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Sand Tarts

You only need a handful of ingredients to make these sweet, nutty Sand Tarts.

With Mother’s Day approaching, I want to share one of my favorite recipes I used to bake with my mother and let you get to know her a little bit. For more Mother’s Day baking ideas, click here.

My mother was not what most would consider an exceptional baker. While we did often have baked goods in the kitchen, they were never anything elaborate. She took the “less is more” mentality and applied it to baking.

Slice and bake was not uncommon. Shortcut ingredients were frequently used. Our cakes were almost always made from a mix and in a 9”x13” pan. Topped with store-bought frosting, of course. I never had any reason to question that, because to me they were as good as anything I’d ever had. In fact, I would still maintain that they were that good.

Sand Tarts are simple, delicious cookies made with just a handful of ingredients. - Bake or Break

She did have a few “from scratch” recipes stuffed in her recipe box. Still, those were simple recipes. Quick and easy with a short list of ingredients seemed to be the basic requirements for making it into her recipe collection.

Most of my baking experiences have come in the last several years and without my mother. Now, as I occasionally sort through my mother’s recipe box, I am amused by the differences in our approach to cooking and also tracking recipes. I have multiple binders divided, tabbed, and overly organized. My notebooks used for recipe development are even color coded. It probably seems way over the top to most, but it works for me. In stark contrast, I find recipe cards in my mother’s handwriting that list ingredients with vague quantities, general directions, and sometimes no title. While that would cause me to lose sleep, it worked just fine for her. The method suits the baker.

As I have learned and continue to learn to bake, I have found that I am more of a made-from-scratch baker. I do take my mother’s simple approach, too. I’ve found that those two baking theories can live together quite harmoniously.

These cookies are one of her recipes from her jumbled recipe box. They are a simple, buttery, nutty cookie with just a few basic ingredients that get mixed in one bowl. Honestly, the best thing about these cookies is their simplicity, both in flavor and preparation.

Sand Tarts have been a favorite of mine since childhood. They're so simple to make and so delicious! - Bake or Break

I frequently helped out with baking by measuring, stirring or, more importantly, licking the beaters. These cookies, however, were an easy way to get me even more involved. The last phase of mixing the cookie dough involves mixing with your hands. What kid doesn’t want to stick their hands in dough? After mixing, the fun continued by shaping the dough into logs. Plus, there’s the messy-yet-fun step of dousing them with confectioners’ sugar.

Many versions of these cookies exist with many different names. I have tried a lot of those. None of them come close to these. What portion of that opinion is based on taste and how much comes from nostalgia, I don’t know. My mother called these Sand Tarts. But, in her typical fashion, the recipe exists in that recipe box under the name Cocoons and also Yule Logs. And filed under A.

Find more cookie recipes in the Recipe Index.

Sand Tarts

Yield about 36 cookies
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes

Sand Tarts are simple pecan cookies made with just a handful of ingredients. These buttery cookies will win you over from the first bite!

You only need a handful of ingredients to make these sweet, nutty Sand Tarts.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line baking pans.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and mix well.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour and salt, mixing until almost combined. Stir in the pecans. Finish mixing the dough with your hands.
  4. Pinch off about 2 teaspoons of dough and roll into balls using a circular motion with your hands. Roll the dough balls using a back and forth motion to shape into logs. Place the dough on prepared baking pans.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes on baking pans. Then transfer them to cooling racks. While the cookies are still warm, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

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    16 Comments on “Sand Tarts”

  1. Mama would be so proud of you! I love your commentary on her organizational skills. So true. The funny thing is that she would have known that they were filed under “A” and could have found you any recipe you wanted in her Rubye Filing System. 🙂 I’m glad she taught us that baking and cooking, in general, didn’t have to be difficult. Great recipe and great article and photos!

  2. I love recipes that are passed down through generations. Baking with my mum was and is still one of my favourite things to do ever, and I’ll never forget some of those childhood memories in the kitchen. What a lovely post.

  3. my mom would love these! thanks for sharing the idea and the recipe 🙂

  4. I understand the filing perfectly. Thankfully, we were “home schooled” and formally educated. I call on my “home schooling” as much and sometimes more than my formal education. In your new vocation I’m sure you find yourself doing the same. Nevertheless, my files are much like yours; micro managed and backed up in two places. Yet, I still have a list that I call Box 5. It comes from my judging experience. Box 5 is the highest box of numbers in the scoring criteria. Therefore, my favorite things are saved in a category called Box 5. I feel sure our precious Rubye filed her favorites under A; the highest grade she could give in her recipe box. Loved her so much and that love transfers to you as you emulate everything we loved about her…so proud of you!!!!

  5. Are these similar to Mexican Wedding Cakes? Snowball Cookies, Palle Di Neve .. or whatever you might call them? The ingredients seem the same, from what I remember. Just curious. They look delicious either way. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  6. My Mom also mainly baked with cake mixes, but the things she could do with a cake mix! They always tasted great! I considered my family lucky that my Mom enjoyed doing those things for us even though she worked full time and was active with church and the community. I prefer to bake from scratch too, but I still love her “old standbys” and pull them out a couple times a year! I cherish her cookbook with writing all over it and so many extra recipes stuck in that I’m surprised it closes! Thank you for sharing this lovely story and recipe with us!

  7. Your mom is great! Like you are today. These Sand Tarts are simply amazing when serve in white modern plates. Whatever names we can call it, the best thing about these cookies, is a mother’s touch. Mothers are best in this world because of love. She is proud of you! 🙂 Thanks for this recipe.

  8. We called them sand tarts and, are you ready for this, puppy dog tails! They melt in your mouth and are very fragile.

  9. This recipe reminds me of my Mama. She called them Pecan Fingers and we all loved them. She usually only made these cookies at Christmas. Her pound cakes were also delicious, with a fine crumb, very moist and tender and very delicious. My sister says Mama gave her the recipe, but it just isn’t quite the same. We laugh because Mama gave each one of us different recipes for the same dish. She was probably always trying to perfect a recipe and constantly made changes. Unfortunately, Mama passed away in November 2013 so we will never know her exact recipe. Thanks for sharing this recipe. There are many versions using very different proportions so I’m happy to have a new one to try.

  10. The recipe I have always used is Helen Corbett’s Sand Tarts using the exact receipe as your Mother’s but mine no longer hold their shape, they come out paper thin and are in crumbs by the time I get them on the cooling racks. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong?

  11. My Mom made these too! I’ve not had much luck recreating hers.  Hope this is THE recipe!  How long do they keep? Thank You!

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