Zimtsterne, or German cinnamon stars are a light, gluten free cookie which I discovered in Germany at the Christmas markets, thanks to a friend. With this authentic German cookie recipe, you can make them in your own kitchen, wherever you live.
Originally published December 5, 2013 (updated Dec. 19, 2020).
The Christmas markets in Germany are definitely something I’ve alway wanted to experience, but never actually thought about planning a trip for a few reasons. However due to unforeseen circumstances, things happened which led me to go to Germany for a week in December and I discovered these German cinnamon star cookies!
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I hadn’t planned to go to Germany at Christmastime since there’s the time factor, and the cost of the trip (because I live in Los Angeles and can’t just pop over to Germany for a weekend getaway). It’s also bad timing for me to go in December because the kids are still in school. However, that all changed overnight, last week, so I’m leaving for Cologne, Germany on Monday! (<– this is from 2013)
UPDATE (after my trip): Here’s why you should go to the Christmas Markets in Germany!
I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say everything worked out beautifully, and I was able to book a flight, and will be in Germany this time next week!
Advice from a German Friend
Because of this last minute trip, I called my friend Barbara, who is originally from Germany, to ask if there is anything I shouldn’t miss when I get to Cologne. She said there isn’t anything in particular that she could think of, but just to taste everything I see (good advice).
She then went on to tell me about some cinnamon star cookies her mother always made at Christmastime.
Barbara sent me a translated page for this German Christmas cookie recipe, which had the ingredients, but was missing the baking instructions.
Another nutty Christmas cookie recipe you may enjoy: Almond bread.
So I found another recipe on Food Network and sort of made a combination of both recipes. I have to tell you, these cookies are delicious! They remind me of a French, cinnamon macaron because they also just happen to be gluten free!
Get my recipe for a very popular Christmas tradition in many countries: a Yule Log! (Also naturally gluten free.)
What are Zimtsterne?
From the combination of zimt, meaning cinnamon, and sterne, meaning stars, zimtsterne are cinnamon stars. Thanks, Barbara! These German Christmas cookies are made with confectioner’s sugar, ground nuts, cinnamon and egg whites. This is made into a dough, rolled out, cut into star shapes, topped with meringue and slowly baked/dried in a low oven.
How Long do Zimsterne keep?
Because of the few ingredients and the icing, zimtsterne can keep in a sealed container, preferably a tin, for up to a month.
Can I Freeze Zimtsterne Cookies?
They freeze well if for some reason you need to keep them longer than a month.
NOTE: due to the difference in ground nuts and nut flours, I highly recommend that you use a scale and these step by step directions for the best results
Zimtsterne: German Cinnamon Stars
adapted from a German friend’s recipe and directions from Food Network
makes about 7 dozen 2″ cookies (84)
FULL PRINTABLE RECIPE BELOW
Preheat oven to 250º F (120º C)
Make the Zimsterne Cookie Dough
In a large bowl, combine half of the powdered sugar, the ground nuts and cinnamon, and mix until well-combined. Set aside.
Beat egg whites in bowl with mixer until soft peaks form. Add the other half of the powdered sugar and continue to beat for another 2 or 3 minutes until thick and creamy.
Remove 1 1/4 cups of the meringue mixture and set aside in a covered container (I put it in a condiment dispenser for easy decorating). TIP: test the meringue before putting it in a bottle. If the icing runs off the cookie, add a little more sugar until it stays in place, but isn’t too thick.
Add the almond mixture to the rest of the egg white mixture.
Mix thoroughly until a dough forms. Cover and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Place some parchment paper on the counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar, then place the dough on top and shape into a ball, then slightly flatten it. Sprinkle some more powdered sugar on top and place another piece of parchment on top.
Roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness, then cut out star shapes; re-roll the dough, to cut out more until it has been completely used. I used a 5 pointed star and 6 pointed star shaped cutter (the latter is the more authentic of the shapes to use).
Coat the Zimtsterne with Meringue
Place on a parchment or silicone sheet lined cookie sheet, then cover the top with the reserved meringue mixture.
As I said earlier, using a condiment bottle makes it very simple to decorate the tops of these cookies (and others, as you’ll see me using this for my snow cookies).
Continue decorating until all the cookies are coated in meringue.
Bake the Zimtsterne
Place in preheated oven for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven, open the door slightly and allow to dry out for another 10 minutes or so, before removing from the oven. Place the cinnamon stars on cooling rack to cool completely. These cookies are almost more dried than baked. The meringue should still be white after baking.
Serve with a cup of tea, coffee or, for a German market experience, Glühwein (mulled wine) or even a Rüdesheimer coffee!
