The History of Austrian Linzer Cookies: A Holiday Tradition

The History of Austrian Linzer Cookies: A Holiday Tradition

What is the world’s oldest written recipe still in existence? The Austrian Linzertorte!

Linzer-what?

Let’s explore the history of this delicious sweet treat and get ready for the holiday season!

The History of the Linzertorte

Way back in 1653, this recipe (originally a tart) was discovered in the cookery manuscript of Countess Anna Margarita Sagramosa In Austria. The tart was baked like a pie with a delicious buttery almond crust, filled with black currant preserves and topped with a latticework crust.

Linzertorte

The recipe was developed using a crust made of nuts since they were easier to come by at times than wheat for flour.

While a yummy black currant tart is a perfect way to end a meal, bakers came up with a cookie version they could stock in their shops, and it became a holiday tradition to see these lovely treats in the frosty windows.

The Torte Becomes a Cookie

In Linz, a city in Austria, these bakers would mix up a batch of Linzertorte dough, but instead of making a pie, they would cut out shapes such as stars, circles or hearts. Half of the shapes would get second cutouts in the center. These were called Linzer eyes.

Once baked, these dessert artisans constructed sandwich cookies using a whole cookie and a cutout cookie. In the middle, they would place black or red currant preserves just like the tart. American bakers use raspberry jam, lingonberry preserves, or any kind of sweet filling including hazelnut chocolate spread!

The top cookies are dusted with a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar or decorated with icing. After the cookie is put together, the jam or preserves peek through the Linzer eye to make a beautiful dessert, perfect for the holidays.

The Linzertorte Comes to America

When Austrian and German immigrants traveled to America they brought the recipe and the tradition of Linzer cookies with them. One fellow, Franz Holzlhuber, immigrated to America as a musician, artist, and poet. He ended up in Wisconsin in the late 1850s.

When his funds ran low, he baked and sold Linzertortes to raise money. He claimed he was the one who introduced the pastry to America, so today we acknowledge his contribution to our holiday traditions.

A hundred years after Holzlhuber shared his dessert secrets with the citizens of Milwaukee, another musical family, the Von Trapps came to Stowe, Vermont bearing their holiday heritage and Linzertorte recipes. You’ll remember them from the movie, The Sound of Music.

Everyone Has Their Own Favorite Recipe

Whether you are in Austria or America, you can find Linzertortes and cookies in plenty around the Christmas holidays. There are multitudes of recipes in cookbooks and dessert recipe books, each one a little different.

old book with pretend linzertorte recipe

The largest collection of historical Linzer torte recipes is housed in a museum in Upper Austria, but plenty of “secret family recipes” abound in the Austrian countryside and around the world.

You can start your own tradition of baking Linzer cookies for your holiday sweet trays. Check out the recipe in the eat2explore World Holiday Treats box!