The snickerdoodle cookie as we know it can be traced back to one woman.
Her name is Patricia Anfinson.
Virtually every snickerdoodle cookie recipe you’ll find today was inspired by Patricia’s family recipe, which was first printed in the 1950 cookbook, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book.
Snickerdoodle Recipe History: A Recipe Rip Off
Pat’s influence on this seminal cookie cannot be overstated.
In my snickerdoodle research, I was shocked to discover just how many recipe developers across the internet present a snickerdoodle cookie recipe as their own, when really all they’ve done is rehash Patricia’s recipe with a minor change or two.
Often, the adjustments these bloggers make are as minute as substituting butter for shortening and adding vanilla extract. (Trisha Yearwood’s 2008 snickerdoodle recipe is Pat Anfinson’s recipe. The only change Yearwood made was to subtract 2 Tbsp of sugar from the cinnamon/sugar rolling mixture.)
Even more shocking, these recipe developers give Pat no credit for her work, which clearly—at the very least—inspired their own.
I’m proud to say that my snickerdoodle recipe is inspired by Patricia Anfinson’s recipe.
Here’s the story of how one woman with drive and a dream turned a simple cookie into an American Classic.
Snickerdoodle Recipe History: Patricia's Story
Patricia Roth Anfinson was born February 23, 1923. In 1945, the Minnesota native graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor of science degree in Home Economics. Pat’s post-graduation plans included a dietitian internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. As Pat’s son Reed later observed:
“There were not many young women doing that in the 1940s. She was very independent.”
Before Pat left Minnesota for the internship, a roommate introduced her to Ronald Anfinson, a young man just returned from military service. According to son Scott, Ronald was immediately enamored.
He took Pat out that very night:
“My dad had another date that night—with a homecoming queen candidate, but he broke it and took my mother to the dance. The other woman was there and came up and slapped my dad. But he didn’t care—he was smitten.”
Pat was smitten too. But that didn’t stop her from taking the train alone to Boston for her internship.
Ronald followed her there to propose. The two were married September 8, 1946.
A Dream Job at Betty Crocker
According to most sources, Patricia began her dream job at Washburn-Crosby Co. (now General Mills) in Minneapolis shortly after her marriage. It was her brother-in-law, just returned from the Air Force, who insisted that Pat stop by the Washburn-Crosby building one day to inquire about a position.
With her still uniformed brother-in-law leading the way, Patricia found herself meeting face to face with Marjorie Husted, head of the Betty Crocker Homemaking Service Department at Washburn-Crosby. Husted’s influence had been critical in developing the fictitious Betty Crocker, who, second to Eleanor Roosevelt, was the most admired woman in the United States.
Husted kindly dismissed the brother-in-law and looked squarely at Pat:
“All right, honey. He got you in the door, and I’m a sucker for a man in uniform, but now you have two minutes to tell me why I should hire you.”
Whatever Pat said clearly impressed Marjorie Husted, for she left the Washburn-Crosby building that day with a new job in the Betty Crocker Homemaking Service. For Pat, it was a dream come true.
Snickerdoodle Recipe History: Working at Betty Crocker
As a staff home economics expert, Pat’s responsibilities at Betty Crocker included answering baking questions by letter and by phone. According to Pat’s granddaughter Meghan, Pat soon mastered the famous Betty Crocker signature, with which she closed each letter:
“I remember her telling me she had to learn how to sign Betty Crocker’s signature. I swear she picked it up, because her handwriting looked practically the same!”
A 1948 photograph in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune shows Patricia Anfinson during her time at Betty Crocker. In the photo, Pat answers two phones simultaneously. According to the article, customers particularly sought Pat’s advice about Betty Crocker “wondercakes,” on which she’d become an expert.
But Patricia’s most enduring legacy from her years at Betty Crocker was her snickerdoodle cookie recipe.
Pat's Snickerdoodle Recipe History
The recipe, which originated with Pat’s grandmother, was one of her favorites growing up. As Pat remembered:
“It’s one of my happy childhood memories. My mother would be baking when we came home from school and we would have snickerdoodles hot out of the oven with a glass of milk.”
Patricia’s goal was to see her family snickerdoodle recipe printed in Betty Crocker’s 1950 picture cook book. As a woman who, according to her son Reed, “always wanted to get things done, and get them done now,” Pat applied herself to the goal with drive and determination.
Pat’s hard work payed off: the snickerdoodle recipe made it into the now classic Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book.
Along the way, Patricia became known as “The Snickerdoodle Lady.”
It’s believed that the first snickerdoodle recipe came to colonial America through German or Dutch immigrants. But it’s Patricia Roth Anfinson’s family recipe that brought the modern snickerdoodle to homes across the country.
A Reinassaince Woman
Pat had several careers after her time at Betty Crocker. In addition to raising six children, she worked as a dietician for various hospitals and nursing homes around Benson, Minnesota. In 1960, Pat and husband Ronald purchased a local newspaper, the Swift County Monitor-News.
In 1969, Pat began a weekly column for the paper, “Sage, Parsley and Thyme,” in which she shared her favorite recipes and wrote about community life. The column proved so popular, the local grocer called Pat ahead of publication each week to ensure that the ingredients for her upcoming recipe were well stocked.
