If you’re on the hunt for a bake sale-worthy recipe, look no further. Mrs. Iona’s Shortbread Cookies have long been a favorite at the Red Bird Bake Sale, hosted each year at Bethel United Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Mrs. Iona’s paper doll-shaped shortbread, or her “little men” as she calls them, are buttery with a subtle sweetness. They have a satisfying snap when you bite into them, but then they melt immediately in your mouth—just as shortbread should. While the recipe is a little time-consuming, given the rolling, cutting, and baking for two hours, the cookies are otherwise simple to make and well worth the effort. And because the recipe makes such a large batch, there is no need to eat them all at once: The cookies freeze nicely, or if you keep them in an airtight bag or container, they will be good for a few weeks. You can also make them feel festive for any occasion by using seasonal cookie cutters: Angels are a sweet choice for Christmas, while flowers would be perfect for spring parties.

Iona Sanders


Credit: Zoe Denenberg, Styling: Rachel Mulcahy

Recipe Summary test

1 hr
3 hrs
4 hrs
15 dozen mini cookies


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Mix butter and sugar well. Then, add flour and mix well with hands. Roll out the dough on a floury surface, so that it’s about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out the cookies, then poke holes with a fork in each. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven at 225 degrees for 2 hours. If they’re soft in the middle, leave them in for a little longer. Turn off the oven and let them sit overnight to continue drying out and crisping up, if you wish.