Zimtsterne, also known as cinnamon stars, are a very unique Christmas cookie variation that you will not find in other countries' recipes. These glazed cinnamon nut cookies have a distinct flavor that makes them one of the most beloved German cookies.
If you've had a German Oma, you've likely enjoyed zimtsterne. These traditional German Christmas cookies are a delicious treat that any fan of German cuisine should try.
These deliciously spiced cookies are an amazing addition to any holiday celebration and are sure to delight all who sample them. With their unique texture and amazing flavors, these cookies are a delightful reminder of the festive season!
Check out my German Christmas Treats cookbook for a large variety of authentic traditional German Christmas cookies, lebkuchen, drinks and chocolates.
To make these cinnamon stars, you need a little patience and practice when it comes to making their signature frosting. But even if you do not master this process in your first attempt to make these cookies, they will still taste amazing!
What are Zimtsterne & Cultural Background?
Zimtsterne are traditional German Christmas cookies that are made from ground almonds and powdered sugar. They are flavored with almond liqueur or almond extract and frosted with a a white sugar icing.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the cinnamon star, but it was most likely invented in the early 16th century. Cinnamon stars were first mentioned in writing in 1536, when a cardinal named Lorenzo Campeggio had them served to the German Emperor Charles V on a visit.
Another 200 years passed before the cinnamon stars made their way into German cookbooks. For centuries, the exotic spice was an expensive ingredient. Cinnamon, like pepper, was a specialty reserved for the wealthier citizens and nobles.
How to pronounce "Zimtsterne" in German?
Listen to this audio file to hear how to say "Zimtsterne" from a native German.
Ingredients & Substitutes
The ingredients for zimtsterne are simple, but they make the most delicious cookies that are a staple on every German Christmas cookie plate.
- Ground Almonds - Whole ground almonds are the traditional base for these cookies. If you can´t find ground almonds you can buy unpeeled almonds and just blend them finely in your food processor or food grinder. You can substitute almonds for hazelnuts or walnuts.
- Powdered Sugar - Powdered sugar is the best for cinnamon cookies. Brown sugar or white granulated sugar could be substituted, but I do not recommend this substitute.
- Cinnamon - Powdered cinnamon powder gives these cookies their wonderful flavor.
- Egg Whites - Only use fresh eggs for this recipe. The leftover egg yolks are perfect to make Bavarian cream.
- Salt - A pinch of salt intensifies the sweetness. Don´t worry; you will not taste the salt.
- Almond Liqueur - Almond liqueur or almond extract adds a little moisture and a wonderful taste to the star cookies.
See recipe card for quantities.
Follow these easy step-by-step instructions to learn how to make zimtsterne from scratch.
Step 1: Blend ground almonds, powdered sugar, salt, and powdered sugar in a large bowl.
Step 2: Add egg whites, almond liqueur, or almond extract plus water to the bowl and knead until well combined. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.
Step 3: Beat the egg whites until they are foamy, then gradually add powdered sugar until the egg whites are bright and shiny.
Step 4: Roll out the dough and add the icing. There are two options for adding the frosting to the cookies.
How to Frost The Cinnamon Star Cookies?
How to frost the cookies the right way is a bit of a debate in Germany. Some people prefer to cut out the cinnamon stars first and then frost them one by one. Others prefer to frost the whole layer of dough and then cut out the cookies. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages.
Step 4 Option 1: Cut out the cookies and add the icing with a pastry brush, a spatula, or the back of a butter knife. Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour before baking.
Step 4 Option 2: Add the frosting with an offset spatula and freeze the frosted dough for about 2 hours before cutting out the cinnamon stars. Leftovers can be either baked in pieces or put together. Knead the leftover frosted dough with some ground almonds, roll out, and frost again.
Step 5: Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes in a 275°F preheated oven. If you are using a convection oven, you can bake two baking sheets at the same time. If you are using an oven without this function, you should bake the cookies one sheet at a time on the lowest rack.
