Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) are German Christmas cookies that are as delicious as they are beautiful!
Zimtsterne: German Cinnamon Star Cookies
Quinn tends to be a bit more ambitious in my baking than I am. He thought these Zimtsterne cookies would be a great addition to my holiday baking roster. I agreed that they looked and sounded delicious, but I wasn’t sure about the painstaking efforts involved in making them. I came up with a compromise, though, that he help me bake them. He quickly agreed, being a fool for painstaking details like rolling out dough and icing cookies.
Also known as Cinnamon Star Cookies, Zimtsterne are a traditional German Christmas cookie. (The name literally translates to cinnamon stars.) They are described as being somewhere between a macaroon and a meringue. With that combination, they manage to be both a little bit crunchy and a little bit chewy. They immediately reminded me of a pecan meringue cookie my mother used to make.
I find that this dough is much easier to deal with after it has been in the freezer for about 20 minutes. That provides some stiffness that makes cutting them easier and helps them stay together better. If you’re having similar troubles when making them, try chilling them in either the freezer or refrigerator, and I think you’ll quickly see the difference.
Even with such a short list of ingredients, these cookies are surprisingly not short on flavor. The combination of cinnamon and almonds is a definite winner. Despite all the almonds in these cookies, that almond flavor is not overpowering.
Zimtsterne are always an excellent addition to my holiday baking lineup. Just be warned that these are definitely a labor of love. If you have the time and patience for a little extra effort, however, they are certainly worth it.
Find more cookie recipes in the Recipe Index.
More Cinnamon Cookies
2 & 1/4 cups (247g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
15 ounces (425g) sliced almonds (about 4 & 1/2 cups)
1 & 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 250°F. Line baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.
- Place 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar, 10 ounces (283g) of the almonds (3 heaping cups), and the cinnamon in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground.
- Using an electric mixer on high speed, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Continue whipping and gradually add the remaining confectioners' sugar, mixing for about 2 more minutes. The whites should be thick, creamy, and somewhat stiff. Set aside 2/3 cup of the egg white mixture for tops of cookies.
- Gently fold the ground almond mixture and lemon zest into the egg whites mixture. The dough will be stiff.
- Lay a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper on a clean, flat work surface. Place the dough on the paper. Flatten the dough and lightly dust with confectioners' sugar. Cover the dough with another sheet of paper.
- Roll the dough between the papers to a 1/4-inch thickness. Carefully flip the dough over. Gently peel off the top sheet of paper. Lay the paper back onto the dough and flip again. Peel the other sheet of paper so that the dough is not stuck to either sheet of paper.
- Using a 3-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Gather and re-roll the dough as needed.
- Use an offset spatula or small spoon to spread the remaining meringue mixture on top of each cookie. Do not let the meringue drip over the sides. Place the remaining almonds on top of meringue in whatever pattern you like.
- Bake 30 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown and the meringue is set and crisp. Turn off the oven and open the oven door. Leave the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes to allow them to dry.
The dough can be frozen between sheets of parchment or waxed paper for up to 2 weeks. The baked cookies will keep for 10 days in an airtight container and will become chewier.
Recipe slightly adapted from Food Network.
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22 Comments on “Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)”
They are just lovely.
These are gorgeous, and so tasty sounding, too!
Wow, these look fantastic! Great photos, and they sound delicious.
Thanks, everyone! I have to admit that they’re pretty, but definitely much work.
They look gorgeous.i’m very tempted to make these, but i dont see a recipe on the page.
I made these for the first time this year and love them! So delicous! I didn’t figure out the freezer trick and got so frustrated with how sticky they were, I made them into drop cookies. They were still delicious and now have a permanent spot in my Christmas cookie list! Your pictures are gorgeous!
OMG!! This is the most beautiful cookie I have ever seen!
Kate, there is a link to the recipe in the text, but I added one at the top that’s easier to see. Happy baking!
Sarah, aren’t they delicious? The freezer trick saved us A LOT of heartache. That is some sticky dough!
Patricia, you are so sweet. Thank you very much!
These are definitely not “painstaking”. Probably the easiest cookies I’ve ever made. Try making Lebkuchen if you want to know about painstaking. In any event, you will be rewarded for your efforts.
Exactly. My late significant other’s mother’s Lebckuchen recipe begins with how many pounds of fruit, flour, etc to use. A good old metal food grinder was used to the point of sore arms for days. I remember my trepidation reading a recipe containing ten pounds of just one of the many ingredients. An antique bowl – perhaps huge copper vessel is more accurate – held the batch as all the ground goodies were mixed in with flour and spices etc. Then, the hours of shapingcutting and baking occurred. Her Zimsterne (sic) recipe called for equally huge proportions. Of course, the walnuts on the farm were used. So before starting, there was the process of collecting, peeling (yuck), cracking and picking the nuts out of the shells. Her Springerle? First step was to whip 3 dozen egg whites for half an hour. This small batch of Cinnamon Stars is a much more reasonable (and equally delicious) recipe.
Forgive typos above. Fat old fingers on phone!
I’ve never seen anything like this before! How beautiful and unique!
I cannot wait to make these cookies. Meringue combined with almonds-my favourite combo. Wondering if they will keep in the freezer once baked? and if so – should I freeze individually first?
Hi, Susan. I’ve never frozen these cookies, but I would recommend putting waxed paper between layers of the cookies and freezing them in an airtight container.
I am making these right now – so excited. I am a little unclear on when to put dough in the freezer. I am going to roll out btwn parchment and after unsticking put it in the freeze before cutting. Wish me luck.
I made Zimtsterne for the first time, just before a last minute trip to the Cologne Christmas markets two years ago. I had asked a German friend what not to miss and these were on her list. I love them and it’s especially nice that they are gluten free for my gf friends! I love your almond slices on top!
Thank you, Christina! They’re really such lovely cookies. Definitely worth the effort!
Hi. These look amazing! Question, can I use finely ground almond flour instead of having to grind almonds? If so should I use the same amount,the 283grams.
Hi, Juliette. You can use the same amount of almond meal or almond flour if the only ingredient listed is almonds.
I’m hoping someone can clarify. The recipe calls for 15 ounces of almonds, but the directions say to add only 10 ounces to the food processor. That leaves an entire 1.5 cups for decorating? Thanks!
Hi, Marjie! The only amount that needs to be specific is the amount in the dough. Use however much more you want for decorating. I tend to decorate them sparsely, but some people like to cover the tops more thoroughly.