Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pepparkakor (Swedish Spice Cookies)

When it comes to family traditions growing up, my family had a few of them.  Some of them I've held onto and this is one of them.

I've had gingerbread cookies over the years, but nothing beats Pepparkakor like this recipe that was passed onto my mom by my dad's mom when the two of them married.  My grandmother's parents were fresh off the boat from Sweden and raised my grandmother in their traditions and because of that my dad was raised with a lot of Swedish traditions (for instance, in my family we always opened gifts on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day).  One of those traditions was Pepparkakor at Christmas. 

Consider these cookies like gingerbread.  But so much more flavorful.  I love to eat these without any frosting on them at all normally and I dip them in milk or coffee (I put frosting on them this year though to appeal more to my husband's pallet and also to give my daughter sprinkles duty as putting sprinkles on cookies is important at Christmas and we painted the other cookies, so I had a gap to fill).

Note that these cookies contain cardamom.  Cardamom is really expensive to buy, but if you don't have any in your cabinets (I've used the same jar for years, honestly and even though it's a lot less potent than it used to be, it still works for me), feel free to use nutmeg instead.  It won't taste quite the same, but it'll get the job done.

Also, this recipe makes a REALLY soft dough, so refrigerating before making the cookies is definitely recommended.  I tend to put it in the fridge the night before I'm set to bake them and let it set up good and hard before I roll.  You can do it without refrigerating first, but it's a lot harder to get the dough to not fall apart on you.

Pepparkakor  (Swedish Spice Cookies)

  • 1 2/3 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (or nutmeg)
  • 6 TBS butter or margarine (3/4 of a stick)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp. grated orange peel (fresh is best)
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Sift the flour, soda, salt,  ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom into one bowl or onto waxed paper.

3.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in molasses and orange peel.  Stir in flour mixture 1/3 at a time, blending well to make a stiff dough.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight until stiff enough to roll.

4.  Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut out cookies and place 1" apart on a lightly greased baking sheet (I just use parchment paper instead).  Bake in 350 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges (it's hard to see because the dough is so dark, but I usually pull them at 10 minutes with my oven and call it good).  Remove to a towel or rack to cool completely. 
Top with your favorite frosting, if you so desire.


  1. Delicious! We make these too, but didn't this year, and this is a slightly different recipe. Will have to try it. We decorate with sprinkles but don't use frosting. I also come from a European background (grandparents immigrated)...and open gifts on Christmas Eve. I didn't realize till I was an adult that doing so is a European custom, lol. I also never knew that making cookies w/o frosting was a European thing too, but it's true that our European desserts tend to be rich in butter, chopped nuts, and spices rather than frosting, etc.
    I really enjoy your blog and draw inspiration from your concrete ideas, your humor, and your perseverance. Merry Christmas!

    1. I still argue with my father-in-law that opening gifts on Christmas Eve was a European tradition, not a Catholic one as I was raised Catholic, but nooooo he still clings to it because so many Catholics go to midnight Mass and then open gifts on Christmas Day *laugh*.

      I do prefer the cookies without frosting and I've been scraping the frosting and sprinkles off before I eat them. The kids don't mind eating the frosting for me, though ;).

      And thank you for the kind words! You have a great holiday!!