Dough is too sticky: The dough may be a little sticky depending on the size of the egg whites and the moisture content of the nuts used. There are two fixes for that. Either add more ground nuts or some almond meal. Never add flour to cinnamon stars! Or allow the dough to rest longer in the refrigerator.
Dough is too dry: First, you should try to knead the dough more, this will most likely fix the problem. If your dough still does not come together, your egg whites may have been too small or your nuts too dry. Add a tiny bit of egg white or a teaspoon of water at a time to the dough and knead again. Keep in mind that the dough will come together more during the resting time as it needs some time for the nuts to soak up all the liquid.
Best practice to cut out the cookies: Use powdered sugar to roll out the cookies. Dip your cookie cutter in powdered sugar, flour, or cold water to cut out the cookies.
Save Time: If you love the taste of cinnamon stars but hate cutting out cookies, frost the rolled out dough and cut it into squares or diamonds. Enjoy the full taste of zimtsterne and save lots of time.
The Secret to Perfect Looking Zimtsterne
If you have ever wondered why cinnamon stars from a bakery or in photos look perfect while yours have flaws, read on. You might be relieved to hear that this is not your fault. You probably cut out your zimtsterne with a common star cookie cutter, but professionals and smart German home bakers have a handy little tool at home.
The so-called "Zimtstern Ausstecher" is a cookie cutter that opens, which makes releasing the cinnamon stars a breeze and so much faster. You can usually find these little tools at online retailers. But keep in mind, even if you don´t have this pro helper and your stars aren't flawless, they will still taste amazing!
Roll out the dough and spread the frosting in a thick layer over the whole dough. Place the frosted dough into the freezer for about 1–2 hours. Then cut out the stars. This makes cutting out the cookies much easier because the frosting will not stick to your cookie cutter, resulting in perfectly cut out Zimtsterne with a standard cookie cutter.
You most likely have all tools already at home.
- measuring cups and spoons
- stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachment or hand mixer
- cling wrap
- small star cookie cutter
- offset spatula, butter knife or pastry brush
- parchment paper or silicone mat
- baking sheet
Cinnamon stars should be stored at room temperature in airtight plastic or tin cans. To keep the zimtsterne moist, add an apple slice to the can; it releases moisture into the pastry and keeps the cookies soft. To avoid mold, it is critical that you replace the apple slice on a regular basis.
Dry cookies, such as cinnamon stars, can be frozen easily. It is critical to allow them to cool completely after baking before storing them in freezer-safe, airtight containers. They can be defrosted either at room temperature or in the microwave.
How to Serve
Zimtsterne are a wonderful addition to your cookie plate or cookie exchange. They are an appreciated gift for loved ones, teachers, and your coworkers.
Glazed Cinnamon Nut Cookies - Zimtsterne
- 4 ½ cups ground almonds I would not recommend almond flour as it is too fine. If you use almond meal, you might need to adjust the amount.
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tbsp. almond liqueur OR 1 tbsp. pure almond extract plus 1 tbsp. water or milk
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Blend almonds, powdered sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk egg whites with a fork until foamy or to soft peaks with a stand mixer. Mix in almond liqueur or almond extract plus water.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until everything is well combined. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- For the icing, beat the egg white while gradually adding the powdered sugar.
- Sprinkle your working surface with powdered sugar. To roll out the dough, work with a quarter of the dough at a time. Roll the dough out to ¼-inch in thickness.
Method 1: cookie cutout and frosting
- With a floured or wet cookie cutter, cut out stars and place them on the baking sheets.
- Spread or brush the icing evenly on the stars and place them in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before baking.
Method 2: cookie cutout and frosting
- Spread a thick layer of icing evenly on the whole sheet of dough.
- Freeze for 2 hours before cutting out and baking the cinnamon stars.
- In a 275°F preheated oven, bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (see notes for tip)
- Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.