Sandkager: Scandinavian Shortbread Cookies

Sandkager and cookie press

By Cat, Jun 2008 (Photos: right, by Cat; below-left from Wikimedia Commons)

Sand cookies are a great Scandinavian treat; They are a type of shortbread cookie. I’m not sure why they are called ‘Sand‘ – it might be the Danish word for shortbread. There are two main types of Sand cookies:

Sand kager (Norsk, Swedish) or sandkager (Dansk): These are most like Scottish shortbread and can be made by pressing out to cover an entire cookie sheet, then cut into squares after baking, or rolled into balls and flattened with a sandbagger press. The recipe on this page is of this type. NOTE: Sandies is an Anglicized name for this cookie. Cornmeal sandies are not Scandinavian, but are a similar cookie.

Sandbakelse Cookies & Tins

Sandbakelse (Norsk) or sandbakkelser (Dansk, Swedish): For these, the dough is pressed into a tiny fluted mold that resembles a miniature tart pan. They are typically served as is (upside down so you can better see the pattern), but they may also be filled with preserves or nuts with whipped cream.

I make Danish Sandkager (shortbread) cookies for the annual Lutefisk Dinner, as my cookie contribution.

Sandkager stamp

When I was a kid, we bought dried (chipped) beef to make SOS – chipped beef on toast – for a casual dinner.  This dried beef came in small glass jars with a cut-glass design on the bottom that looked like a star or a daisy.  Mom saved these glasses for serving orange juice with breakfast, but they also came in handy for stamping the design into a shortbread or sand cookie; I still have one of these glasses and treat it with great care.  I also have a cute cookie stamp that imprints a cat within a square on a round cookie – this is a twist on the Scotts stamp for shortbread cookies, that traditionally imprinted a scottie dog on the cookie.

About ingredients for Sandkager

Sugar is an essential ingredient for the proper texture of these cookies, so I have not attempted to replace with stevia.  Minimally processed Rapadura sugar (Rapunzel’s brand of Organic dried sugar cane juice) will work wonderfully in these recipes, and is more healthful; however, it adds a caramel color that may not be desirable for holiday celebrations. For the Lutefisk diner, I use only ¼ cup Rapadura and ¾ cup white cane sugar.

Flour: Most modern recipes call for all white flour – I use Organic unbleached white flour. However, I prefer to use a bit of whole wheat pastry flour to improve the nutritional quality of the cookie. Or, for a lighter color, hard white winter wheat, such as Wheat Montana’s Prairie Gold could be used.  Nutritionally, spelt is a better flour, but I don’t like it for these cookies. The double-sifting is to ensure you don’t use too much flour, and to keep it light.

Butter: Always use unsalted butter for these cookies, for the best result; I use Tillamook brand because the cows are grass-fed/Pastured. Do not use margarine or ‘vegetable spread’ for these cookies, as they will lose their shape in the oven. Also, don’t use vegetable shortening as it contains toxic trans-fats, and also won’t hold their shape in the oven.

Butter should be soft but not melted. When I make these cookies in November the butter tends to be hard. To soften I place the wrapped sticks in a bowl and set it in the cupboard above my pilot-lit gas range, to rest for an hour or so. If kitchen is colder than usual, I set bowl on a trivet atop my off-griddle, then cover with overturned mixing bowl.

Added flavoring: Many sand cookies include almond flavoring – either as an extract, or as ground almonds, but this recipe uses neither, making it more like Scottish shortbread in that regard.

Sandkager: Danish Shortbread Recipe

This recipe is adapted from Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen, has no almond flavoring at all, and is very similar to Scottish shortbread.  Use unsalted butter for best results, and it is important to measure the flour after sifting.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

I make this recipe as my 2 dozen “Scandinavian cookies” for our annual Lutefisk Dinner. I have a really cute cookie press, with a kitten design, that I use.  For general use, I prefer to use half whole wheat flour, half white flour, and unrefined dehydrated sugar cane juice (such as Rapadura) instead of white cane sugar for the nutritional benefits provided by these ingredients. But for special occasions like the Lutefisk dinner, I use a larger portion of white flour, and all white cane sugar.

Because precise amounts are needed, especially for the flour, I wish the original recipe had included grams. Every time you measure, sift, and measure again produces a different result; measuring grams is more accurate.

I recommend mixing by hand with a wooden spoon (softened butter is easy to cream by hand with the sugar), as you have a better feel for texture that way. When you use a stand mixer, you don’t have as good an idea about texture. If the batter is too soft, the cookies will not hold their shape; chilling helps but they still spread too easily.

