Let’s Taste Pepparkakor; A Russian-Swedish Food

If you have never visited Russia or Sweden, then you probably haven’t heard about Pepparkakor or Pryaniki. However, you surely have heard about gingersnap cookies or gingerbread? The popular Christmas snack is adored by children and adults all over the world as snack and common decoration during Christmas. Many families today have gingerbread recipe that is handed down from generation to generation. Well, Pepparkakor is the Swedish authentic gingersnap cookies recipe, while Pryaniki is its Russian incarnation that uses a lot of honey aside of spices.

What distinguish Pepparkakor and Pryaniki from the usual gingerbread and gingersnap cookies are the inclusion of a lot of spices (sometimes even peppers). In fact, the level of spiciness for Pepparkakor is at least twice the usual gingerbread, and families may add any spices they want to improve it according to their tastes. Are you interested to know more? Let’s taste Pepparkakor, a Russian-Swedish food, starting from its history and how to make it.

The History of Pepparkakor

The first appearance of Pepparkakor in Sweden is untraceable, although it is known as one of the oldest cookie in history. Pepparkakor is traditionally consumed during St. Lucia’s Day on December 13. It is also especially favored during Christmas, because it can be hung as decoration on Christmas trees. As it is closely related to religious celebration, there are many ancient belief regarding Pepparkakor.

PepparkakorIf you place a Pepparkakor in your palm, then make a wish, and use your index finger or thumb of the other hand in the middle of the cookie to break it. Swedish superstition says that if the Pepparkakor breaks into three, then your wish will come true. There are also beliefs that the cookie may alleviate illness and protect against depressions. What’s more, adults may seek Pepparkakor becuase many people recognize it as sexual stimulants!

In Russia, Pryaniki has been known as Christmas tree decoration since the era of Russian Empire. It successfully passed the Bolshevik revolution, Soviet era, and other tumultuous periods till now. During dismal Soviet Russia celebration of Christmas, its role as tree decoration subsided, but its reputation as children favorite cookie turned into everlasting saga. Pryaniki is also an excellent option for when you need to break up your mood swing with some Russian cookies. In short, the Russian-Swedish food is a very versatile item that can be made everyday as well as for special occasion.

How to Make Pepparkakor

Pepparkakor needs a little bit more work than the usual plain cookie. This is mainly because of the inclusion of various spices that require exact proportion and procedures to handle them. But once you are used to the recipe, it will be a fun thing to do together with children. You can make the cookies in advance, then prepare the frosting and let the children draw them for you.

Ingredients for Pepparkakor cookies:

  • 450 g of all-purpose flour
  • 150 g of butter or margarine
  • 250 g of sugar (you can use white sugar or brown sugar)
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • 50 g of golden syrup (light corn syrup)
  • 20 g (1 tbsp) of dark corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp of ground cinnamon
  • Half tbsp of ground cloves
  • Half tbsp of baking soda
  • 100 ml of water

Ingredients for Cookie Frosting:

  • 1 egg white
  • 225 g of icing sugar (powder sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice


  • Mix the butter, sugar, golden syrup, and dark corn syrup in a large pot. Cook in low heat while stirring continuously until the butter melts. Turn of the heat, then add all of the pre-prepared spices (ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves) and mix them well. Add in the baking powder, then blend it again. Add water, blend it again. Add the all-purpose flour, then stir again thoroughly until everything blend well.
  • Pour the dough into a bowl, let it cool, then cover with a food wrap. Store it in the fridge for a night or longer. The Pepparkakor dough is known to lasts for weeks, so you can make one big batch at a time, then take it out little by little to make fresh Pepparkakor several times.
  • When you are ready to make the cookie, take the dough out of the fridge. Knead the dough to make it softer and easier to shape. Roll the dough over grease-proof paper on a table or any other flat surfaces. Cut it using cookie cutter of various shapes. Alternatively, you can also simply take a pinch of dough at a time to flatten it into a mini round cookie using your palm. The result may not be as attractive as the ones cut with cookie cutter, but it is still delicious nonetheless.
  • Grease the inner part of baking trays with butter, then dust it lightly with flour. Flour will prevent cookie dough to stick. If you are going to bake it using grease-proof paper over a baking tray.
  • Pre-heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Place the cookie onto the baking trays, then bake it for 5-8 minutes until golden. Leave it to cool.
  • To make the cookie frosting, whisk the egg white in a bowl until frothy. Slow the speed of the mixer, then add icing sugar little by little. Throw in the lemon juice, then stir again until the mixture turns into a stiff peak. Take a piping bag, fit a small nozzle at the forefront. Fill the piping bag with the cookie frosting mixture, then decorate the cookies.

Creating Family Tradition with Pepparkakor

Most children love the job of shaping Pepparkakor dough with their own hands during Christmas holidays. Aside of the common patterns like heart (love) and mini man, they may come up with new shapes that boost their creativity. There are also senses of achievement that they can feel after cutting Pepparkakor dough using cookie cutter, watching the dough being baked in the oven, decorate them with icings. For parents, it is time to bond with the kids and teaching them how to work in the kitchen. On the other hand, children will feel important and happy that their works are being recognized.


You can reduce the amount of spices on Pepparkarkor recipes for children. After all, kids usually prefer sweeter cookies. Add half a cup honey for the dough while decreasing half the amount of spices on the above recipes, and try making it along with children. Additionally, you can throw in some chopped walnuts for more nutritious Pepparkarkor cookies. Not only it will help you bond with your own kids, this is also a good idea for charity activities in orphanages or schools.

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