Aunt Clara's Anise Seed Cookies

By Anna Hezel
December 6, 2013
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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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