15 Jun2007


I’m not sure if this is a generational thing or what, but I have this incredible soft spot for canned Danish butter cookies. And they must be Kjeldsens (I bet you couldn’t have spelled that without consulting that familiar blue can, and btw, how the heck do you pronounce that, I can’t!?). Growing up, having a can of these cookies in the house meant that someone had recently come back from a foreign trip, had been to the PX goods stores in Dau, cookie2or we had received a generous gift from a dinner guest, friend or relative. My first pick out of the five (yes, there are only five) shapes were always the cookies with the super dried up raisins, then the pretzel shaped ones with large grains of sugar on top. Third choice were the rectangular ones, the round ones fourth and last and my least favorite, the horseshoe shaped cookies. I loved the consistency of the shapes, the SMELL of butter and the rich sweet flavor. Though these cookies have about 30% butter content, it seems that the heavy scent of dessicated coconut is what contributes to the very “buttery” smell. The dessicated coconut also provides the “richness” or tongue/mouthfeel that is actually simply coconut oil. Good grief, had I known that a major ingredient for these cookies probably came from the Philippines, I would have tried to bake them at home. Turns out dessicated coconut, coconut oil and other forms of coconut flavoring is a key ingredient of a lot of commercially baked and packaged cookies, as they have a smell that people associate with butter and richness. While I appreciate home-baked butter based cookies and have made thousands of them in my lifetime, I still look for this canned taste several times a year…

There is just something about the uniformity of the butter cookies, the little opaque waxed cups that neatly hold them in place, and the way the cookies taste with Coke with lots of ice (my first beverage pairing of choice as a kid), then with either with Diet Coke or hot tea as an adult. They are wickedly high calorie so I should shun these cookies as much as possible, but I cannot resist one of the “garapata” ones whenever they are in residence. I refer to them as the “garapata” ones because at some point someone tried to gross me out by saying the raisin ones were like eating dried ticks or garapatas… The thought stuck, but they made me love the cookie even more. Even if the darn sticky garapatas stick between cookie3the teeth with infuriating certainty. On our recent trip to New York, Mrs. MM and The Kid saw and bought some scented tea light candles and they have the fragrance of butter cookies! Is that outrageous or what? When a tea light is burning, the entire living room smells like you have been trapped inside a can of Kjeldjsens! If you haven’t done it lately, buy a can of these cookies, open it up and stick your head in for a good deep intake of butter/coconut essence. I am a bit obsessive about this particular brand and I am convinced that I can tell the difference if blindfolded between Kjeldsens and the other copycat brands out there… The company’s website says that they make a whopping 200 million pounds of cookies a year! That is the equivalent of about one of these tins of butter cookies (900 grams) for each and every Filipino on the entire planet at the moment! And just in case you haven’t inspected a can lately, the large can has an even number of each shape, totally 24 pieces of each shape or 120 cookies per tin. I just remembered now that I saw a recipe for butter cookies with dessicated coconut in an Australian magazine months ago…hmmm, if only I could remember where it was… Please, if you are Danish… how do I pronounce KJELDSENS?!



  1. Chinachix says:

    this entry brought back memories of when Danish butter cookies were a novelty…which they were when i was growing up in the 80s. i remember the “sugared” kinds were always, always the first to go. i also remember looking for these tins at the annual bazaar organized by diplomatic wives. aside from the cookies, this was one of the rare times you get to buy foodstuffs that seemed so precious back then, like cheese, sausages, and even Washington apples…and you’re right, now that danish butter cookies have been commodified, copycat cookies don’t taste quite as yummy as the Kjeldsens ones…

    Jun 15, 2007 | 3:23 am


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  3. Maria Clara says:

    Butter cookies and pastries are putting Denmark on the map besides their shipbuilding and dry docking industries. I assume Denmark fertile soil and lush vegetation must be conducive to cattle raising yields the milk for their baked products. Our very own coconut contributes to their popular demand. These cookies except the raisin ones make excellent cookie crust base for cheesecake instead of graham crackers. Same procedure and ingredients except use crushed butter cookies. Our very own araro cookies are coconut milk and butter combination and the Pampanga known San Nicholas cookies of Lilia Borromeo of Parian, Mexico bear the same coconut milk and butter faction.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 3:40 am

  4. STNLL says:

    Have you ever tasted lefse?

