Food History, Great Reads, Immigration History

Victoria Confino’s Baklava Cookie

May 26, 2020


For years now, Dolan and I have been leading the Meet Victoria tour at the Tenement Museum, a costumed-interpreter tour where you get to visit the home of a 14-year-old Sephardic girl named Victoria Confino. Over the course of your experience in a three roomed tenement apartment, a costumed interpreter portraying Victoria will show you around her home, answer your questions, and tell you stories. Stories about food are often accompanied with an invitation to smell some spices found in Victoria’s kitchen that are commonly used in Sephardic cooking, like cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and black pepper among them.

When the Confino family left Kastoria (then Turkey, modern day Greece) they couldn’t bring many items with them, but they worked to recreate their favorite dishes from home here on the Lower East Side. The descriptions of food from Victoria’s hometown of Kastoria have often made me wish that Victoria could cook for me.

Victoria Confino died in 1989 at the age of 87, but her recipes live on. So, last December, Dolan and I set off to recreate her Baklava Cookie recipe that was shared with the Tenement Museum by her granddaughter.

Adapted from an original recipe by Victoria Confino 

Sugar syrup and filling (see below)
6 eggs 
1 cup extra virgin olive oil 
1 ½ cups sugar (plus extra to sprinkle on top)
1 tsp baking powder 
Pinch of salt
6-8 cups flour, plus more to roll out dough 

Sugar Syrup 
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. lemon or orange juice

Combine in a large sauce pan. Heat, uncovered, over medium-high heat without stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. 

2 cups finely ground walnuts
(You can toast the nuts before grinding for more flavor.) Keep them cold in the refrigerator before grinding. Grind with a manual grinder or a food processor; if done with a food processor, add 2 tbsp. white sugar.
1 tsp. cinnamon 
Zest of one orange

Place all ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently with hands until combined. Pour 1 cup sugar syrup over top, stir until mixed.

Refrigerate until needed. 


      1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
      2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, baking powder, and salt. 
      3. With an electric mixer, beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add oil and mix until combined. 
      4. With mixer on low, gradually add sugar mixture. Add flour a large spoonful at a time until a soft, but not sticky, dough forms. Refrigerate if desired. 
      5. Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Roll out dough until it is ¼ inch thick. Cut into circles with a cookie cutter or drinking glass, and fill with a teaspoon of filling. Fold like a turnover and press edges to seal. With a pastry brush, brush top with water and sprinkle with sugar.
      6. Bake 15-18 minutes until toasty brown on the bottom.  

We read over the recipe, went shopping at Essex Market (we baked them back in December in a time well before masks and social distancing), and scoured the kitchen at the Tenement Museum for the necessary tools. We couldn’t find all of the exact tools we needed, but we adapted. I imagine a lot of you, readers, are adapting recipes with what you have on hand rather than running to the store right now. That is to say—we get it, us too!

Check out our Instagram story to watch the process of making these delicious cookies!

In our experience of baking the cookies we learned that we think ¼” is too thick and that the dough should be rolled thinner (maybe even 1/8”), that we wanted to add more spices to the filling to pump up the flavor, and if you mention you are making Victoria’s cookies at the Tenement Museum expect staff to drop by all afternoon waiting to eat them. We didn’t even get a picture of our finished product!

According to Victoria’s granddaughter, her favorite way to eat her grandmother’s cookies was with a chocolate chip filling! Try out the recipe, adapt it to what you have on hand or your flavor preferences, and share the experience with us in the comments or on social media.

Written by:

Danielle B. Wetmore is a Lead Educator at the Tenement Museum and a scholar of Modern US History with an emphasis in immigration and consumerism. She has worked in the field of public history for ten years and has written on topics ranging from gendered advertising during the Great Depression to historic birth control practices.