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Swedish Vanilla Sugar Cookies

December 12, 2016


Here is a favorite cookie from my childhood.  They are magical:  they instantly dissolve in your mouth.  It’s a light and airiness I’ve never experienced in any other food.

The magic ingredient is baking ammonia.  According to a Martha Stewart article:

  • it was originally made from ground antler horns
  • in Swedish it is called Hartshorn.  (hart = male deer)
  • It was the forerunner of Baking Powder and Baking Soda.
  • It completely evaporates out of these dry airy cookies, but it can make your kitchen smell of ammonia.

One needs to get fresh baking ammonia each year, which is easier these days with online sources like King Arthur Flour.  A link is below in the ingredient list.

These cookies came into my life because my aunt, who is a gourmet chef and who edited four cookbooks for her Junior League, would host a Christmas Cookie Swap party in December.  Her friend, Mrs Parmelee, would bring these cookies.  It was an old family recipe.  All the participants would give the recipes for their cookies, but Mrs Parmelee would always tweak hers, so no-one else could make them.  This lasted for my whole childhood.  In my mid-20s, Mrs Parmelee realized that at this rate, she would die with the recipe, so she finally started to share the correct recipe.  I was thrilled.  I made them often for a while, until I starting avoiding both regular flour and sugar.  But this year, I made them for two charity bake sales, and as always, they were fantastic.

I also made them with one-to-one substitutions of Einkorn flour and one-to-one substitution Jovial Foods #3 Gluten Free Pastry Flour.  Both versions worked really well too.


  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (200 gr) white sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2t Vanilla Sugar (Confectioners Sugar with Vanilla in it) or 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup (130 gr) AP flour
  • 1 tsp Baker’s Ammonia
  • Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar


  • Cream butter, then add sugar.  (Mrs P uses a wooden spoon.  My Aunt uses a stand mixer.)
  • Add egg yolk and vanilla.
  • Sift together flour and Baking Ammonia, add a little at a time to butter mixture (Mrs P does this by hand.)
  • Roll dough into small (2cm) balls
  • Place balls 2″ (5cm) apart on greased baking sheet
  • Bake at 275/300 for 20 minutes (may need to rotate trays at 10 minutes)
  • If the cookies flow out and flatten too much, add more flour.
  • When the cookies have cooled, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
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