These make perfect cookies for an exchange or to give to friends and neighbors because they keep for a long time. Give them on a pretty Christmas plates which they can keep! Zimtsterne are also great to ship in care packages for the same reason. If you need to, they freeze perfectly, too.
Another gluten free almond recipe from What a Girl Eats: Mandelbread.
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Zimtsterne: German Cinnamon Stars
A light, sweet, gluten free German cookie delight that is popular at Christmastime.
- 2 1/2 cups (285 g) divided in half, powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups (250 to 300 g) ground almonds/almond flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 4 egg whites
Preheat oven to 250º F (120º C)
Please see NOTES for best results.
- In a large bowl, combine half of the powdered sugar, the ground almonds and cinnamon and mix until well-combined. Set aside.
- Beat egg whites in bowl with mixer until soft peaks form. Add the other half of the powdered sugar and continue to beat for another 2 or 3 minutes until thick and creamy.
- Remove 1 cup (250 ml) of the beaten eggs and set aside in a covered container (I put it in a condiment dispenser for easy decorating).
- Add the almond mixture to the rest of the egg white mixture and mix well, until a dough forms. It's important to note that due to the amount of egg white varying (size of egg used, etc.) you may need more almond flour to form a dough. Cover and put in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Place some parchment paper on the counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar, then place the dough on top and shape into a ball, then slightly flatten it.
- Sprinkle some more powdered sugar on top and place another piece of parchment on top.
- Roll out to 1/4" thickness, then cut out star shapes; re-roll the dough, to cut out more until it has been completely used.
- Place on a parchment or silicone sheet lined cookie sheet, then cover the top with the reserved meringue mixture. Using a condiment bottle makes it very simple to decorate the tops of these cookies (and others; see NOTES). Continue until all the cookies are coated in meringue.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven, open the door slightly and allow to dry out for another 10 minutes or so, before removing from the oven. Place the Zimtsterne on cooling rack to cool completely.
- Some have commented that the measurements are off, but they are not. Please just add the lower amount of almond flour, then add more as needed once it's mixed with the egg whites. It's easy to know when it forms a dough.
- Before coating the cookies, check the meringue mixture; if it runs off, add more sugar until it flows smoothly and doesn't run off the cookie. Don't make it too thick so that it doesn't set smoothly, though.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 3 cookies
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 52Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 10mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 2g
Nutrition information is only estimated
Christmas tree in a building in Downtown LA
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I was very confused by the egg white mixture. The recipe indicated how much to take out for icing, but not how much should be left in the bowl (which was barely anything). I have 3/4 cup of icing leftover even though I put thick icing on each cookie. Is that expected? I would like to make the cookies Sharon and use the leftover icing, which is why the amount that goes into the batter would be very helpful. The ml measurement seems to be off because I had no where near what was listed in total. Any tips would be great. Thank you!!
Is it better to make your own ground almonds orjust buy almond flour, which is rather pricey! How finely ground should the almonds be if I make my own?
I have done both (ground my own and used bought flour), Carrie. If you zoom in on the photo in the post, you’ll see what the almond flour looks like. It’s pretty fine. Hopefully that will help.
Hi. Buy almonds. I found you can get a good sized bag at Costco for this recipe and others like it at Costco. Grind them in a food processor. You don’t want to use flour because that is too fine and will end up with a cake batter. It will not taste the way it should either.
I had to add more ground almond as my dough was very sticky. I measured everything using a scale. Unfortunately I may have over whipped my egg white mixture as it was a bit thick, and then turned yellowish when I baked the cookies. I’ve never tasted this type of cookie before, but mine are crispy and taste like meringue. I will definitely double the cinnamon next time. I’m looking forward to trying again and I’ll see if adding the glaze later in the baking process helps to keep it white. Thank you!
That’s strange, Lindsay, but I don’t think the overwhipping would make it turn yellow. Maybe your oven runs a bit hotter than it’s set for (check with a thermometer) especially if they were crispy. Maybe try baking a bit cooler and maybe even less time next try? Let me know how it goes. Hopefully you still enjoyed them!
Hi, I follow the recipe by grams. Unfortunately it didn’t work!
What do you mean?
I tried these last year and they never quite dried properly even though I used a lot more ground almond, but they where delicious so thought I’d try again. I notice you’ve doubled the amount of ground almond so hopefully will be a better dough but I’m still confused by how much beaten egg to set aside. The recipe say 1 1/4 cups (120ml). I use metric but 120ml doesn’t seem a lot so got out my cups (uk) and this came out at 300ml. Which should I use?
Thanks for your help.
You are correct, Larissa. For some reason, my metric numbers were off on this recipe which is usually never the case. I did fix the almond meal, but also fixing the egg white amount, too. Sorry for the inconvenience! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!