"Billy Goats” are date cookies or date cakes. Some versions claim that the name comes from a time when a woman put the dish on a window sill to cool—where it was eaten by the family’s billygoat. Some newspapers in the 1950s called them “Kansas cookies,” but the place of origin is as mysterious as the name. “Billy Goats” achieved greatest popularity in the Western states.
“Billy Goats” has been cited in print since at least 1932.
Why this excellent recipe should have such a peculiar name I do not know. I can assure you that the drop cookies made by it are highly successful and pleasing.
4 cupfuls of flour
1/2 teaspoonful of soda
4 teaspoonfuls of baking powder
2 cupfuls of sugar
1 cupful of butter or other shortening
3 eggs, beaten…
June/July 1939, American Cookery, pg. 25:
THIRD PRIZE (American Prize Cookies. “Lime Snaps” and “Bleeding Hearts” placed ahead—ed.)
Elsie Loy Benney, Kansas
OLD-FASHIONED “BILLY GOATS”
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup nut meats, chopped
1/2 pound raisins or chopped dates
4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon soda
2 tablespoons buttermilk
Cream the butter and the sugar together and add the beaten eggs. Stir in the nut meats, the raisins or dates and the vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and cloves, and add alternately with the soda dissolved in the buttermilk. Drop by spoonfuls on a buttered pan and bake about twenty minutes in a moderate oven.
7 September 1956, Salina (KS) Journal, “Favorite Recipe,” pg. 7, col. 1:
BILLY GOAT COOKIES
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs (beat whites separately)
1 pound dates, chopped
1 teaspoon water
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 pound (2 cups) chopped nuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 level teaspoons soda (dissolved in 3 tablespoons warm water)
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Mix dates and nuts with cinnamon and sifted flour. Add to mixture with water and soda. Drop from spoon on greased sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
MRS. CALVIN HENNE
18 December 1963, Springfield (MA) Union, “Our Readers’ Exchange” by Alice Scott Ross, pg. 23, col. 4:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but no, Ann Sherwood, there’s nary a drop of goat’s milk in Billy Goat Cookie!
Then why the name? Mrs. James Gallagher, Easthampton, who brought the cookies to our column Christmas Party, sends this information: “Legend has it that these cookies were named by a Virginia City housewife. One day as a batch cooled on her window sill, the family billy goat, drawn by the heavenly aroma, made short work of the cookies, pan and all! Fact of fancy—Billy Goats are grand—no butts about it!”
(Mrs. James Gallagher, High St., Easthampton)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon allspice
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 pound pitted dates, cut in pieces
Method:—Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs and beat well; then blend in the sour cream. SIft soda, baking powder and allspice with flour; blend into butter mixture.
Stir in walnuts and dates. Drop by teaspoonful on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees about 13 minutes, or until browned. Makes about 5 dozen, 2-inch cookies.
15 September 1965, Ada (OK) Evening News, pg. 6, cols. 2-3:
Billy Goat Cookies Were A Great
Favorite Of President William Taft
A lady from San Francisco writes about Billy Goat Cookies which are said to have been a great favorite of President William Taft, one of the eatingest Presidents we have ever had. “The name,” she says, “has always intrigued me.” This is the story she heard Out West.
It seems that a pioneer woman made a batch of her favorite cookies and put them on the window sill to cool. THe family billy goat came by. A delicious whiff tickled his nostrils. he ate the cookies, one and all. But the woman was undaunted, a true pioneer. She made some more cookies using whatever she had on hand. The family enjoyed the new cookies so much that she made them many times afterwards and always called them “Billy Goat Cookies.”
My own recipe calls for dates. But our correspondent uses raisins or whatever else she has. “My best batch,” she says, “were made of crystalized fruit left from Christmas baking. Dried apricots and even cocnut are excellent.”
A fast, easy, delicious cookie.
WESTERN BILLY GOATS
Cream 1/2 cup butter or margarine with 1 cup sugar. Separate 2 eggs. beat the yolks, add to the creamed mixture along with 4 tablespoons sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Sift 2 cups flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinammon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice. Add 2 cups raisins, dried crystalized fruits, chopped pitted dates, nuts or shredded coconut or a combination of any of these. Stir date mixture into the flour; mix well. Fold in the 2 stiffly beaten egg whites, drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets or heavy duty aluminum foil. Bake in a moderate oven (350 deg.) about 12 minutes or until firm. Makes about 2 dozen.
7 October 1971, Mobile (AL) Register, “‘Billy Goats’ Are Great For After School Treat,” pg. 3G, cols. 1-4:
Called “Billy Goats” because of their ragged, scraggly, whisker-y shape, these cookies were developed by the importers of pitted and diced dates particularly to appeal to youngsters’ sweet tooths.
1 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 8-oz. package imported diced dates or whole dates, cut up
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup crisp rice cereal
Cream butter and brown sugar, then add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add cocoa gradually and mix until blended. Sift flour and soda into the mixture and beat well. Blend in imported dates, coconut and rice cereal and mix until all are coated and well dispersed. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes. Yield: Approximately 5 dozen
I Hear America Cooking
By Betty Harper Fussell
New York, NY: Viking
BILLY GOAT DATE CAKES
Recipes for Billy Goat Cakes appeared in “old cookbooks” in all three of the Pacific states, according to Helen Brown, but she can explain neither name nor origin. From their ingredients of spices, raisins and nuts, brown sugar and molasses, they appear to be an evolutionary stepchild of the seventeenth-century English spiced cakes called “jumbles.” Jumbles, in turn, begat hermits, familiar to many an American child of the late nineteenth century…