Zimsterne cookies, or German cinnamon stars, are the best Christmas star cookies bursting with cinnamon flavor and topped with a beautiful snowy white royal icing. They bring the authentic taste of German holiday tradition right to your home and make the best edible gift.
German Zimsterne, sweet almond and cinnamon cookies are classic German Christmas cookies.
In Germany, the Christmas season isn't the same without good cinnamon stars, counted as the 20 best German Christmas cookies.
Betty Brossi says, "A biscuit bag without cinnamon stars is like Advent without Santa Claus."
Star cookies are found in grocery stores and outdoor Christmas markets throughout Germany and other German-speaking countries like Austria and Switzerland.
What are Zimsterne?
Zimsterne or German cinnamon star cookies are spicy iced star cookies made with ground nuts or nut flour, flavored with cinnamon, and topped with white royal icing. They have a chewy texture known as a 'zimsterne texture.'
Zimsterne translates as "cinnamon stars," where "zimt" means cinnamon and "sterne" means stars in German. If you wonder about Zimsterne's pronunciation, it sounds like "tseemt-shtair-nuh."
Authentic Zimsterne recipe uses almonds, occasionally with ground hazelnuts. These cookies are naturally gluten-free, but there are different recipes available today.
Cinnamon stars recipe
- Cinnamon star cookies are always a hit during the holiday season and at the Christmas cookie exchange.
- They are a great opportunity to get together with your family or friends around Christmas and bake these traditional holiday cookies.
- Flavored with cinnamon, they bring a festive mood and a fabulous smell to your home.
- Packed in a cookie box, they become one of the best edible gifts during the holiday.
- Zimtsterne recipe is customizable if you replace ground nuts and cinnamon with other powders of your choice.
Here is a quick overview of what ingredients you will need. Find the recipe card below for exact amounts and detailed instructions. I recommend making the recipe as written for the best results.
- Butter: Use unsalted softened butter. Take it out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you start.
- Sugar: Use granulated or caster sugar.
- Ground cinnamon is a star ingredient in cookies. Don't substitute it with another spice.
- Egg: Use one large whole egg and one egg white from the medium-sized chicken egg.
- Hazelnut meal: Opt for store-bought hazelnut meal or flour, or make ground nuts using a food processor. Use toasted whole nuts with their skins on for better color and flavor. But be careful: don't over-grind hazelnuts; otherwise, you will get nut butter.
- Almond meal: Use a coarse almond meal or blanched, finely ground almond flour. You can also use ground almonds. Make sure to spoon almond powder from a container gently into a measuring cup to keep the measurement precision.
- Flour: The recipe calls for all-purpose flour.
- Icing sugar: Make it with a coffee grinder or use store-bought powdered or confectioner's sugar.
- Lemon juice is added to stabilize the royal icing.
How to make Zimsterne (Cinnamon star cookies)
Step 1. To make the cookie dough, place softened butter, granulated sugar, and ground cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix (photo 1).
Step 2. Add the egg, hazelnut, and almond meal and mix again. Finally, add sifted all-purpose flour and mix to combine (photo 2).
Step 3. Transfer the cookie dough from the bowl to a work surface and form a ball.
Step 4. Sprinkle a sheet of paper with a small amount of icing (powdered) sugar. Place the dough and cover it with the top sheet of paper.
Step 5. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out between parchment to the thickness of 0.4 inch/ (1 cm). Refrigerate for 1 hour (photo 3).
Step 6. To make the white royal icing, place the egg white with icing sugar and 3 - 4 drops of lemon juice in a clean bowl. Using an electric mixer, whisk the white mixture at high speed. (photo 4).
Step 7. Take the cookie dough from the fridge and spread a thin layer of royal icing with a bent spatula (photo 5).
Step 8. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes or in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Step 10. Cut out cookie stars with an authentic Zimsterne cookie cutter or a 2-inch (5 cm) six- or five-point star cookie cutter.
Pro tip: Dip a cookie cutter in hot water and dry it between cutouts to facilitate the release of the cookie from the cutter.
Step 11. Remove cookies by pushing them underneath and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets (photo 6).
Step 12. Bake cookies and dough scraps in the middle of the preheated oven (not the bottom rack of the oven) for 12 to 15 minutes (photo 7). They must be baked, but the royal icing must not be colored.
Step 13. Remove cookies from the oven and let them cool down on a wire rack (photo 8).
- Use a six- or five-star shaped cutter interchangeably.
- Instead of star shapes, make cookies diamond or triangle-shaped. Feel free to use your favorite but simple cookie cutter.
- If the Zimsterne dough is too soft while cutting, bring it back to the fridge for a few minutes and continue.
- For the sharp points of the star cookies, cut them after applying the meringue glaze. Then, gently push underneath to remove them.
- If you are short on time for the recipe technique, cut out cookies first, then use a small spoon, a small brush, a little butter knife, a small offset spatula, or even a toothpick to spread a thin layer of meringue on top of each cookie, then bake.
- Test and adjust your oven. Do not overbake cookies; otherwise, the royal icing turns brown. You strive to get a meringue top as white as possible, but a little brown tint can look beautiful, too.
- The remaining cookie scraps (offcuts) are not as pretty as cinnamon stars, but you could also bake them. They are delicious.
- Flavorings: Add authentic Vanillezucker (vanilla sugar in English), orange or lemon zest, or a tablespoon of instant espresso powder to bring vanilla, citrus, or coffee flavor to the recipe.