    Jun 15, 2007 | 4:58 am

  5. Ellen says:

    I soooo love these cookies MM!! I buy at least 5 cans at Xmas time =) My favourite is ur least favourite…the horseshoe shaped one…hehehe….Like you, I also love the butter scent especially when the can has just been opened. I’m curious..how much does this cost in Manila? In Melbourne, they can be as low as $3.95…hmmm

    Jun 15, 2007 | 5:03 am

  6. Fran says:

    MM, I remember these were always around in Guam when I was growing up. I know they are very popular with Filipinos; the Pacific Supermarket here in Oahu (our mecca for all things Filipino) always has butter cookies in stock. Next time we go I’ll have to check if they carry the Kjeldsens brand.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 5:08 am

  7. STNLL says:

    KJELDSEN’S is pronounced /tshellsens/. KJ is pronounced as /TSH/ but you can get away with just /SH/ as in shoes. -SEN is a common ending for family names in Denmark and Norway. Kjeldsen just means son of Kjell (or Kjeld).

    Jun 15, 2007 | 5:09 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Chinachix, yup, I remember those diplomatic bazaars… And apparently, another popular butter cookie brand is Royal Dansk (they probably figured out few could pronounce Kjeldsens properly) but it is made by the same parent company…and folks swear the Royal Dansk isn’t as good… Maria Clara, I never thought to use these in cheesecake but that makes sense! And yes, our own cookies with some coconut are similar, albeit not as buttery… STNLL, no, I haven’t had lefse… and THANKS for the pronounciation guide, I figured some of Marketmanila’s readers would be familiar with the Scandinavian languages…Ellen, the 900 gram or two pound can is roughly US$8.20 here from the Duty Free Shop, perhaps the same or a little more in local groceries… Fran, apparently the Far East is one of the largest markets for these cookies, with a 90% brand recognition in Hong Kong, for example?!… at least according to the company website!

    Jun 15, 2007 | 6:25 am

  9. MasPinaSarap says:

    I was gonna’ ask about if you liked Dansk until I read your comment, MM. I’ve never seen these.
    I like Bourbon brand.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 7:09 am

  10. linda says:

    Just like you,I always pick the one with dried raisins first and before I realise it,all the top layer ones are gone!!

    Jun 15, 2007 | 7:51 am

  11. SimplePleasures says:

    I LOVE these cookies! MM, It brings back childhood memories! This is the only kind where in I eat a cookie with raisins on it often time I don’t eat things with raisins.
    Our local supermarket carries some brands like these, but it somehow taste different. I just can’t remember what brand we use to receive from family friends and relatives way back. OOOOhhh how I miss these cookies….

    Jun 15, 2007 | 9:05 am

  12. Apicio says:

    Legendary among Filipino plutocrats who came of age before the WWII, Le Brun butter (simply Brun to Filipinos) in tins is also imported from Denmark. And most likely, the original flaky yeast raised pastry that has been laminated with butter called danish here (in Canada) and most everywhere can obviously be traced, even if only in name, back to Denmark.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 9:22 am

  13. Nathan Lim says:

    now that apicio has brought up Brun butter, I’ve always wanted to ask out loud what the deal is with that particular brand of butter. Is it European-style lactic butter? I’ve always been on the lookout for canned Brun butter but all I see are Queensland(?) brand from Australia

    Jun 15, 2007 | 10:14 am

  14. Mila says:

    Yes, another childhood nostalgic moment! My brother and I would fight over the ones with the sugar crystals on top. But lately, the taste never matches the buttery smell for me. For a butter overload, I just buy Vargas pound cake slices.

