Home » Dessert » Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Stars)

Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Stars)

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy.

Among the most popular and beloved traditional German Christmas cookies, the holidays simply aren’t the same without  Zimtsterne!  Wonderfully fragrant and flavorful with a fabulous texture, this authentic Zimtsterne recipe will guide you through step-by-step to ensure your success in creating these delicious German cinnamon star cookies!

zimtsterne recipe traditional german cinnamon star cookies authentic nuts egg white christmas

It’s that time of year to roll up your sleeves and get ready to fill your kitchen and home with the aroma of Christmas baking!  And there’s no better place to start than this traditional Zimtsterne recipe!

The smell of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fennel seed and star anise are what remind me most of Christmas because they are the smells, along with staple ingredients like nuts and butter, that I grew up with in my home of southern Germany.  And those traditional German baked goodies are the ones I’m forever biased towards come Christmastime.

Today I have another traditional German cookie to add to your repertoire of holiday baking:  Zimtsterne.  Have you tried these before?  You can find them in any grocery store and Christmas market throughout Germany as well as in Austria and Switzerland. Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without them and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And of course, as with most things, homemade is the best.  This traditional Zimtsterne recipe is the one I grew up and is how my Oma and Mutti made them!

German Christmas Market in Frankfurt Germany

What Are Zimtsterne?  

Zimtsterne, or “cinnamon stars” in English, are traditional German cookies flavored with cinnamon and made almost entirely of ground nuts – traditionally almonds but also commonly combined with hazelnuts.  A southern German specialty, they are naturally gluten free and dairy free and feature a snowy white hard frosting made from sugar and egg white.

An ingredient this recipe calls for that you may not be familiar with is Vanillezucker (vanilla sugar).  It’s commonly called for in a lot of German recipes.  Why it’s so uncommon outside of Europe I’ll never understand; sometimes in baking you need that touch of vanilla flavor without adding any liquid (i.e. vanilla extract).  That’s where vanilla sugar comes in.

You can easily make your own and a great cost-saving way to do that is to use the discarded vanilla beans of homemade Vanilla Extract, but it’s much more convenient to have these packets on hand.

Other than that, these cookies call for just a small handful of ingredients, but I promise you, they really pack a wonderful flavor and texture. Zimtsterne are one of the most popular and beloved of all German Christmas cookies.  And once you’ve tried them you’ll see why.

Happy baking and may you enjoy this Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

zimtsterne recipe baking cookies almonds hazelnuts german cinnamon stars traditional authentic germany christmas holidays

Zimtsterne Recipe

Let’s get started!

Beat the egg whites until peaks form (be careful not to over-beat or the frosting won’t turn out right).  Sift the powdered sugar into the egg whites and use a spoon to stir just until combined.

Reserve 2 heaping tablespoons of the egg mixture in a small bowl for the frosting.

beating egg whites in bowl and adding sugar

Add the nuts, cinnamon and vanilla sugar.  Mix until combined and everything comes together in a fairly stiff but pliable mass.  If it’s too soft or sticky to work with add a little more nut meal and powdered sugar.

adding nuts and spices to make dough

Press the dough onto a non-stick surface (you can sprinkle the surface with powdered sugar but I still prefer to spread the dough out onto either plastic wrap or a non-stick cookie sheet to prevent sticking).  Press/roll it to a thickness of about a 1/3 inch.

Use a 3-inch star-shaped cookie cutter and cut stars out of the dough.  Knead the scraps back into a ball, roll it out again and cut more stars.

cutting out star shapes in dough

Preheat the oven to 250 F.  Transfer the cookies to a non-stick or lined cookie sheet.

Place a little of the egg white mixture on each cookie and use a toothpick or a pastry brush to smooth all the way to the edges. Alternatively you can use a pastry bag or condiment bottle to apply the egg white mixture.

Place the sheet on the bottom rack of the oven.  Bake the Zimtsterne for 30 minutes.  Then open the oven door just a crack and let the cookies sit for another 10-15 minutes to further dry out.  

brushing on egg white

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack.

Let them cool completely.   

zimtsterne recipe traditional german cinnamon star cookies authentic nuts egg white christmas

Store the Zimtsterne in an airtight container in a cool place.