- Shaping: Instead of original German star cookies made as 6-pointed stars, use a five-star cookie cutter. Also, experiment with festive motifs like Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, angels, etc., or create non-traditional shapes: triangles, diamonds, or rounds.
- Decoration: Decorate cookies with coarsely crushed espresso beans, chopped walnuts, or chopped dried cranberries after brushing them with egg whites.
Storing and freezing
Store cinnamon star cookies in a dry, airtight container, a sealed container, or a cookie tin for up to a month in a cool place. But remember to keep different types of cookies separate from each other for longer shelf life.
The longer you store Zimsterne cookies, the chewier they become. But if you place a piece of an apple in a cookie jar, the star cookies will stay soft and retain their flavor. Just replace the apple wedge each two 2 days.
Can you freeze Zimsterne? You can freeze unglazed cinnamon stars. To thaw, let the cookies rest for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.
As for freezing glazed cookies, some authors recommend freezing; others don't. According to Bettina Bernhardsgrütter-Preisig, culinary advisor of the Betty Bossi, you can freeze star cookies if you spread the egg white glaze onto the baked stars after baking.
Both cassia and Ceylon cinnamon are healthy and delicious. However, cassia cinnamon has a stronger flavor and is cheaper than Ceylon. So, it is the most commonly used cinnamon around the world. On the other hand, Ceylon cinnamon has a higher quality than cassia cinnamon and is quite expensive.
You can make the cookie dough in advance. Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper and freeze for up to 2 weeks.
Serve cookies with a cup of tea, coffee, German Glühwein, or mulled wine.
Allow cookies to stand for 24 hours after baking; then, you can stack cookies, ensuring the meringue is dry. Still, take extra care because the star points are fragile.
Love Christmas cookie recipes? Try these next!
- Bredele Christmas cookies
- Mini gingerbread men cookies
- Chocolate banana pecan cookies
- Christmas cookie ornaments
- Or browse all the Christmas recipes
Need to adjust your baking pan size?
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Zimsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies)
Zimsterne, or German cinnamon stars, are the best Christmas star cookies bursting with cinnamon flavor and topped with a snowy white royal icing. They bring the beautiful German tradition to your home and make a great edible gift.
- Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (plus chilling time)
- Yield: 20 1x
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: German
For the cookie dough:
- 6.2 oz (175 g) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup + 2 ½ teaspoons (125 g) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (25 g) ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- ⅓ cup + 1 ½ tablespoon (50 g) hazelnut meal
- ½ cup +1 teaspoon (50 g) almond meal
- 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
For the white royal icing:
- 1 ½ cups + 5 teaspoons (200 g) icing (powdered) sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) egg whites, room temperature (see note #1)
- several drops of lemon juice
* If needed, please refer to Baking Conversion Charts.
To make the cookie dough, place softened butter, granulated sugar, and ground cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix. Add egg, hazelnut, and almond meal and mix again.
Add the sifted all-purpose flour and mix to combine. Remove the cookie dough from the bowl and form a ball.
Roll the dough out with a rolling pin between two sheets of parchment paper (sprinkled with icing sugar) to the thickness of 0.4 inch (1 cm) and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the white royal icing, whisk the egg white with icing sugar and 3 - 4 drops of lemon juice using an electric mixer.
Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and spread a thin layer of royal icing with a bent spatula. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Cut out cookie stars with a 2-inch (5 cm) star-shaped cookie cutter by dipping it in hot water and drying it out between cutouts. Remove cookies by pushing them underneath, and arrange them on a baking sheet covered with parchment.
Bake cookies in the middle of the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. They must be baked, but the royal icing must not be colored. Remove cookies from the oven and let them cool down on a wire rack.
- 30 g egg whites are approximately equal to 1 fresh egg white from a medium-sized chicken egg.
- Use six- or five-star cookie cutter interchangeably. If you do not have a star-shaped cookie cutter, make them diamond or triangle-shaped. Feel free to use your favorite but simple cookie cutter.
- If the cookie dough is too soft while cutting, bring it back to the fridge for a few minutes and continue.
- For a neat appearance, cut the star cookies after spreading the royal icing, pushing them underneath to remove them.
- If you are short on time for the recipe technique, cut out cookies first, then use a small spoon, a pastry brush, a little butter knife, a small offset spatula, or even a toothpick to spread the meringue icing on top of the cookies.
- Test and adjust your oven. Do not overbake cookies; otherwise, the royal icing turns brown. You strive to get the icing as white as possible, but a little brown tint can look beautiful, too.
- The remaining cookie scraps (offcuts) are not as pretty as cinnamon stars, but you could bake them as well. They are delicious.
- Store cookies in an airtight container in a cold place for a month.
- Serving Size: 1 cookie
- Calories: 208
- Sugar: 16.3 g
- Sodium: 55 mg
- Fat: 10.2 g
- Saturated Fat: 4.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 27.8 g
- Fiber: 1.5 g
- Protein: 2.7 g
- Cholesterol: 27 mg
Keywords: Zimsterne, Zimsterne cookies, cinnamon star cookies
The nutritional information has been calculated using an online recipe nutrition calculator such as Verywellfit.com and is intended for informational purposes only. These figures should be used as a general guideline and not be construed as a guarantee.
The recipe was adapted from the French ELLE. It was originally published on December 28, 2018. The recipe has been revised to include improved content and photos.