All I Want for Christmas is Cookies: Rum Balls

by Sara Mead

I have to confess–I’m not sure today’s entry is actually a cookie. It put in frequent appearances on cookie plates when I was growing up, and I’ve always thought of it as a cookie, and if even has cookies in it, but the actual process of making it feel much more like candy than a cookie.

But I’m including it anyway, because Christmas cookies are as much about history and emotions as they are about the cookies, and this one has some feelings! My grandfather, who passed away two years ago, loved rum balls. This is all the stranger because he did not drink. But he loved to poke around the various cookie plates we received, looking for rum balls. He would always make a display of asking us if we wanted them–no one else in the family could stand them–but we all knew he loved them. These candy/cookies/whatever they are remind me of him. They also pack quite a punch, since there’s no baking involved and the rum doesn’t burn off!

Recipe here.

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup finely chopped, toasted walnuts


Into a large bowl, sift together 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, the cocoa powder and allspice. Stir in the rum and corn syrup. Stir in the vanilla wafers and walnuts, and mix well. Place in the refrigerator to firm up slightly, about 30 minutes. (The mixture may appear crumbly and dry; this is O.K.)

Place the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl or dish.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out portions of the chocolate mixture and press into 1-inch balls. Using your hands, roll the balls in the confectioners’ sugar, coating evenly. (NOTE: I, against my better judgement, followed this instruction to the letter. If I were going to make these again, I’d make the balls about half the size; 1 inch just gives you more rum ball than I think most people want to eat at a time.)

Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, placing waxed paper between the layers to prevent sticking.


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