They will keep for up to 2 weeks.

zimtsterne recipe traditional german cinnamon star cookies authentic nuts egg white christmas

Enjoy!

zimtsterne recipe traditional german cinnamon star cookies authentic nuts egg white christmas

For me traditional German and Austrian Christmas goodies be sure to try our:

zimtsterne recipe traditional german cinnamon star cookies authentic nuts egg white christmas

Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Stars)

Christmas is incomplete without one of Germany's most beloved holiday cookies, Zimtsterne. Made with nuts and cinnamon and a snowy white icing, they have the most fabulous texture and nostalgic flavor.
4.93 from 149 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings 24 cookies
Calories 126 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 250º F (120º C) (do not turn on the fan, it can cause the egg white topping to brown before the cookies are done). Place the rack on the bottom rung of the oven.
  • Beat the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl until soft peaks form (be careful not to over-beat the egg whites or the frosting/glaze won't turn out correctly). Sift the powdered sugar and stir it into the egg whites until combined. Reserve 2/3 cup of the egg white mixture to glaze the cookies.
  • Add the nuts, cinnamon, vanilla sugar and salt and mix until the dough comes together in a fairly stiff but pliable mass. If it's too soft or sticky to work with add a little more nut meal and powdered sugar.
  • Press/roll the dough onto a non-stick surface sprinkled with powdered sugar to a thickness of about 1/3 inch. Use a 3-inch star cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and transfer them to a lined or non-stick cookie sheet. Form the scraps of dough into a ball, roll it out again and cut cookies out of the remaining dough.
    Place a little of the egg white mixture on each cookie and use a toothpick or a pastry brush to smooth all the way to the edges. Alternatively you can use a pastry bag or condiment bottle to apply the egg white mixture.
    Place the sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake the Zimtsterne for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door just a crack and let the cookies sit for another 10-15 minutes to further dry out.  Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. 
    The cookies can be stored in a dry, airtight container in a cool place for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookieCalories: 126kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 3gFat: 7gSodium: 18mgPotassium: 6mgFiber: 1gSugar: 10gCalcium: 34mgIron: 0.6mg
Keyword German Cinnamon Star Cookies, Zimtsterne
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet November 28, 2016

kimberly killebrew the daring gourmet

Hi, I’m Kimberly Killebrew and welcome to Daring Gourmet where you'll find delicious originals, revitalized classics, and simply downright good eats from around the world! Originally from Germany, later raised in England, world-traveled, and now living in the U.S., from my globally-influenced kitchen I invite you to tour the world through your taste buds!

Read more about me...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




4.93 from 149 votes (106 ratings without comment)

182 Comments

  1. Cooking in the oven as I type this up… I used WALNUT meal, I konw it didn’t even suggest it, but that’s the only nut I had, I blended it in the blender and SHOOK it violently as it blended.. so much FUN….
    hmmm, I love the WINTERNATCH cookies from Aldi grocery store… and I can’t eat those. GLUTEN FREE here.
    So, I’m in the Christmas cookie MOOD, and am really excited… Thanks for sharing all the cookies at the bottom, I looked at many of them and decided to go with these…
    I don’t know how to pronounce it though, I called my Tante to ask her, and she wouldn’t answer. oh well.
    Thank you again for this DELIGHTFUL RECIPE. I’m sure they will be delightful!!

  2. My wife and I went to the Christmas markets in Germany for the first time last year and these were her favorite cookie at the markets. Just finished my first attempt and she is raving about them. Her new favorite Christmas overall and will become part of our tradition moving forward.

    Also waiting on the Pfeffernusse to finish cooling to see how those compare. Wonderful!

  3. This is a great recipe…question, though. No matter what, my icing comes out yellow. It doesn’t affect the taste, but any tips? Also, my dough turns out quite a bit lighter, too. Best Christmas cookie in my opinion!

    1. Hi HWM, working with meringue is tricky because every oven is different and even if your oven “says” it’s a certain temperature, it rarely is. So anytime you’re working with meringue it comes down figuring out your particular oven’s temperature settings. If your meringue is turning yellow or brown it means you either need to reduce your oven temperature slightly or reduce the baking time. I would start with the temperature. I’m dealing with this very situation right now in making French macarons – experimenting in 5 degree increments to find the “sweet spot” on my oven for meringues. Your oven will have that “sweet spot” too, it’s just a matter of figuring out what it is. Another thing you can try is to place another baking sheet on the rack above your Zimtsterne (if you’re heat source is coming from the top of the oven) to “block” some of the excess heat.

