Kakemenn (Norwegian Christmas Cookies)


I thought I was done with my Christmas cookie baking, but then my friend Lisa mentioned that kakemenn are her favorite Christmas cookies. I was floored.

You see, I’ve always thought kakemenn were the most bland and boring of the Norwegian Christmas cookies. So now I was intrigued. Maybe I had misjudged kakemenn?

Kakemenn, or “cookie men,” are pale cookies with crispy edges and soft centers, cut into fun shapes and painted with food coloring. Their light color makes them perfect canvases. They’re only slightly sweet and keep for weeks, so they’re a nice complement to more extravagant Christmas cookies.

kakemenn decorated Norwegian christmas cookies

You can find all of my Scandinavian Christmas recipes here.

And after talking to Lisa, I realized that kakemenn are probably also a great choice for more picky eaters, especially children, who might not always like all the spices and textures of other cookies. Plus they’re so fun to decorate! Painting cookies with food coloring is a lot easier and less time consuming than decorating cookies with frosting.

After Lisa told me how much she loves kakemenn I was of course very curious about her kakemenn recipe. And luckily for me (and you!) her mother Beathe generously agreed to share the recipe.

Norwegian kakemenn recipe

This recipe uses hornsalt, or ammonium carbonate (baker’s ammonia), which is an old fashioned leavening agent that predates baking soda and baking powder and is still used in many Scandinavian recipes. You can buy it on Amazon here. You can use a mixture of baking soda and baking powder instead, however the texture of the cookies won’t be quite the same. But I also recommend using baker’s ammonia because baking with it is quite an experience! Plus you can use it in lots of other Scandinavian recipes, like smultringer and dream cookies.

using hornsalt to make kakemenn

If you’re wondering why baking with hornsalt is an experience, the answer is the smell. Instead of filling your home with the sweet smell of freshly baked cookies, kakemenn made with hornsalt will fill your home with the scent of ammonia. And there’s something so Norwegian about it. I mean Norwegians are the people who like to cook fish in lye, so are we surprised they bake their cookies with ammonia?

And kakemenn use a lot of baker’s ammonia. 5 teaspoons!

kakemenn dough wrapped in plastic

You do need to chill the dough in the fridge overnight, so remember to plan accordingly.

As their name suggests, kakemenn are traditionally cut into people shapes, but it’s of course more fun to use all sorts of different shapes.

cutting kakemenn shapes

Lisa and I mixed the food coloring with a bit of water and then used Q-tips to decorate the cookies.

decorating kakemenn with food coloring

You can switch the recipe from US measurements to metric by clicking from “US Customary” to “Metric” under Ingredients.

kakemenn decorated Norwegian christmas cookies

Kakemenn (Norwegian Christmas Cookies)

Kakemenn, or "cookie men," are pale cookies with crispy edges and soft centers, cut into fun shapes and painted with food coloring.
5 from 7 votes
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Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Norwegian
Keyword: Christmas, cookies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Resting Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 40 cookies
Author: Silvia


  • Rolling Pin
  • cookie cutters
  • Q-tips or clean brushes for painting the cookies


  • 7 tbsp butter
  • 1.25 cups granulated sugar
  • 4.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 5 tsp baker's ammonia (or 3 tsp baking soda + 2 tsp baking powder)
  • 0.75 cup kefir


  • food coloring


  • Melt the butter and mix it together with the kefir and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Combine the rest of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add them to the butter mixture. Stir until the batter is fully smooth – you can also use your hands for this.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Use the cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the cookies. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the edges start to get crispy but not brown. The center will remain soft.
  • After the cookies have cooled, use the food coloring to paint decorations on them.


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