Swedish Pepparkakor started as a honey and pepper cookie. They were once far spicier than the popular gingersnap-style cookie we enjoy now. The cookies were thought to cure sicknesses, ward off depression and make you nicer. Today, baking soda leavens the cookies, but originally potash was used. Potash helped to settle indigestion, so maybe they did make folks a little nicer to be around. Over the years, ginger and sweet spices have replace the pepper. We’re not sure they ever had medicinal qualities, but they still produce smiles today.
A staple sweet in a Swedish Christmas feast, Pepparkakor is the original Swedish gingerbread cookie. One of the most popular shapes at the holidays are the Pepparkakshjärtan (gingerbread hearts). Each December, American Dream Cakes offer these delicious cookies in our bakery and at Christmas fairs around Eastern North Carolina. Various regional Christmas fairs, including Raleigh’s Scandinavian Christmas Fair allow opportunities to sample our special 5th generation Swedish recipe with friends or family.
While traditional American gingerbread cookies are thicker and often sweetened with molasses, Pepparkakor are thin, crisp and do not contain molasses.
One thing Pepparkakor have in common with American gingerbread cookies is that both have been used to decorate Christmas trees! With Pepparkakor, superstition takes it one step further. The cookie decides the fate of a person’s wish. The old legend says: Place a cookie in your hand, make a wish, and tap the cookie in the center. If the cookie breaks into three pieces, then you will get your wish. Even it the cookie doesn’t break into three, don’t be too sad. It’s still delicious!
We enjoy sharing the Swedish Pepparkakor tradition. Our founder, Gunilla Kroshus, learned to make Pepparkakor with her great-grandmother Sara. And Gunilla has passed the tradition on to her daughter, who would love to share it with you and your family, too. Order in advance or stop by the bakery during the month of December. This delicious traditional cookie from Sweden will vanish before New Year.
Have a Pepparkakor, it will make you nice! And Santa likes nice!