St Nicholas cookies

St Nicholas cookies


7000 Islands
Jana Liebenstein

On a writing assignment, I was introduced to Kapampangan food authority Atching Lillian Borromeo. She invited me into her home, where she recounted the charming story of these soft, snowwhite cookies, which she had baked for the occasion. Traditionally, ornate wooden moulds were used (Atching Lillian’s moulds date back to the 16th century), but a regular mould or pastry cutter will do the same job. Err on undercooked, which preserves the white colour and soft mouthfeel of the arrowroot flour.


Quantity Ingredient
150g arrowroot flour or cornflour
150g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
60g unsalted butter, softened
220g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
60ml vegetable oil
60ml coconut cream
1 lemon, finely grated zest


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Sift both of the flours, the baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a separate bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat until combined.
  3. Combine the oil, coconut cream and lemon zest in another bowl. Alternately add the coconut cream mixture and flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until just combined.
  4. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll to 7 mm thick (if the mixture is too soft, refrigerate to firm). Using a 7 cm round fluted cookie cutter, cut out the biscuits and place on the prepared trays.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10–12 minutes, swapping the trays halfway, until the biscuits are firm and just starting to turn golden (don’t overcook as they might dry out). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving warm or cooling completely on wire racks.

Where does it come from?

  • These biscuits are named after St Nicolas de Tolentino. In Lillian’s words: ‘This is an ancient recipe brought to the Philippines by Augustinian friars in the late 1600s. It was taught to the natives to solve the problem of too many egg yolks; during the time, the egg whites and shells were mixed with lime and used in cement to build churches. Every town has their own version of these biscuits, which can be seen in the different moulds.’
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