This page is sensitive to your currency setting. Choose CAD or USD for North American customary measurements; choose other currencies for metric.
From a class I took at the local recreation centre when I was a preschooler.
1 lb butter 1 C icing sugar 1/2 C cornstarch 3 C flour 1/2 t vanilla extract
Whip together; drop onto cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes.
Rum balls (no bake)
Credited to Joan Dalloway, who was a co-worker of my mother's during the 1970s.
1 1/2 C Graham cracker crumbs 1 C icing sugar 1 C chopped walnuts 3 T corn syrup 1 1/2 t vanilla extract 4 1/2 T rum
Combine in a bowl and mix well with hands. Form into balls, and refrigerate.
18th Century "gingerbread cakes No. 1"
1 lb (≈4 C) flour 3/4 C sugar 2 T ground ginger 1 t ground nutmeg 1 t pearlash (see note below) 1 C cream 2/3 C butter 2 eggs
Entirety of the 18th Century instructions: "knead it stiff, shape it to your fancy, bake 15 minutes."
21st Century instructions: Mix together the flour, sugar, ginger, and nutmeg. Start the pearlash dissolving into the cream. Your butter should be chilled. Cut it into little pieces and rub them into the flour mixture. Stir up the cream to make sure the pearlash is fully dissolved, and then mix it and the eggs into the flour mixture. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Cut with cookie cutter. Put on a baking sheet wtih some space between them for expansion. Bake at 325°F until done - which will be about 15 minutes, but keep watch on them and avoid overcooking.
Note: "pearlash" is potassium carbonate, a primitive leavening agent. You can still obtain this from well-stocked baking-ingredient suppliers, but it may not be easy to find. You can substitute the same quantity of modern baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which will give fluffier results and will probably taste better (though less authentic) to the present-day palate.