German Cinnamon Star Christmas Cookies (Zimtsterne)

German zimtsterne recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 55 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 42 cookies (14 servings)

These zimtsterne cookies are a very traditional part of the Christmas and Advent offerings to guests in Germany. Cinnamon and almonds taste great together and are traditional ingredients in German Adventskekse. Many people buy them packaged, but they are easy to make and taste better than the store-bought variety. Handmade cookies are also appreciated as little gifts, or mitbringseln, when visiting friends, too.

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites (at room temperature)
  • 3 1/2 cups/390 g confectioners' sugar
  • 4 cups/400 g raw almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 ounce Kirschwasser

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for German zimsterne
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

    Beat egg whites
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Add the confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Continue beating for 5 minutes after the last addition. The mixture should be very stiff, like the icing used to hold a gingerbread house together.

    Stiff peaks
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Remove 1/2 cup of this meringue mixture and set aside for icing.

    Remove a cup
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Fold the raw almond meal and cinnamon into the larger portion of meringue. Add the Kirschwasser, if you are using it, and incorporate.

    Fold in raw almond meal
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Chill the dough for about 1 hour.

    Chill the dough
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Using ample confectioners' sugar on your baking board or clean countertop, pat the dough into a square and roll out to 1/2-inch thick (or 1 centimeter).

    Lay out dough
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  8. Cut out stars with a cookie cutter that has been dusted with confectioners' sugar. Dust the cookie cutter between each cut.

    Cut out stars
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Tip

    • Cutting out the stars is a sticky process. Wash off and thoroughly dry the cookie cutter as often as necessary to achieve sharp star points.
  9. Place stars on a nonstick cookie sheet or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

    Place stars on sheet
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  10. Brush or spread the reserved meringue icing on each star, working it out to all the points.

    Brush meringue
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck 
  11. Let the stars dry overnight (about 24 hours, if you can). An oven is a good place if you don't forget they are there and heat for something else.

    Let stars dry
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  12. The next day, heat the oven to 325 F. Bake each tray for 10 to 15 minutes. This is to dry out the cookies a little more and bake the egg whites. Try to remove the cookies before the icing turns brown, although a little brown tint can look nice.

    Bake each tray
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  13. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and let them cool completely on a wire rack before storing in a covered container in a dry place at room temperature.

    Lay on drying rack
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  14. Enjoy with tea or coffee, or place them in pretty, beribboned bags to be given away as a little gift.

    Enjoy
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tip

  • You can make the almond meal yourself in a blender or buy it in the baking aisle of many grocery stores or natural food stores. Some zimtsterne recipes ask for blanched, ground almonds. These are perfectly fine to use but the extra step of removing the skin is quite a bit more work and does not affect the final product much.