> > Start recipe the day before you want to bake them. < <

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) real butter, soft (see note above)
  • 1 cup Rapadura sugar * or white cane sugar (or ¼ cup Rapadura, ¾ cup white cane sugar) (reserve 1 Tbsp of the sugar in case dough not sweet enough).
  • 2 egg yolks (not the whole eggs)
  • 2 cups wheat flour, measured after sifting (I use 1 ½ cup unbleached white flour plus ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour for the Lutefisk dinner; otherwise, 1 cup unbleached white flour plus 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
  • ½ tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • granulated white cane sugar for top of cookie when using the press
  • Equipment
  • flour sifter
  • medium bowl
  • stand mixer fitted with dough hook, or wooden spoon/silicon spatula to mix by hand
  • cookie sheet(s)
  • sandkager or shortbread stamp; or drinking glass

* NOTE: Rapadura (Organic dehydrated sugar cane by Rapunzel) is my preferred brand of Organic whole cane sugar. Other brands such as Sucanat or Coconut Crystals may be used but have a stronger flavor of molasses and may have coarser grains that don’t blend in as well. If you cannot find the finer-grained version, use Organic white cane sugar. DO NOT use plain ‘sugar’ as it is likely made from GMO sugar beets. Liquid sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup or honey will not work for this recipe – dough will be too soft.


KitchenAid beater attachment

It takes two days to make these cookies because the dough needs to rest in the fridge overnight before baking the next day.

NOTE: I used to use my KitchenAid mixer with the beater attachment, as pictured right, from KitchenAid (2), but now I use my Dad’s sturdy wooden spoon and/or my silicon spatula for most of the mixing, and my hands for the final addition of flour, as I find it is easier to determine when enough flour has been added (see testing, Nov 2018).

  1. Prep: measure each set of ingredients and set aside, before mixing dough:
    1. Measure 1 cup sugar, but reserve 1 Tbsp for in-case.
    2. Warm butter to soften (but not melt);
    3. Separate yolks from whites and reserve whites for another use.
    4. Sift then measure flours separately. Combine sifted flours and baking powder in sifter; sift into a 2 cup dry measure; do not pack flour into the cup; there will be more than 2 cups after sifting.  (Or sift into a 1 cup measure, twice). After each measure, pass a knife blade across the cup so that the top of the flour is exactly even with the measuring cup.  Save extra flour for cookie sheets.
  2. Mix Cookie Dough: Combine sugar (less the 1 Tbsp reserved) and butter in large bowl (or bowl of Kitchen Aid mixer); cream them together until smooth; I prefer to use my Dad’s heavy wooden spoon.
  3. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add sifted and measured flour mixture to butter mixture, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition, using hands to mix dough after last flour addition.
  5. Let dough rest overnight in refrigerator. NOTE: an alternative is to shape cookies into balls the first day, placing them into a glass storage container with lid, for resting overnight in fridge.
  6. Next day: Shape and bake cookiesIn the morning: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour cookie sheet(s).
  7. There are two options to shape the cookies; I use the first method, weighing 0.9 – 1.0 oz chilled dough to form the ball;
    1. Roll bits of dough (0.9 – 1.0 oz) into small balls; place on prepared cookie sheet and chill (again) about 10 minutes; dip a sandkager or shortbread press (or bottom of a glass) in granulated sugar-cane sugar and press the cookie flat (to ½” thick and about 2″ in diameter). This size makes 25 cookies.
    2. Roll out dough (or flatten with hands) to ½” thick. Cut into squares; place on prepared cookie sheet, and sprinkle granulated sugar lightly over the top; or
  8. Bake in preheated oven until edges turn golden brown, about 12 – 15 minutes, or more (Mine take about 18 min, based on testing, because I think my oven setting is off).  Let rest on baking sheets a minute or two, then remove to rack to cool.
  9. Repeat with next sheet of cookies.

