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Dec 16, 2014

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I have seen several explanations of Zimsterne (German cinnamon star cookies), the most common being that almonds and cinnamon were very dear in seventeenth century Germany, so these cookies were served only at Christmas as a special treat.

My favorite story is that these cookies are hung on Christmas trees to distract children who cannot keep their hands off of the ornaments.

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I wish I could tell you a story about my family's ties to these holiday cookies from the old country, but the only memory I have of Christmas cookies is eating the heads, arms, and legs off of gingerbread men. That's tradition!

Now that I think of it, there was the one year where my grandmother gave me an elaborate gingerbread house, and a neighbor boy snuck into our house and ate most of it. Very traumatic.

Back to the Zimsterne......

The traditional Zimsterne is made of sugar, ground almonds, and egg whites. and tastes like a cross between a meringue and a French macaron, but with a much more dense texture.

This recipe contains flour, whole eggs, and baking powder in addition to the ground almonds and cinnamon, making it immensely easier to roll out and cut. The cookies still puff up like macarons, and are crispy-chewy, like meringue cookies. The kids totally loved the cinnamon almond flavor.

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These are perfect with coffee or tea. Plus, they are so cute!!

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

The Creative Cookie Exchange group is making international holiday cookies! Check out all of our members' links to international cookies after the recipe.

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Zimsterne Cookie Recipe
Makes about 60 cookies


4 T (2 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 C (4 ounces) powdered sugar
1/2 C (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 C (9 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C (3 1/4 ounces) almond meal
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
Granulated or sanding sugar


  1. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugars until smooth. 
  2. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
  3. Mix in the extracts. 
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, almond meal, and salt together. Add it to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
  5. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  7. Whisk the egg white with the pinch of salt
  8. Roll the dough out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. 
  9. Cut the dough with a 2 inch star shaped cookie cutter and place the cut dough onto the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. 
  10. Brush the tops of the stars with the egg wash, and sprinkle lightly with sugar. 
  11. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes. 
  12. To make ornaments, immediately poke a hole in the cookie with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack. 

The theme this month is International Winter Holiday Cookies! If it is a cookie traditionally made somewhere in the world for a holiday traditionally observed near the Winter Solstice you might find it on this list. If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links. You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Would you like to comment?

  1. Now I'm going to have to add a sixth tree to my holiday decorating just so I can decorate it with these adorable cookies - then eat them like crazy.

  2. I consider making these each year but have never gotten to work and baked them. After reading your post, I think I should do it..... I do not think they would last long enough to make it onto a Christmas tree!

  3. These are so classic and beautiful! Love the almonds and cinnamon. :)

  4. Those are so cute, Karen! I love the way they puff up to create almost three-dimensional stars. Perfect for hanging on the tree!

  5. They look so perfect.... would love to have them for Teatime.....

  6. Oh so pretty! These would be gorgeous as decorations but hard not to eat them all first!

  7. Great anecdotes about the Zimsterne, Karen. And what a wonderful distraction indeed to have precious cinnamon scented, sugar studded cookies on the tree....BTW I enjoyed your gingerbread tradition, too. Thank you for the intro to the German Christmas cookies =)

  8. The Zimsterne sound delicious - the almond cinnamon flavor, the way they're somewhat macaron-like without being overly fluffy (or sweet). The pretty star shape and your explanation of the history this cookie are wonderful too.

  9. Look at those darling cookies. Loved the post on them. And If I were you, I would search that neighbor boy and feed him ginger bread all day until he got stuffed. Sweet revenge for a traumatic experience ;)

  10. I LOVE these cookies! Exactly what I was hoping for! And such awesome stories! Also--I had to laugh about the gingerbread house story, sounds like when my dad carved the most amazing pumpkin ever--it looked like Darth Vadar--and some boys came and smashed it. I was devastated lol....

  11. It's been far too long since I've had these, and I love the idea of hanging them on the tree

  12. Hello Karen, these cookies look like they're very interesting and I have almonds in the mix even better, they look great very nice pictures indeed I'm going to try this recipe this Christmas and make them into ornaments to hang on the tree , I did the gingerbread ,have six grandchildren that will love these cookies.

  13. Thanks for allowing me to feature your recipe in my round-up of 60 Ultimate Cookie Exchange Recipes on Taste As You Go. Happy Holidays, Karen!


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