Between writing two cookbooks and continuing her column for the next 40 years, Patricia somehow managed to get a home cooked dinner and dessert on the table each night. According to son Scott, Pat:
“always made a really nice meal, including a homemade dessert, for my dad when he got home. Presentation was huge to her. She was a big believer that a meal tasted better if it looked good.”
Reminiscent of Pat’s days at Betty Crocker, family dinner was regularly interrupted by phone calls from column readers experiencing “cooking emergencies.” As Scott remembered:
“We’d be sitting down for dinner and she’d patiently explain how to do this or that to the person on the phone.”
The Snickerdoodle Lady
With her 2012 passing, Patricia Roth Anfinson left a rich culinary legacy for her family and friends.
But Pat’s influence extends beyond her community: thanks to the drive and determination of one woman with a dream, America gained a classic cookie that continues to delight new generations.
To anyone who’s enjoyed a snickerdoodle cookie over the years, share Pat’s story. This exceptional woman deserves her due.
Here’s to Patricia Anfinson, the Snickerdoodle Lady.
A Few Things!
You can find Pat’s family snickerdoodle recipe, as it appeared in the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book [aff. link], here. You can also find the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book in my Amazon store.
Where my snickerdoodle recipe most noticeably differs from Pat’s is in flour ratio and type. I’m a fan of almond flour in my cookies, and my snickerdoodle recipe includes 1 cup of almond flour. It adds a nice textural note and hint of chewiness to the snickerdoodles.
And don’t skip the cream of tartar! The cream of tartar in all snickerdoodles acts as a leavener (with the baking soda) and gives the cookies their signature cracked top and slight tanginess. Without cream of tartar, you don’t have snickerdoodles.
Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe & History
For the dry ingredients:
- 2 ⅓ cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup almond flour
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- ½ tsp salt
For the wet ingredients:
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup shortening
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
For the cinnamon sugar rolling mixture:
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Mix the wet ingredients
- Add the sugar, butter, and shortening to a large mixing bowl. With a handheld or stand mixer, beat until a smooth mixture forms, about 1-2 minutes.
- Now add the eggs. Beat for an additional 2 minutes, until the eggs are completely incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and beat for another 30 seconds.
Add the dry ingredients
- Now add the flour, almond flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Do not to overmix.
Make the cinnamon/sugar mixture
- In a cereal bowl, mix ¼ cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon together.
Roll the cookies
- Roll the cookie dough into 1 ½ - 2 Tbsp sized balls.
- Roll each cookie dough ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture, until each ball is completely coated.
Refrigerate the dough balls
- Set the cookie dough balls on a few plates or a baking sheet, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Bake the cookies
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Put 6-8 dough balls on a standard-sized baking sheet. Leave at least 2 inches between each dough ball. Flatten each ball slightly with your hand before baking.
- Bake the cookies for 8 minutes. Remove them from the oven. The cookies will be slightly puffed, look undercooked, and be mostly white with slightly golden edges.
Let the cookies cool
- Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 6 minutes. This is an important step. Don’t skip it.
Serve and enjoy!
- Serve the snickerdoodles alone or with a glass of milk. Enjoy!
What a fascinating story of Patricia’s journey and the Betty Crocker’s (Who I used to think was a real person for a long time haha) legacy. Great to know recipe for snickerdoodle has an actual author. These aren’t my favourite type of cookies as they are too sweet to my liking. But thanks to the sugar-cinnamon coating they always look and snell so good and cozy!
Thanks for reading Ben! It’s amazing how Patricia’s recipe has defined the modern snickerdoodle cookie. I agree, the cinnamon/sugar mixture makes snickerdoodles smell particularly good!
I love all the history. That’s really interesting. It’s true that we don’t all reinvent foods every time we “come up with” a recipe. They’re almost always based on someone else’s work. But I feel like you really need to make substantial changes before you neglect to mention where you got the basis for what you’re doing. Thanks for doing that!
I agree Jeff, it’s such a disservice when credit is not given to the person who’s work inspired (or more than inspired) our own. Hopefully more recipe developers (and snickerdoodle lovers!) will recognize Patricia’s recipe and hard work!
Wow – what a fun read, Shannon! I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t realize until now that Betty Crocker wasn’t a real person. I always just assumed she was…and of course that famous signature helped fool me. Haha! I love a good snickerdoodle recipe, and I’m intrigued by the almond flour addition here. You can’t ever go wrong with cinnamon + sugar!!
Thanks David! Haha I didn’t know about Betty Crocker for years! So true, cinnamon and sugar is such a winning combination. 😋
I made these snickerdoodles for a school event last Friday. They were gone in minutes. I will make these again, thank you! The almond flour sounds unique, and it does what you says, a great texture addition. Also, your write up is very interesting. I loved reading Patricia Anfinson’s story, and I’m glad that someone is giving her credit. I think less of Trisha Yearwood and her team for plagiarizing Patricia’s recipe.
I’m so happy to hear the snickerdoodles were a hit Marion! Thanks for making them, and thanks for reading Patricia’s story. I hope she’ll get the recognition she deserves!