Cat’s mixing/shaping/baking sequence: 

  1. Prep: as above, setting each aside until ready to mix.
  2. Mixing sequence:
    1. Mix soft butter and sugar;
    2. Mix in yolks, one at a time;
    3. Mix in twice-sifted flour/baking powder 1/2 – 2/3 cup at a time, until thoroughly mixed. Use your hands for the final mixing.
  3. Shape, press and bake cookies; I recommend using electronic scale to weigh each cookie before shaping, 0.9 – 1.0 oz (26 – 28 g).
    • NOTE: you may want to do a test cookie before shaping the rest of the cookies; if cookie spreads to much during baking, add more flour to the dough.
      1. Option 1: Shape and chill overnight; press and bake next day:
        • Weigh and shape each of 25-26 cookies and place in my rectangular Pyrex baking pan with red lid to chill overnight in fridge.
        • Next day: Remove from fridge and let warm up just a bit, so can make them into smoother balls (being squeezed against each other in the pan overnight gives them an odd shape).
        • Press and bake first batch (12-13 cookies). When done, remove cookie sheet to rest before moving cookies to cooling rack.
        • Remove second shaped batch from fridge, press, bake, rest and cool as for first batch.
        • Continue until all dough is used up (1 recipe should make 2 – 3 batches depending on size of cookies and size of baking sheet).
      2. Option 2: Chill overnight before shape/press/bake next day:
        • Flatten top of dough and press sheet of parchment onto top (or place bowl in plastic bag); place in fridge to chill overnight.
        • Next day: Shape, press, and bake one batch at a time (12-13 on one cookie sheet), then chill 10 min before baking. Leave remaining dough in fridge to chill.
        • Repeat with each next batch after previous batch has cooled and been removed to cooling rack. (1 recipe should make 2 – 3 batches depending on size of cookies and size of baking sheet).


Testing 11/6-7/08: As written, mixing by hand, except only ½ cup hard white whole wheat, and 1 ½ cups unbleached white flour; used all Rapadura sugar.  Used cookie press method, pressing them ½” thick and 2″ diameter.  I got 33 cookies and used 2 cookie sheets.  They don’t spread much in baking, but leave at least an inch between them (after pressing) for air to circulate.  Baked 14 ½ minutes, baking both sheets at the same time and exchanging them on racks after 7 minutes.  Result:  very “melt in the mouth” tender.  Nicely sweet, and a light golden color (mostly from the Rapadura sugar).  No one seemed to notice the whole wheat flour, but everyone commented on how wonderful they were.

Testing 11/12-13/09:

  • First batch: As last year, except couldn’t get Rapadura sugar so used Sucanat which is different texture – coarser grains. Dough seemed too soft before refrigeration; may need more flour. OOPS! I used 2 whole eggs instead of just the yolks. Baked 2 test cookies; they did not spread as much as I thought, and the texture is good, but I don’t like the flavor of the Sucanat–too molassesy. I’ll make these for my own use and start another batch for the Lutefisk dinner.
  • Second batch: Made as before with ½ cup hard white whole wheat and 1 ½ cups unbleached white flour. For sweetener, used ¼ cup Sucanat and ¾ cup white sugar, and only the yolks of the 2 eggs. Much better texture. I pressed them too much, about ⅜” thick to the size of a silver dollar, but they spread to about 2.5″. Result: Thinner than I like, but taste and texture are excellent. Nice light golden color.

Testing 11/13/10: Made as previous, with ¼ cup Sucanat. I just don’t like the way it works in the recipe. Because there is no liquid, per se, the sugar never dissolves, and gives the final cookie a freckled effect. This time I got 30 cookies (2 ½ dz). I pressed them just as wide as the bottom of my star-bottom glass, about 1.5″. This is a good size, but no more than 15 per sheet. Result: Just the right thickness and size; nice golden color, albeit with freckles. Good taste and texture. Next time: use all white sugar if cannot find Rapadura sugar or other fine-textured unrefined dehydrated sugar cane juice.

Testing 11/12-13/15: Made as previous except ¾ cup Rapadura and ¼ cup white cane sugar. Did 2 siftings of flour (1 ½ cup white, ½ cup whole wheat), adding baking powder with second sifting. Mixed with Kitchen Aid mixer; dough seems soft (OOPS, that’s because I used whole eggs, not just the yolks), but will chill overnight before deciding whether to add more flour. Next day: It stiffened, but as I was shaping the dough into balls, it felt too soft. My cat press got all gooey, even when dipped in sugar, so used bottom of a glass, pressing to ½” thick. The first batch of 12 spread out quite a bit in oven, but did not become one mass, which was good. I didn’t press second batch quite as much – more like ¾”, so they didn’t spread as bad, because I chilled them before baking; updated instructions to put each batch of balls in fridge to chill b4 baking. Had enough dough for 5 more cookies (total 29 cookies; one broke).

