Rich with warming spices and dotted with chunks of almonds, these crunchy Danish brown cookies, Brunkager, are delicious festive cookies that can easily be made ahead of time.
What are brunkager?
Literally translating as ‘brown cookies’ or ‘brown cakes,’ these traditional Danish Christmas cookies are a spiced gingerbread, usually served at the end of the meal with a coffee and enjoyed throughout December. Brunkage in Danish, these are one of the most popular Danish Christmas cookies and are sold in bakeries as well as made at home throughout the Christmas period.
Why we love this recipe
- These Danish ginger cookies are packed with Christmas spices and when in the oven they fill the kitchen with a delicious scent make the kitchen smell so festive!
- They are an eggless gingerbread cookie and are a delicious alternative to gingerbread.
- The crunch factor. Danish gingerbread cookies are thin and crisp, and they have slivers of almonds throughout them to add to the crunch.
- This is a slice and bake cookie, and you can make the dough and keep in the fridge or freezer which means you can make a batch of this Danish Christmas cookie dough and slice off a few slices as you need, and treat last minute guests with fresh cookies (and a festive smelling house!)
Ingredients notes and substitutions
- Butter – use unsalted butter.
- Soft brown sugar – provides colour and a caramel taste.
- Golden syrup – this inverted sugar syrup helps the gingerbread cookies stick together, and provides a less rich caramel flavour than treacle or molasses used in many other gingerbread recipes. Use light syrup or corn syrup if you can’t find golden syrup.
- Plain flour – all purpose flour.
- Ground Spices – ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, allspice.
- Whole almonds – use raw almonds with their skins on. Don’t use salted roasted almonds as they will make your cookies far too salty!
- Baking soda / bicarbonate of soda – the original Danish recipe calls for an ingredient called ‘potaske’ (potash), but as this is not widely available outside of Denmark I have replaced it with baking soda in this recipe. Although the baking soda / bicarbonate of soda doesn’t create quite the crunchy cookie that potash does, it is a very good substitute.
How to make this Danish cookie recipe
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the complete recipe.
- Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a medium heat.
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk the flour with the bicarbonate of soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, allspice and whole almonds.
- Pour in the melted butter and syrup mixture and stir well.
- Divide the mixture in half and spoon one half on to a square of clingfilm and roll up to create a sausage. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Place in the fridge or freezer to set.
- When ready to bake, preheat your oven and unwrap the cookie dough, rolling the sausage back into shape if it’s become a little flat whilst in the fridge or freezer.
- Using a sharp knife cut into thin slices and place on a lined baking tray, leaving a gap in between the cookies to allow for them to spread slightly during cooking.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake until golden brown.
- Leave on the tin for 5 minutes to harden slightly then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yes, hazelnuts or pistachios would both work well, or you can use a combination of nuts.
No, I would not recommend you use white sugar instead of brown sugar. It will alter both the colour (making lighter cookies) but also the taste and texture.
My recipe tips
- The dough is very very soft when warm, but it will set as it cools.
- Don’t be tempted to cut the cookies before they have had time to chill – otherwise the dough will be too sticky to work with. If you are in a rush you can pop the dough in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the dough, this will help create neater cookies.
- If your logs aren’t ‘log shaped’ when they come out of the fridge, roll them back in to shape, flattening as you go. This won’t affect the taste or bake of the cookie. (I have panicked and done this myself.)
- These gingerbread cookies can burn easily so keep an eye on them whilst they are baking in the oven.
- These Danish ginger cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
- Freeze: you can freeze both the uncooked dough and cooled baked cookies for up to 2 months.
- If you want to make your cookies into fun shapes, such as circles, stars etc then you can roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut out with your favourite cookie cutters. Cooking times will vary depending on how thinly you rolled out the dough so check the cookies after 6 minutes.
- Citrus ginger cookies – add the grated zest of one small orange to the flour with the spices or ½ tablespoon finely chopped candied peel.
Any leftover Danish gingerbread cookies work well in chocolate tiffin with leftover Christmas chocolates.
More Christmas cookie recipes for you
Brunkager (Danish Brown Cookies)
- 125g (½ c) butter ($1.63 /£0.88p)
- 60g (¼c) soft brown sugar ($0.21 /£0.10)
- 120g (1½ c) golden syrup ($0.78 /£0.24p)
- 250g (1⅔ c) plain flour / all purpose flour ($0.30 /£0.13p)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda / bicarbonate of soda ($0.03 /£0.02p)
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon ($0.17 /£0.06p)
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger / ginger powder ($0.08 /£0.01p)
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves ($0.11 /£0.06p)
- ½ teaspoon allspice ($0.07 /£0.05p)
- 80g (2¾ oz) whole almonds, with skins on ($1.36 /£0.71p)
- In a small saucepan melt the butter with the brown sugar and golden syrup over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the flour with the bicarbonate of soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, allspice and almonds.
- Pour in the melted butter and stir well to combine.
- Divide the mixture into two and place half in a piece of cling film and roll up to make a sausage (it may be more of a flat log shape as the mixture is still warm)
- Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Place in the fridge for 1-2 days, or put in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan / 200˚C / 356˚F convection / 392˚F.
- Line 3 baking trays with baking paper / baking parchment.
- Take the cookie dough out of the fridge or freezer, take off the cling film / cling wrap and roll slightly to create a rectangular log 4-5cm / 1.5 – 2 inches in width.
- Using a sharp knife, cut in to thin slices approx 4mm thick.
- Lay the slices on to the lined baking trays, leaving a small gap as the cookies will spread a little when in the oven.
- Place in to the preheated oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, keeping an eye on them as they can burn easily.
- Leave on the baking trays for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.