  4. I’ve been making your Pfeffernüsse for years for my elderly German parents. It’s been possible because Pfeffernüsse cookies can be frozen and iced later, which allows me to drive them across country as a Christmas Eve treat. I’m hoping there is a similar work around for these cookies. Can cookies be frozen as long as they don’t have the egg white mixture or would it be better to freeze the dough and bake them with the egg white after arriving at my destination? I can’t thank you enough for posting these recipes. It’s made me so happy to be able to make my parents happy at Christmas. That’s a Christmas gift I can never repay.

    1. That makes me so happy and warms my heart that you’ve been making these German Christmas goodies for your parents, Angelika <3 Yes, the Pfeffernüsse do freeze well; the Zimtsterne...I'm honestly not sure because I haven't tried it. All the sources say that you can freeze them as completed cookies, meringue glaze and all, but I would definitely recommend doing a test run first. Theoretically meringue freezes well because the freezer is dry and prevent moisture, but once the meringue glaze thaws on the cookie dough I'm not sure...it may soften and turn a bit gummy. Again, I would do a test run on a batch and let them thaw very slowly overnight in the fridge. If you try it please let us know how it goes!

      1. OK Kimberly, I’m going to give freezing these a try. I’ll let you know how it goes. I wish all the very best of the season for you and yours. Happy Holidays!!

  5. Hi Kimberly! I have a question about the unblanched almond meal. Is it essential that it is unblanched? I have a 2kg bag of Anthony’s almond flour (which is made with blanched almonds) in my freezer and I hate to have to buy more. Do you think it will work?

  6. Amazing! I had a craving for star anise and substituted star anise (ground the spice with the coffee ginder) for the cinnamon. They are truly delicious and it isn’t officially Christmas on the Calendar xo Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I also didn’t have any icing sugar on hand so I ground up organic whole brown sugar (Muscovovado) and it worked like a charm!

  7. This recipe came out perfectly. I tired a diff one first and it was a disaster. Happy I found this! My only recommendation would be more cinnamon! They are called cinnamon stars and the cinnamon flavor should really come through. 3 teaspoons, at least.

  8. HI! I want to bake these cookies for my German son-in-law. They are his favorite. One question I have is that after the 30 minutes baking till set, do I leave the oven ON when I open the oven door slightly to let them set? Thank you!

      1. I had another cookie sheet after my first one so I skipped the step of turning the oven off and leaving the door a crack open. Boy am I glad I skipped that step! My cookies turned out pretty hard! I’ve tried a different recipe last year and they were amazing, but unfortunately that recipe doesn’t exist anymore and I never wrote it down. So just wanted to leave a comment about my experience. In my personal experience, leaving them in the oven longer would be absolutely horrible. They were already pretty hard for me unfortunately.

  9. Hi, I’m confused by the temperature. Is it 250 in a convection oven? I ask because it seems low and you mention a fan. Could you please confirm the temp in a conventional oven? Thanks!

  10. This is the second time I’ve made this. First time was a disaster, this time much better (bought almond meal instead of trying to make it). Mine was much lighter in color. I baked for 30 minutes, “until set” but not sure what the means. Are they supposed to be slightly chewy?

      1. The flavor was what I know it to be, but the baking time in my opinion is WAY off. They turned out super hard and just got harder with each passing day. Comparing baking times with other similar recipes, this one has double the baking time. Pretty unfortunate as my family was looking forward to eating them, remembering them much softer from the years before (I used a different recipe from Pinterest that was not available anymore, and unfortunately I didn’t write the recipe down).
        It’s interesting to see tho, that most people on here seem to be happy with the recipe and don’t seem to have the same problem…

        1. Hi Helen, 30 minutes at 250 degrees F is standard for these. I’m not sure which recipes you’re referring to that bake these for half the amount of time….doing a quick search the only ones I can find that call for less time do so because they’re baking them at a higher temp (which is not advised for risk of the delicate meringue turning brown). If your cookies turned out hard I can only conclude that you accidentally cooked them at 350 instead of 250?

  11. As a native of Germany living in the US I have been looking high and low for an authentic Zimtsterne recipe. This is the one! They turned out as imagined following the recipe to the T. One thing I’d like to share is paying attention to the ingredients list of the confectioners sugar you’re using. When I baked a second batch the ‘meringue’ top browned much faster and never got puffy. I used a different confectioners sugar (Florida Crystals Organic) that has cornstarch as an added ingredient listed. The first batch was done with a confectioners sugar not having cornstarch listed snd turned out perfectly. Hope thiis helps.

  12. I just made your Zimtsterne and they are very good but also very different from the ones I used to make (I lost the recipe). I think next time I will double the cinnamon and cut the vanilla sugar in half.