11/9/16: I make these with a heavy heart today, because Donald Trump will be our next president. Made as written (I hope). This time I separated out the yolks well in advance of mixing the dough. Added ¼ cup Rapadura and started to add ¾ cup white cane sugar (¼ at a time), but got distracted. Couldn’t recall how much white sugar had been added, so assumed ½ cup and only added one more ¼ cup. After mixing with butter, it tasted plenty sweet so did not add more. Added flour sifted with  baking powder. Mixed easily but seemed a bit soft. Will see how it behaves after chilling overnight. 11/10: Dough good and solid, even after warming a bit. I made two 1-oz test cookies; they took more than 15 minutes to bake but had good shape and didn’t spread out too much. I think the longer baking time means my oven’s thermostat needs resetting. After cooling a tad, I cut off a tiny taste; plenty sweet with nice texture, so finished the rest of the dough.Total count: 26 cookies. Result: Nice size, shape, texture. Sweet but not too sweet. Perfect.

11/9-10/17: This year, the Lutefisk dinner falls on Nov 11, the date of the WWI armistice for which our church celebrated 1 year afterwards, with the lutefisk dinner that has become the church’s annual tradition (on the closest Saturday to Nov 11). Made as written using ¼ cup Rapadura and ¾ cup white sugar in the batter; also ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1½ cup unbleached white flour. Chilled overnight – good and hard, then shaped into balls, weighing each to 0.9 oz, making 27 cookies. Had a tiny bit left over so divided it between five balls that looked smaller (then weighed 1 oz). Used a small glass dipped in white cane sugar to press down. Forgot to retell before baking… Like before, they took longer than 15 min to get golden around the edges, about 18 min, checking them at 12, 15 and 18 min. Result: Nice size, shape and texture, but sweeter than last year. Next time I might try using a little less sugar.

11/7-9/18: It’s so cold that my butter didn’t soften when placed in cabinet over my pilot-lit stove, so placed it on a half-inch riser on top of my griddle, then placed overturned KitchenAid mixing bowl over it. Used ¼ cup Rapadura and ¾ cup (less 1 Tbsp) white sugar, 2 yolks, and ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour plus 1½ cup unbleached white flour. Hard to get all the flour in with the mixer (some flour pushed to bottom of bowl), so moved to a smaller bowl and mixed with wooden spoon and my hands, but the warmth of my hands made butter too soft so switched to wooden spoon and added a couple teaspoons of the leftover flour. Tiny taste – sweet enough. [NOTE: Remember the dough contains raw egg at this point, which could expose you to salmonella or other infections. I tasted this only because last year’s batch was too sweet, and I trust my local farmer.] Covered with waxed paper and placed in fridge.11/8: Next day I let dough warm enough to divide it into 26 balls, between 0.9 and 1.0 oz each. Didn’t have time to bake then, so put back in fridge overnight in my rectangular Pyrex baking pan with red lid. 11/9: Rolled each in sugar, pressed them with my cat cookie press, and cooled again for 10 min in fridge. (Kept 2nd batch in fridge until ready to bake). Baked about 15 min each batch. Result: Nice size, shape and texture; too sweet for me (I’ve been off sugar for 5 years), but a friend tested a bite and said they are perfect.

11/7-8/19: Butter was softened nicely; almost, but not quite melted. Very easy to mix with sugar, egg and flour. Used all white sugar because I didn’t have any Rapunzel; 2 medium egg yolks; 1½ cups unbleached white plus ½ cup hard whole wheat flour. Did final mixing of last half-cup flour with hands. Formed 27 cookies, 1-oz each, and placed in pyrex storage pan with lid, to chill overnight. 11/8: Greased & floured baking sheets; rolled 13 cookies in sugar and pressed to ½ inch high. However, they were very hard to press, and formed cracks around the edges. I should have allowed the pre-shaped cookie balls to warm up just a bit, then formed them into smoother balls before pressing. Into preheated 350° oven at 9:48 AM and out at 10:05 AM, total 17 min. Warmed a bit then smoothed out remaining cookie balls, and placed second (last) pressed batch into fridge for about 10 min, then into oven at 10:17 AM and out at 10:34 AM, total 17 min. Test cookie (first batch): I’m not used to eating sugar, so it is very very sweet. Texture is good and perfectly done; just the right amount of flour. However, I pressed the second batch a bit too thin, as they are only about ¼ inch thick after baking – but they don’t have those cracks around the edges..


  1. Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen (see Beloved Cookbooks for more)
  2. KitchenAid beater image:

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