Turtleback Cookies

This is a familiar recipe to anyone who lives in the small Alabama town where I grew up. Our local family-owned bakery was famous for all its cookies—you could smell the sugary aroma a block away, and it was so much a fixture of downtown that I mention it in my romance novel, Angel Falls. The bakery’s Turtlebacks were beloved by everyone in town. We don’t know the bakery’s recipe, but many of the town’s excellent cooks have tried to duplicate it, and this one is close. The recipe’s many variations have been printed and reprinted in many local recipe books, and this version is attributed to Kay Parten, Martha Kidd, and Patty Kirkpatrick.

Here’s what it takes to make the cookies:

Turtleback Cookies


Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp water

Icing Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 5 tbsp cream or milk
  • pecan halves (option) use to garnish the top of the cookies


Cookie Instructions

  • Using a mixer on medium speed, beat together all the cookie ingredients except pecans, until well blended.
  • Stir in pecans.
  • Drop with a 1.5 inch cookie scoop onto parchment paper or lightly greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Remove and cool on racks. 

Icing Instructions

  • Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add confectioner’s sugar and milk or cream.
  • Blend with a wire whisk until smooth and spread onto cookies.


Now. There’s some discussion about whether it’s best to let the cookies cool entirely before icing. Personally, I am not a big fan of thick sugary icing, so I prefer to use about half as much icing and spread it on while the cookies are still warm. The icing doesn’t make quite as hard a shell that way, and that’s Patty’s preference, too. I also like to press one pecan half into the top of each cookie before the icing sets. 

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