    Apicio’s comment about Brun butter casts me back to memories of my mother hoarding those tins of brun butter for baking around xmas time. She would recount the days before the war when they’d be P1 a tin or some pre-war cost, and she’d get all dreamy eyed too.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 10:28 am

  15. ann says:

    This is out of topic but check out the July 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living, there is an article titled “Flavors of the Philippines”. It features a merienda party organized by 3 fil-am editors working at the same magazine.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 10:40 am

  16. jo says:

    We get the Royal Dansk variety here. I will keep an eye on the Kjeldsens brand to compare the taste. My son likes to snack on it with milk. The rest of the household prefer it with tea.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 2:21 pm

  17. Apicio says:

    To Nathan Lim and Mila: As with most legends, it is probably a conflation of a variety of things. First, the cream is allowed to ripen with a bacterial culture before churning, a process common in Europe as in the famous artisanal butters of Normandy in France but not adopted by large industrial American and Australian dairies. This process gives it a distinct buttery intensity. Next, the time it spent in storage and in ship holds during its long journey to far flung destinations would likely give it that taste dimension that only the fullness of time grants. But the major factor I suspect, is the endearing magical light that most Filipinos (of that generation) shine on everything that happened before WWII, what they call Peace Time, a period looked back on now with unattainable longing when “douceur de vie” that was well within the reach of everyone reached its apogee and which the war itself brutally ended. And this does not even count the green meadows full of clover that those fortunate Danish cows blissfully grazed on.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 7:10 pm

  18. ykmd says:

    This is funny MM, I like them in that order too! I’m always disappointed when the last “garapata” one is gone, and eat the others just to make the garapata ones last longer :)

    Jun 15, 2007 | 9:31 pm

  19. F1foodie says:

    I asked a Danish friend about the pronunciation and she said it was pronounced as [kelsen], silent j and silent d. I thought it might be “kyeldsen” like Jarlsberg is yarlsberg, but she said that j becomes y only in Norway not Denmark. Silent j and silent d.

    Jun 16, 2007 | 2:29 am

  20. Candygirl says:

    From what I remember (90’s pa so I could be wrong), an advertisement/article from a back issue of Chocolatier featuring Kjeldsens butter cookies said that it’s pronounced as “Yeldsen” or something like that. Funny, but my friend’s Danish boyfriend has not heard of Danish butter cookies. Of course my friend didn’t remember any particular brand so her boyfriend, didn’t know what she was talking about.

    Jun 16, 2007 | 12:26 pm

  21. paolo says:

    Obviously, you like this tin of cookies because it’s a Scandinavian import. Yes, they are pretty and aesthetically packed well for your eyes only. Filipinos are fond of these gimmicks from abroad.

    Personally, I could care less about them. They’re nothing but sugar and saturated fat as in “butter flavor” (minus the real butter). I could not imagine anyone would eat it.

    I would rather brag on something home made, with real butter, fresh from the oven if I were you.

    Jun 16, 2007 | 11:19 pm

  22. Marketman says:

    paolo, I guess there is no defining “taste” or nostalgic foods as certain foods are linked to early experiences, exposure or memories which make them more powerful than just the underlying baked good or item of produce. I like them because I like them. Not because they are Danish. If you bothered to read up on many of the 1,200 posts already in the archives of this blog, you would have noticed that I have posted DOZENS of items on home baked cookies from foreign recipes and local sources as well… You may not enjoy these butter cookies but that doesn’t mean millions of others like myself won’t… Look up broas from Bohol and read those posts before you make firm CONCLUSIONS about why I OBVIOUSLY like something or not…

    Jun 17, 2007 | 6:36 am

  23. Dodi says:

    Funny, but yes, my danish friend does not know of danish butter coookies too! But I totally love these cookies. They’re always good merienda fare during “bisita” emergencies, ubos agad and isang lata!

