comics. “We even had a cutter in the shape of a speech bubble,” said Mrs. Reeping with a laugh.
Cookie-cutter collecting is a joyful and easy hobby. The cutters can be stored in plastic bins labeled by season, and occasionally prized ones still can be found for as little as 10 cents. “You can still go to a flea market and come home with a bag that right in the middle holds the ‘Kenmawr K,’” says Mrs. Farrell, mentioning a rare find.
Conventions are a time to trade cutters, exchange information on sources and historical background on rare cutters, as well as share recipes. It is almost impossible to have too many good recipes.
Mrs. Reeping says she still prefers the “old Betty Crocker” recipe that was in the cookbook given to her when she was married 49 years ago, known as Ethel’s Sugar Cookie. “My daughter gave me a new [edition of the] cookbook 10 years ago, and it wasn’t in there,” she says.
At the last convention Mrs. Maguire shared her recipe for Butterscotch Gingerbread that “tastes just like gingerbread,” but uses a box of pudding instead of molasses. It was in the limited-edition cookbook given to convention-goers that year.
This year Mrs. Farrell shares her recipe for Quickie Cookies that was given to her by a college roommate’s mother. It makes a small amount of a puffy soft cookie that is perfect for small cutters, “and you don’t have to refrigerate it first either. It’s instant gratification for cookies,” she says.
Conventions also feature tin smiths who make unusual-shaped cookie cutters from scratch. Even with a collection that numbers more than 15,000, Mrs. Ferrell needed a cutter she didn’t have when her daughter asked before the wedding, “Mom, could you make orchid cookies?”
She called a tinsmith she had met at a convention to commission an orchid cookie cutter in two parts, one of which forms a center part of cookie that is applied applied with frosting to the main cookie. “There are only two in the world. I have one and my daughter has the other,” she says.
That cutter is a reminder of what cookie cutters are all about, she says.
“Our collections are always about the connections they give us to others.”
The Cookie Cutter Collectors Club national convention is open to the public on Saturday, June 28, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Register today or Friday by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A convention pass will be waiting at the door at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Green Tree.
Members of the National Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club receive the quarterly newsletter Cookie Crumbs, a membership cutter, and the opportunity to attend biannual national and regional events. To join, send one year membership dues of $25 to CCCC, P.O. Box 22518, Lexington, KY 40522. Learn more at cookiecuttercollectorsclub.com.
For more on the local club, email email@example.com or call 412-781-5044.
Quickie Cookies (Cutout Cookies)
1½ cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine in bowl the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Cut in the butter.
Combine in a small bowl the milk, egg and vanilla, then add to flour mixture.
Mix by hand to form dough.
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to ¼-inch thickness.
Cut into desired shapes.
Place on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets.
Sprinkle with colored decorating sugar.
Bake for 6 to 8 minutes at 400 degrees. Yield depends on size of cookies.
-- Darlene Farrell, Gingerburghs of Western Pennsylvania
Butterscotch Gingerbread People
These guys are better than gingerbread. The color also resembles the gingerbread-boy illustrations in a favorite book, “Gingerbread Baby” by Jan Brett.
-- Jane Miller
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1½ cups flour
1½ teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 small (1.85-ounce) packages instant butterscotch pudding mix
Cream butter and sugar. Then add the egg. Add in the dry ingredients and mix all ingredients together. Chill dough for several hours. Roll out dough on lightly floured board to ½-inch thickness. Cut into shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet. (I use parchment paper). Bake at 350 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Cool slightly and ice with thick confectioners‘ sugar icing and decorate.
Note: If the dough is a little sticky you can add a little flour to it until you reach the right consistency.
-- Lynn Maguire, Gingerburghs of Western Pennsylvvania
Jane Miller is a freelance writer and cookie-cutter collector herself: firstname.lastname@example.org.