Aunt Clara's Anise Seed Cookies

By • December 6, 2013 9 Comments

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Author Notes: Part of the magic of a recipe from the 1800's is that it does not contain very much sugar. The cloying sugary overkill I often associate with sugar cookie cutouts is absent here, replaced by a mellow, buttery bite of delicate vanilla, followed by the faint crunch of seeds and the refreshing echoes of anise. After a holiday meal, give me a cup of tea, a clementine, and one of these cookies, and I will be filled with content.Anna Hezel

Makes about 40 cookies


  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour (plus a little extra for rolling out the dough)
  • 3 teaspoons anise seeds


  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  1. To make the cookies: Cream the butter and sugar together, and then mix in the eggs, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  2. Add the flour, mixing until just combined, and then the anise seeds, mixing until they are more or less evenly distributed throughout the dough.
  3. Cover and refrigerate the dough for an hour or more.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Flour a surface and your rolling pin, and roll the dough out to about 1/4 of an inch. Cut cookies out using the cookie cutter of your choice, and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are slightly puffed up and have turned a light golden color around the edges.
  5. While the cookies cool, make the frosting: cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Mix in the vanilla and salt, and add the milk a little bit at a time, halting once you've reached a smooth, spreadable consistency.
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Comments (9) Questions (2)


over 1 year ago Mary Jo

Anna, My mom's recipe calls for anise seed cookies, but by the time I was baking, somehow I converted to anise oil. Now I suspect that her recipe came from Aunt Clara - my aunt, too, of course, since your dad and I are cousins!

over 1 year ago Anna Hezel

Ah yes, yours must be similar! I love the crunchy seeds, but I bet they taste great with anise oil as well.


9 months ago Victor

Mary Jo~~
Would you be so kind as to post your recipe using the anise oil?
Thank you so much!


over 1 year ago Laura

made this yesterday. they were a big hit at the Christmas party today thanks for sharing this lovely recipe my boss said they remind him of the cookies his mother use to make I also like them with and without icing

over 1 year ago Anna Hezel

That's great to hear -- thank you, Laura!


over 1 year ago buckec

These are DIVINE. Just made them last night and you're right, they are lovely and light. I had a terrifying moment after I creamed the sugar and butter -- when I added the egg the batter looked like clumpy eggy goo, which no amount of beating would fix, but after I started adding flour it went back to looking like delicious cookie dough batter. Should the same thing happen to you, have no fear!

over 1 year ago Anna Hezel

I am so glad you like them!


over 1 year ago A

are these good without the frosting too or are they not sweet enough?

over 1 year ago Anna Hezel

I love them without the frosting actually -- just depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have.