grandpa’s googly buns

We have this iconic cookie in our family called the Googly Bun. My late Grandpa Ward coined the name, many years before I began to appreciate their sweet burst of dates. I know there’s a story behind their name that now eludes me. (Ward family members feel free to comment.)

I grew up with those old-school cookie tins mysteriously appearing on the counter at the Ward family cottage. You know the ones: round, with pictures of perfectly-shaped butter cookies clustered on the front. Every time I lifted the lid of one of those tins I feared those hideous cookies staring back at me. But ohhhh I was a lucky child. I’d inevitably find instead any number of home-cooked things. If I was especially lucky, they would be of the Googliest sort.

Googly buns


I confess that I didn’t actually like the date-filled cookiesahem Googly Buns until around the age of sixteen, when my tastebuds started to pine for things more nuanced than nachos and SpaghettiO’s (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Up until that point they were somewhat grown-up cookies. They were oatmeal, after all. Good grief. For any self-respecting kid it was chocolate chip or peanut-butter, thank you very much.



My first attempt at replicating these was my first big move away from home, to Vancouver. I was gathering with new friends one night for a potluck. But this particular potluck had a theme: “intentional consumption.” We were instructed to bring a food item with a story. After I had listened to a woman reminisce about the soup she ate every day in Thailand, and after we had passed around a gourd of Argentinian Yerba Mate, I pulled out the Googlies. They weren’t great specimens, for I was a fledgling baker. But those people I barely knew indulged me, and convinced me the cookies were good. I’m sure my Grandpa enjoyed every minute of it.


Because even the best things can always be made better, I set out on a search for a slightly softer, lighter cookie to replace the one I’d grown up on. Over at Elise’s blog I found what looked like a reasonable candidate. I did a test run of a few plain ones, and I was an immediate convert. If you don’t have the time or energy for the date filling, just make these. These cookies, straight from the oven with the perfect hint of whole grain sweetness, might just be good enough to change your mind.

Googly Buns


1 c butter (or shortening, if you must)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar*
1/2 cup white sugar*
2 eggs well beaten
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon or a few pinches of nutmeg
3 cups quick or old fashioned oats (not instant)
1 cup raisins (optional, don’t use if you’re making the date filled variety)
1/2 cut walnuts (optional, don’t use if you’re making the date filled variety)
*the original recipe calls for 1 cup of each sugar. I thought they were plenty sweet enough this way!


Simmer the following in a pot for 10 minutes, then add 1 Tbsp lemon juice and let cool:

1/2 lb chopped packaged dates (they’re stickier and make a better filling than chopping whole ones yourself, as I did!)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup (or honey or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Cream together butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Stir together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon and add to wet ingredients. Mix well. Add oats last.
  2. If you want pure googly goodness, proceed to step 3. For an amazing cookie on its own or for sandwiches (see last picture, above), drop by tablespoonful onto a greased pan (or silicon baking mat) and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes, cool and fill.
  3. Since I hate rolling and cutting out dough, I made the flat cookies by hand. I rolled a bit of dough between my hands into a robin’s egg sized ball, and then flattened it out either in my hands or on the baking sheet. You want the cookie dough to be about 1/4-1/2 inch thick, as they’ll puff up. Experiment, though.
  4. Drop a teaspoon or two of the date filling into the center of the dough circle. Make another dough circle and put it on top, sealing the edges with your fingers.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.

adapted from Simply Recipes

13 thoughts on “grandpa’s googly buns

  1. May 9, 2008 at 11:20 am

    One of my strongest memories of my childhood is the time Grampa wrote me a letter and at one point described how he was indulging in a googly bun – and how ‘isn’ he lucky to be the only one?’ He then proceeded to mention that he’d send me some remnants of one, and sure enough I looked in the bottom of the envelope and there were crumbs of his Googly Bun. So typical! I wish I still had that letter.

    Here’s to Bill Ward. :)

  2. May 9, 2008 at 11:23 am

    These cookies take me back to my childhood. My mom used to make a very similar recipe for Christmas. We just called ours date sandwich cookies. Not very creative, I know!

  3. Sheri
    May 10, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Hey Jen I loved this post! And now I have the re-vamped version for me to make….yay!!!

  4. Matt
    May 13, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Hey Jen, I obviously remember those cookies. I’m not a huge fan of them to tell you the truth, and apparently my taste buds are not mature enough yet. haha, great post tho!

  5. Maxine
    May 18, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Hi Jen. I am going to try your new googly bun recipe and see the difference. I did not know about Grandpa’s sending his cookie crumbs to Meghan….that’s really great…he never told me!!
    Gramma Ward

  6. Doug
    June 12, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    meredith and I are willing and able to taste test anyone’s recipe variation on the said cookie. The name comes from Barney Google – goo goo googely eyes. dad coined it on a canoe trip with his buddy Otho if I am not mistaken.


  7. June 14, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    I think you need to come and visit in order to sample the said cookies.

  8. Lynda
    June 27, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    HI Jen

    I have cooling Googly Buns on the counter as we speak! I didn’t get them googlied though, I made the cookies and I am planning to serve the date filling on the side. Picture Googly Bun Fondue.

  9. Jen
    June 27, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Hi Lynda, I’m so honored that you’re trying the recipe! Do post a comment letting me know how they turn out! I’ve never thought about doing that before, it could be really fun dipping the cookies, and that way people can “control their carbs” (as if the cookies weren’t enough!)

    Thanks so much for your comment.
    Take care.

  10. Lynda
    June 27, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Hi Jen
    We went to Sharie & Wayne’s for supper and took the googly bun “fondue”. Actually the date mixture was too thick to really “dip” but we were able to add the date stuff to each cookie according to our preference. It was a hit!
    I’ll try the beet pasta dish next!

  11. Lydia
    August 27, 2008 at 8:17 am

    I’m a little late in this conversation, but I’m here none the less. I must admit, I was a fan of the Googly Buns from a young age. I guess being the oldest grandchild, I had certain responsibilties to carry, including an early appreciation for Googly Buns. You know, to encourage the kids to follow.

    I will give these a shot before mat leave is over! Carter will learn to love them at a very very young age!! I will wait til he’s got more than 2 teeth and is onto solids that require chewing.

  12. Janet
    November 15, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Those look and sound wonderful! Like a little pie…thank you for sharing I will definitely try them this Christmas.