Gnyanakatha (Sri Lankan Traditional Cookies)


“Gnyanakatha” is one of another popular teatime delights in Sri Lanka since a long way back.  My father-in-law (born in 1940s) states that he liked them since he was a child. So, for sure its origin must be beyond 60 years ago. What I really like about this simple but unique delight is its texture. For the tongue, it is a sweet cocktail of tenderness and crunchiness. It is like a hybrid of a butter cake and a butter cookie. I always wanted learn how to make Gnyanakatha but couldn’t find the correct recipe. I tried a one that was online sometimes ago and it did not have the original taste. Finally, I got this recipe from a reputed baker in Colombo area, Sri Lanka. Actually, he gave me the recipe using 2kg of flour and I adjusted it for 500g of flour. Well, I hope you guys will like this.


  • 500 g of all-purpose flour
  • 100g of sugar (granulated) for the dough (Don’t use icing sugar)
  • 100g of salted butter or margarine** ; Softened
  • 2 whole eggs (beaten)
  • ½ a cup of granulated sugar for glazing (Preferably, larger granules)
  • 2 tsp of baking powder

Note: Use of butter against margarine

Although salted butter should be your first option, you also can use margarine. Particularly, if you can, find a margarine little similar in taste to ‘Astra margarine’ (found in Sri Lanka). To be frank, I have made this using several margarine brands in Canada and still was not able to get that unique taste of it. So, if you are living away from Sri Lanka, use only butter or experiment with the brands of margarines that you have. Sometime ago, I met a bakery owner in Sri Lanka and I asked him what exactly that they use to make them. Well, he said that they use both margarine and butter while butter is the preferred ingredient. He also stated that Astra margarine is the brand that most of the bakeries are using. Anyways, it’s up to you to decide and my advice is to go with butter.


How to make Gnyanakatha

First, mix the soften butter with the flour. Do this gently with your finger tips and make sure that they are well combined.


Remember, this is an important step of this recipe, so take your time. Then, bring in 2 tsp of baking powder and continue mixing with finger tips until you feel like that it’s been spread evenly.


Remember, you shouldn’t swift baking powder with flour prior mixing with butter, as we do when making cakes. After, add the sugar and the beaten eggs and knead the dough for 2 minutes. At this point you can even use an electric mixer with a dough hook. Now, cover the dough with either a damped cloth or a polythene sheet and keep it aside for 2 hours.


After about 1hr 45mins, start preheating the oven to 350 °F. Then, spread the rest of the sugar on a plate for glazing. Now, make small balls out of the dough and press in between your palms and form semicircular units.


Then, press the top side (semicircular side) of each on the sugar and get glazed.


Remember, our goal is to only glaze the top side, so make sure not to get sugar stick on its bottom surface as much as possible. Then, place them on a baking tray leaving enough space in between each other so that they can rise without pressing on to the neighbors. Don’t forget to use a metal tray instead of a glass tray. Now, the first 10 minutes, bake them under 350 °F and raise the temperature to 375 °F and continue backing for 10 minutes more. Thereafter, take them out of the oven and let them cool down for around 2 hours. For your information, soon as you take them out of the oven you will find them to be softer than it should be. Don’t worry, it will get to the expected texture once they will completely cool down. So be patient a bit




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