    Jun 17, 2007 | 4:04 pm

  24. Zita says:

    This tin of cookies would be found very rarely at home when I was growing up. I think my mom kept it for herself =P
    At any rate when it does come out of its hiding place it would be consumed within 30 mins. I also remember having found them at our cupboard and just gorging on them, I would gingerly take the tape off and put it back again so my mom wouldn’t know the difference! I doubt it if my son would have the same fondness for them, I hardly buy from the shops.
    But now that you’ve mentioned it, I might just send a tin over to my mom for her birthday next month along with her pamper kit.

    Jun 18, 2007 | 8:58 am

  25. math says:

    We always had these cookies when we were kids. Am not really fond of them… but my mom likes them though.

    Jun 18, 2007 | 12:58 pm

  26. mia says:

    Wow, and I thought I was the only one who liked them with Coke! (Although now I have them dipped in low-fat, high calcium milk, being preggy and staying away from softdrinks…) I have fond childhood memories of dipping these cookies in Coke and making sipsip the Coke before finally biting off a piece. Particularly enjoyable after a summer swim with my playmates. Amazing what memories food can stir up! :)

    Jun 25, 2007 | 9:07 am

  27. Anne says:

    Ha! I work for Maersk in the US and we get Kjeldsens butter cookies for Christmas every year. I never knew they came in the “famous blue tin” because ours always had a personalized Maersk tin. I love them, though! They’re oh so good! Unfortunately, I can’t eat too many either though, because the company has a “maintain, don’t gain!” (as in weight) program during Christmas that I signed up for.

    Dec 21, 2007 | 3:55 am

  28. antonette says:

    these cookies remind me of my lola!

    Dec 22, 2007 | 10:35 pm

  29. becky says:

    I just bought your new product in Hong Kong – Mini Shortbread Cookies, Mini Biscuits Sables (250g) and found it terribly hard to open the container, in fact, i’m still trying to open it by a “can-opener”.

    I’ve been enjoying the cookies of this brand since i was a kid and wish you’d reconsider the packing of this product !

    Feb 11, 2008 | 12:31 pm

  30. Marketman says:

    becky, thanks for your comment. But I am not connected with Kjeldsens… wasn’t that obvious from the write-up? Or did you bother to read it before tapping out a comment? You can contact the company directly at the link provide in the write-up above.

    Feb 11, 2008 | 2:32 pm

  31. Stella says:

    Hi guys,

    The secret of why danish pastries taste so good is that they use organic ingredients which is not mentioned in the label, but they do in denmark and almost their foods is organic. Kjeldsen is pronounce as “kelsen”. With the last letter s stands for ‘s in english but in danish there’s no apostrophe. Kjeldsen is a common lastname in scandinavia. Kjeldsens cookies is ok taste for me but if u buy cookies straight away to the bakery in denmark… it tastes so much better! That’s y i love to leave here in Copenhagen. It’s so peaceful and everything is free (except food.. hehehehe).

    Mar 21, 2008 | 5:17 am

  32. Janette Boothey says:

    Do you know where you can buy Kjeldsen biscuits in Australia? Once upon a time especially at Christmas you buy them at most supermarkets, recently there have been other brands available but not Kjeldsen brand. My mothers maiden name was Kjeldsen and her parents were were born in Denmark. I would love to be able to buy and share these biscuits with my children.

    Regards and thanks for a great article.


    Aug 2, 2008 | 12:17 pm

  33. Marketman says:

    Janette, I am based in Manila so I am not familiar with retail sources in Australia, but at least one reader above seems to be able to get them in Melbourne. I would guess a Target or more “downscale” food hall rather say David Jones might carry these…

    Aug 2, 2008 | 4:52 pm

  34. NMKjeldsen says:

    These cookies are absolutely splendid. To help settle the name debate – I’ve seen a few people get it right in the comments section, and a few get it wrong. I suppose you could take it from me (seeing as my last name is Kjeldsen) that the pronunciation is indeed “kelsen”. This is what was taught to me by my grandfather who grew up in Denmark. Hopefully that can help settle this.

    Aug 17, 2009 | 4:45 am


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