But what about the '50s? The Family Circle Cake & Cooky Cookbook (1953) suggests decorated cookies were usually pretty sedate:
If you wanted to get fancy, you could dump a ton of sprinkles on them...
Or roll them in powdered sugar...
Or add a pool of jam...
Or shoot them through a spritz gun...
Or spread them with icing and add a few dragees if you wanted to be really classy.
The fanciest decorating seemed reserved for the families that wanted to scare kids away from the cookie (I'm sorry, cooky) jar:
The gingerbread man with the enormous raisin eyes protruding from his forehead and into his hat could make anyone back away slowly... very slowly...
But a little more searching showed me that decorated cookies had some traction. They seemed more reserved for occasions outside of Christmas, though. (Maybe '50s cooks were too busy making fruitcake and Jell-O molds to make too much of a fuss over cookies?)
So what did '50s decorated cookies look like?
Some were pretty straightforward:
Animal cookies would be easy for a birthday party: top cookie with icing, animal crackers, and coconut "grass," et voila! Quickie kid treat.
And this was clearly the game that kids played in the margins of their notebooks when they weren't paying attention in class.
I always thought the spelling was "tic-tac-toe," though. I guess anything goes in a book that considers the singular form of "cookies" to be "cooky."
People who wanted to get really fancy might break out the candies to make Goldilocks:
Or a very... uh... rustic flag.
I just love this one: the blobby blue field in the corner with a dozen dragee stars. (The top two rows do NOT seem to trust that bottom row, either.) And look at the cinnamon stripes: another three rows (with the bottom one in exile) and one of the candies ready to fall off the edge while others are half-buried in icing.
This one makes me wonder about the selection process too. Did the cooks just make one example of each cooky and take its picture, saying, "Good enough," or was this the best sample out of a series of attempts? I'm not sure which answer would amuse me more.
Some of the cookies were just puzzling:
I looked at this one for a while. My best guess was that it was a bug's face. The three dark bulges are its eyes and nose? beak? pincers? mandible? labrum? That third bump is whatever bugs have slightly beneath and between their eyes. The pair of candy strips forms the antennae, and the other blobs beside the strips are unexplained. Maybe the bug is wearing barrettes on its antennae? Or maybe those are just in the background and completely unrelated to the bug head?
Okay, so maybe it is not a particularly festive bug:
The halved cherries make this a George Washington Cooky. This seems oddly specific. Presidents' Day must have been a much bigger deal in the '50s.
And, of course, a cooky that reminds me why I am happy not to exist in the '50s:
A sure way to make friends in the '50s: Bring over a plate of cookies that screams, "Please enjoy this edible racist caricature!"