Anise Cookies are cake-like cookies with a delicate licorice flavor, a sweet icing glaze, and plenty of colorful sprinkles. Traditionally an Italian Christmas cookie, they're perfect for any celebration!
Like Christmas shortbread cookies, almond spritz cookies, and apple cinnamon bread, these Anise Cookies are a must-have on the table around the holidays! The light licorice flavor and sweet, simple frosting make these cookies a unique but delicious addition to your cookie tray!
I like to add a unique element to these cookies with a hint of lemon zest. I love how the bright, citrusy flavor compliments the licorice flavor of the anise. The cake-like texture of these cookies is amazing, even without the anise. If you have some licorice nay-sayers in the house, try making it without the anise -- they're still incredible!
🛒 Ingredients You'll Need
- Flour - I use all-purpose flour. A 1:1 gluten-free substitute may also work.
- Sugar - Regular granulated sugar for the cookies.
- Powdered sugar - Used to make the icing.
- Butter - Unsalted is preferred, but salted will also work. Used to prepare the pan as well as for the cookie dough. Make sure the butter is at room temperature and not cold.
- Heavy cream - Used for a decadent icing.
- Milk - Any type of milk will work (fat-free to whole milk).
- Eggs - Use large, whole eggs for the cookie dough.
- Almond extract - Adds a light flavor to the icing. You could leave this out if you don't have any, but the light almond flavor in the icing is a perfect complement to the anise flavor in the cookies!
- Lemon zest - For a bright, fresh pop of flavor in the cookies!
- Baking powder - Needed to help these cookies puff up slightly while baking.
- Anise powder - This recipe is written for adding anise flavor with powder. If you want to use anise extract, make sure to follow the directions noted below in the variations because it's not a 1:1 substitution.
- Anise Extract - If you decide not to use anise powder and instead opt for anise extract, follow these steps:
- Use two teaspoons of anise extract.
- Increase the flour amount and use a total of 3.5 cups of flour. This will ensure the dough is firm enough to roll into small balls.
- Bake for 15-16 minutes, or until the bottom of the cookies are a light golden brown color.
- If you want this cookie in a different flavor, follow the extract directions above, but use lemon, orange, almond, or any other extract flavor.
- Add food coloring to the icing for extra festive decorating, or use a variety of sprinkles.
🥣 Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions
Step 1-2: Preheat the oven to 350℉. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread a thin layer of butter on the parchment paper and sprinkle on 1-2 Tablespoons of flour. Using your hands, evenly spread the flour so the cookie sheet is lightly coated.
Step 3-4: Add the sugar and butter to a large mixing bowl. Using a standing mixer with the wire whisk attachment, or an electric mixer, mix on medium speed for one minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix on medium speed for one additional minute.
Step 5-6: Pour in the milk and mix for 30 more seconds on medium speed.
Step 7-8: If using a standing mixer, remove the wire whisk and replace it with the paddle attachment. Add the flour, baking powder, anise powder, and the zest of 1 lemon. Mix on low speed for 45 seconds.
Step 9: Using your hands, take approximately ½ a tablespoon of the cookie dough, making sure it's smaller than a tablespoon. Softly shape it into a little ball and place it on the cookie sheet. Repeat this process until there is no more cookie dough left.
Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 12-13 minutes. Once done, remove the cookie sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on a cooling rack.
Step 10-11: Add the powdered sugar, almond extract, and heavy whipping cream to a small bowl. Combine using a wire whisk, then set aside.
Step 12-14: Pour the sprinkles into a small shallow bowl. Pick up a cookie and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze.
Step 15-16: Take the cookie with the glaze and dip it into the sprinkles.
Step 17: Place the decorated cookie back on the wire rack for at least 10 minutes to allow the glaze to set.
Once the glaze has set, they are ready to eat. Enjoy these perfectly cakey licorice-flavored cookies and watch them disappear!
🙋🏼 Recipe FAQs
Anisette cookies (aka anise cookies) are Italian Christmas cookies that have a delicious licorice flavor from using anise powder or extract.
Store anise cookies in an airtight container separate from other cookies (especially if gifting them around the holidays) as the anise flavor can transfer to others if stored together. They should stay fresh at room temperature for up to a week.
💭 Expert Tips
- Only mix until everything is combined. If you mix too long, the dough will become tough, and the cookies won't have the cake-like texture we want.
- Avoid over baking these cookies. Remember that the tops won't brown but will just be barely firm on top, and the bottoms will be only slightly browned.
- Wait until the cookies have cooled to add the glaze and sprinkles.
- Using a cookie scoop or a measuring spoon will help you get even-sized cookies so they look uniform and bake uniformly.
- Anise cookies are easy to make ahead and bake later! To freeze the cookie dough, roll them into balls and place them on a parchment sheet lined pan in a single layer so they're not touching each other. Freeze for 2-4 hours, then add the cookie dough balls to an airtight freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months, let thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and bake and decorate as directed.
- You can also freeze these cookies after they've been baked. Let them cool completely, then freeze in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Then, let thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature when ready to decorate and eat. I recommend waiting until just before serving them to glaze and add sprinkles.
- Standing or Electric Mixer
For The Cookies
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup butter, room temperature
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- 3 cups all purpose baking flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoon anise powder
- 1 zest of lemon
For The Glaze
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- sprinkles, optional
To Make The Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350℉.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread a thin layer of butter on the parchment paper and sprinkle on 1-2 Tablespoons of flour. Using your hands, evenly spread the flour so the cookie sheet is lightly coated.
- Add 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of butter to a large mixing bowl. Using a standing mixer (wire whisk attachment) or hand held electric mixer, mix on medium speed for 1 minute.
- Add in the 3 eggs one at a time and continue to mix on medium speed for 1 more minute.
- Add in ¼ cup of milk and mix for 30 more seconds on medium speed. Important Note: The cookie batter will be curdled at the end of this step.
- If using a standing mixer, remove the wire whisk and attached the paddle attachment. Add in 3 cups of flour, 1 Tablespoon of baking powder, 2 teaspoons of anise powder, and the zest of 1 lemon. Mix on low speed for 45 seconds.
- Using your hands, take a small portion of cookie dough, approximately ½ a tablespoon, but not bigger than 1 Tablespoon in size. Then, softly shape it into a little ball and place it on the cookie sheet.
- Repeat this process until there is no more cookie dough left.
- Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 12-13 minutes.
- Once done, remove the cookie sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on a cooling rack.Important Note: The tops of the cookies will be slightly firm, but will not be golden brown. The bottom of the cookies will be very lightly golden brown.
To Make The Glaze
- Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of almond extract, and 2 Tablespoons of heavy whipping cream to a small bowl.
- Using a whisk, mix to combine. Set aside
To Decorate The Cookies
- Pour the sprinkles into a small shallow bowl.
- Pick up a cookie and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze.
- Take the cookie with the glaze and dip it into the sprinkles.
- Place the decorated cookie back on the wire rack for at least 10 minutes to allow the glaze to set.
- Once the glaze has set, they are ready to eat.