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Cookie Tables -- A Wedding Tradition Born in Youngstown
A Quick Story
It is a beautiful day and the sun is shining. I am attending a wedding in West Virginia. The birds are singing and love is in the air. The wedding is great and the food delicious. I then get up to get a few cookies from the cookie table
I can't find the cookie table.
There is no cookie table!
I then pull myself to reality and remember I am and in the middle West Virginia and cookie tables are a "Youngstown" thing. I am sad.
These nifty little dessert tables are so ingrained into our wedding culture here in Northeast Ohio that the lacking of a cookie table totally blew the experience for me. Yeah, everything else was fine but there was no cookie table. If the same thing would have happened at a wedding in Youngstown, everyone would also be bummed and the bride could even be ridiculed for not having a proper cookie table.
So what the heck is a cookie table?
Did you have a cookie table at your wedding?
A Brief History of the Cookie Table
Almost every single wedding you may ever attend in Youngstown will probably have a cookie table. It doesn't matter who the couple getting married is, you'll find kolachi, pizelles, buckeyes from Ohio, lady fingers, and those nifty little tiny cheesecakes with the cherries on top (which by the way are my absolute favorite) displayed in the most maticulous manner, awaiting guests to nibble on them at the guests leisure. The recipe for those mini cheesecakes is included later in the hub.
It is believed that the cookie table started in the Youngstown area because of the heavy amount of immigrants in the city. Different ethnicity's brought their traditions from places like Italy, Greece, Ireland, and Germany and so many other countries. As the years passed by and people attended different types of weddings from these different cultures, the traditions merged together into, what is now truly a tradition that is pretty secluded to the area. Unless someone moves away from Youngstown and carries the tradition with them.
It is believed that cookie tables became very popular during the depression era when there wasn't a lot of money for elaborate wedding cakes. There is also debate on the origins of the cookie table. Some debate it started in Pittsburgh, PA.
Research by the Arms Family Museum of Local History in Youngstown, Ohio discovered the area where cookies tables were found to be most common are northeastern Ohio (ie Youngstown) and western Pennsylvania (ie Pittsburgh). Cookie tables were also well known in West Virginia, Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. States where cookie tables aren't very well known or common are Washington, California, Texas and Nevada.
So I am guessing that the tradition of the cookie table as we know it started in both places. They are only 67 miles away from one another.
Do you have a tight budget?
Having a cookie table means you can have a smaller cake which saves you $$$$.
Box For Your Cookies
Cookie Table Etiquette
Typically the cookie table is available during the coarse of the entire reception. The fun part of a wedding is getting to eat the sweets first, dinner second. If you would like to invite guests to take cookies home, provide small boxes for your guests to use for transporting the cookies. These little boxes will let people know they are allowed to take cookies home. I remember stuffing some cookies and napkins when I was younger. People are going to take cookies home no matter what so let them now they are welcome to do so with little boxes. This is a great idea if you choose to have an adults only reception. Kids get bummed sometimes if when they don't get to do something so bringing home a treat is a great idea so that they also feel included. The goal is to have all your cookies eaten or taken home so they don't go bad while you are off on your honeymoon. If you do have extra cookies, you can also freeze them. Most cookies freeze well.
Where do all those cookies come from?
Almost every single wedding you may ever attend in Youngstown will probably have a cookie table. It doesn't matter the ethnicity of the couple getting married, you'll find kolachi, pizelles, buckeyes from Ohio, lady fingers, and those nifty little tiny cheesecakes with the cherries on top (which by the way are my absolute favorite). The table consists of cookies from recipes that your family has been baking in their own kitchens for years. Typically, we don't purchase a lot of cookies from outside sources, but you can if not many people in your family back. The tradition is all about saving money. The women in your family step in and bake these little gems, typically it is the bride's family that does the cooking but most people recruit everyone in their family that is a great baker.
Below are some of the recipes from my families recipe box. I have no clue where these have come from or their origins because they are just recipes on cards my family has been using for years. I assume church recipe books and other sources in that category.
Mini Cheesecakes -- My Favorite Wedding Treat
- 2 packages of cream cheese
- 3/4 cups of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- vanilla wafters
- 18 cupcake liners
- pie filling or fresh fruit filling
- Bring all of the ingredients to room temperature.
- Cream the cream cheese and sugar together well.
- Add eggs and lemon juice, continue to beat until very smooth.
- Line the cupcake pan with the liners and place a wafer in each cup.
- Fill each cake cup with the cream cheese mixture and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool and store in the fridge.
- Put fruit filling on top of the little cakes when complete.
Displaying the Cookies
How you display your cookies depends on how formal your wedding is and how large your wedding is.
Are you having a formal evening affair with cocktails and fancy cheese plates?
I would then suggest placing your cookies on gorgeous silver platters.
Is your wedding more of an informal affair?
Ask your family to bring some of their favorite plates to place the cookies on display. It will give the table a very intimate appearance. But beware, that aunt that doesn't always listen might bring blue plates to a wedding that has no blue int it. It's a risk you take if you decide on this method.
A small wedding shouldn't have a huge cookie table and a huge wedding should have a tiny little cookie table. Adjust according to guests. I like to plan between 3-5 cookies per guest, more if you invite guests to take cookies home in gift boxes.