Few things evoke holiday nostalgia as strongly as the scent of fresh gingerbread baking in the oven. I’m not the biggest fan of soft gingerbread, but Swedish pepparkakor (“pepper cookies”) are thin, crispy, and fill your kitchen with the same warm spice aroma. This recipe uses no ginger but gets the same flavor profile from cardamom, a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the ginger family.

I picked up this recipe at a holiday baking class at Culinaria, a small cooking school in Vienna, VA. We didn’t actually bake these in class but instead used some that the instructor had pre-baked to make a cookie-crumb crust for a pumpkin cheesecake. The crust, composed of 180 grams of crushed pepparkakor cookies, two ounces melted butter, and two tablespoons of sugar, was by far the best part of the finished cheesecake, so I made a batch to have on hand for the next time I make a custard pie.

The cookies are great on their own, but if you make a full batch, consider freezing some for future crusts. Pepparkakor do not expand while cooking and are traditionally cut into intricate shapes, and I always have some waste dough after applying a cookie cutter. Bake the waste into simple squares or rounds – any shape you won’t mind smashing into bits for a perfect pumpkin pie crust.

Rating: ★★★★☆


  • 153 grams butter
  • 327 grams dark brown sugar
  • 327 grams all-purpose flour
  • A few extra tablespoons of flour for working the doughs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (I used sorghum molasses, but the original recipe called for blackstrap)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1.25 teaspoons cloves (ground)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom (ground)


When using a stand mixer, expect to get one additional bowl dirty for mixing the dry ingredients. You will need a large surface on which to roll out the dough, as pepparkakor are best when thin and crispy.

  1. Cream butter and sugar thoroughly.
  2. Add molasses, water, and lemon zest to sugar and butter mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and spices together.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients bowl a bit at a time. Mix until you see no white streaks from the flour.
  5. Flour your hands, form dough into three balls of roughly equal size, and place each dough ball between two large sheets of parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper to wrap the dough.
  6. dough ball
  7. Chill wrapped dough for 30 minutes to one hour (until dough is stiff).
  8. Roll first dough ball out into 3/32" sheet and cut into shapes with floured cookie cutters.
  9. rolled dough cut cookie shapes from rolled dough
  10. Bake for 8-10 minutes on a parchment-lined sheet tray at 350 degrees. Remove from oven when the edges of the cookies begin to darken.
  11. Cool cookies for two minutes on sheet tray, then transfer to a wire rack.
  12. Repeat steps 7-9 for remaining dough balls.