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A classic German cookie, Zimsterne, or cinnamon stars, are a must for your holiday cookie trays. Similar to a macaroon, these chewy cut out cookies are made with almonds, egg whites, sugar, and cinnamon. Plus, they’re gluten and dairy free.
Zimtsterne cookies are a classic holiday cookie in Germany. Similar to a macaroon, these cookies are made mostly with almonds, along with cinnamon and a meringue. They have a chewy texture with a crisp meringue topping.
- Zimt = cinnamon
- Sterne = stars
Zimtsterne translates in English to “cinnamon stars”. They’re commonly found in Germany on holiday cookie trays, whether homemade or bought in stores.
There are a few things I love about these cookies. First of all, they’re naturally gluten free and dairy free. If you have guests with gluten or dairy intolerance, this is a fantastic cookie to add to your holiday tray.
Second, take a look at the ingredient list. It’s short and simple – my favorite. All you’ll need for this recipe: egg whites, ground almonds, cinnamon, confectioner’s sugar, a pinch of salt, and (optionally) vanilla sugar.
While cutout cookies do take a bit of practice, this dough is not difficult to work with. It doesn’t need refrigerating, and won’t spread in the oven like traditional cutout cookie dough.
I’ve included an alternative to make these cookies even easier for beginner bakers. Diamond shaped zimsterne cookies. I feel that the diamond shape maintains the spirit of the zimtsterne, while providing an easier solution for beginner bakers.
If you’re looking to add variety to your cookie tray, a combination of stars and diamonds may suit you as well.
Vanillezucker AKA Vanilla Sugar
One ingredient in this recipe may look unfamiliar to you. Vanillezucker, also known as vanilla sugar.
- Vanille = vanilla
- Zucker = sugar
Vanilla sugar is a fantastic ingredient when you want to add vanilla flavor to a recipe without adding extra moisture. Vanilla sugar is a common ingredient in German baking and is widely available for purchase there.
However, vanilla sugar is a rarity in American stores. I found and purchased mine on Amazon – I tried this German vanilla sugar. One packet equals 1 1/2 teaspoons, which is the amount this recipe calls for.
It’s worth noting that most of what I could find on Amazon was artificially flavored vanilla sugar. Vanillezucker is made with vanilla, and Vanillinzucker is made with artificial vanilla.
If you’d like to try your hand at making your own vanilla sugar, check out this fantastic post by The Kitchen Maus. She explains the different types of vanilla sugar, compares them, and shows you how to make your own with vanilla beans and sugar.
If you do not have vanilla sugar and do not want to make your own, it can simply be omitted from this recipe.
How to make Zimtsterne
First, preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Gather your ingredients. You’ll need cinnamon, salt, vanilla sugar (optional), egg whites, finely ground almonds, and confectioner’s sugar.
If you don’t have finely ground almonds, you can make them in just a few seconds from whole, raw almonds. Simply pulse in a food processor until desired texture is achieved.
You’re looking for a consistency somewhere between a meal and a flour. If you have almond flour on hand, you can also use this instead.
First, you’ll whip your egg whites until soft peaks are achieved. This should take about 1 to 2 minutes. Then, add your confectioner’s sugar and mix until smooth and glossy.
Reserve 1/3 cup of this meringue and set it to the side. This will be the frosting for your cookies later on.
Next, add your dry ingredients: ground almonds, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla sugar. Gently fold into the meringue until fully combined. The mixture will be sticky. Even though it’s sticky, it’s still fairly easy to work with.
If it’s too sticky to handle or roll out onto a surface, add a bit more ground almonds and confectioner’s sugar until the dough is easy to work with.
On a sheet of parchment paper, or a clean surface, dust with confectioner’s sugar. Use more sugar as needed. If it looks messy – don’t worry! – it will come together.
Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top of your dough and on the rolling pin before rolling out your dough. Roll your dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out your cookies.
If the dough is sticking to your cookie cutter, dust it in confectioner’s sugar as well, or dip in water.
Cut Out Cookie Hack
Here’s my cut out cookie hack for you – especially for my beginner bakers out there. If you’re having trouble with the cookie cutters, try cutting your dough into diamond shapes.
Diamonds will more easily keep their shape when sliced and transferred to your baking sheet. Simply roll out your dough like normal, then use any sharp knife to cut lines in your dough to make diamonds. Quicker and easier than traditional cookie cutters!
Also worth noting – this dough can easily be mixed and re-rolled multiple times until you’ve used it all up. Since there is no flour in this recipe, there is no gluten to get tough the more you work the dough.
Just another upside to these magical cookies!
Last, you’ll grab your reserved meringue and frost the tops of your cookies. I used a pastry brush, but you can also use a spoon or knife.
Bake at 300 degrees for 11-13 minutes. The bottoms will be lightly browned and the meringue on top should be set in the middle and lightly browned around the edges.
Storing Zimtsterne Cookies
Zimtsterne keep surprisingly well, up to 10-14 days in a sealed container.
The most delicate part of the cookie is the meringue topping, which can crack if too much pressure is applied. So, take care if packaging as a gift.
German Cookie Recipes
Make all four of these delicious German cookies below using my easy to follow recipes below!
Left to right:
- Zimtsterne – German Cinnamon Star Cookies (you are here)
- Haselnussmakronen – German Hazelnut Macaroons
- Vanillekipferl – Vanilla Crescent Cookies
- Heidesand – German Browned Butter Shortbread Cookies
Zimtsterne - German Cinnamon Star Cookies
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 2 cups finely ground almonds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla sugar *optional, or see notes below
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form (about 1-2 minutes). Add confectioner's sugar and beat until fully incorporated and glossy (about 2 minutes).
- Reserve 1/3 cup of the egg white mixture (meringue) and set aside. This will be used to frost your cookies in a later step.
- Add ground almonds, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, and salt to the meringue. Gently fold to incorporate ingredients. Mixture will be sticky. If it's too sticky to work with, add more ground nuts and confectioner's sugar.
- Lay out a sheet of parchment paper (or use a clean surface) and dust with confectioner's sugar. Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. If dough is sticky or difficult to roll, dust rolling pin and top of dough with more confectioner's sugar.
- Cut with a star cookie cutter, or slice into diamond shapes with a knife. If cookie cutter is sticking, dip in water before cutting dough. Excess dough can be rerolled multiple times.
- Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart, then brush the tops with the reserved meringue frosting.
- Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned and the meringue topping is set and lightly browned.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before storing.