Fort Sumter & Benne Wafers


When last week’s First on the First post went live, I couldn’t believe it was January. There was so much about December that I never got to share with you, like which new cookies I tried ( Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies from Poet in the Pantry were my favorite!) or my trip to Charleston.


I love any good city on the water,


particularly one with a rich history, and Charleston was no exception. One morning we took a ferry ride into Charleston Harbor to visit Fort Sumter.


The island fortification was built following the War of 1812 and, though never completed, manned during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. However, it is most famous as the site of the first shots of the Civil War.


Less than one week after South Carolina declared secession from the Union in December 1860,  U.S. Major Robert Anderson occupied the unfinished fort


and continued to do so despite repeated calls for evacuation from the government of South Carolina. The standoff continued and by April it was clear that Anderson and his soldiers were running out of food and supplies. When President Lincoln announced plans to resupply the fort, it was bombarded by the Confederacy.


After a 34-hour exchange beginning on April 12, 1861, Anderson and his soldiers surrendered Fort Sumter. Union forces would attempt to regain the Fort for four years, succeeding only when Confederate troops abandoned it prior to the capture of Charleston in February 1865. 


In addition to its history, Fort Sumter also offers visitors exquisite examples of why this area of the United States is called the Lowcountry.


And no sweet treat is more quintessentially Lowcountry or South Carolinian than the Benne Wafer. A favorite in Charleston for more than a century, these cookies owe their origin to West African slaves who introduced sesame seeds (or “benne” seeds) to America. Legend has it that sesame seeds brought good luck and, since this is the first Suitcases & Sweets recipe of a new year, I hope these cookies do the same for you!


Click Here to Print This Recipe.

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar.
  • Add two eggs; mix well.
  • Blend in flour.
  • Stir in sesame seeds.
  • Add vanilla, baking powder, salt; mix until thoroughly combined.


  • Drop a teaspoon of batter onto prepared cookie sheet, far enough apart to allow spreading while baking.
  • Bake in a 325°F oven for approximately 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
  • Cool for 7-10 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to wire rack to cool completely.


Distance Traveled from Philadelphia to Charleston: 550 miles

This recipe reflects minor adaptations to a recipe from Charleston Gateway and yields 3.5 dozen cookies. 


4 responses

  1. There is so much to do in and around Charleston, and the trip to Fort Sumter is one of the historical highlights. Since I love sesame seeds, I look forward to trying the Benne wafers!

  2. When in Charleston, a trip to Fort Sumter is a must-see, especially if one is a history buff. Your narrative and photos really captured the essence of this historic landmark.

    PS: The Benne Wafers sound/look delicious!

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