Selling homemade Sarah Bernhardt cookies online is illegal if the makers don’t have the necessary permits, a spokesperson for the National Federation of Master Bakers told RÚV. The labour-intensive but delicious cookie is a popular homemade Christmas treat but due to the work that goes into them, an online black market is blossoming.
The Sarah Bernhardt cookie, popularised by Ástríður Guðmundsdóttir in the early eighties, is a crisp almond cookie, topped with a coffee and chocolate flavoured buttercream and dipped in chocolate. Ástríður found the recipe in a Swedish magazine in 1979 but her addition of coffee to the buttercream is the foundation of the cookie’s popularity in Iceland, where they’re affectionately known as Sörur (Sarahs). The cakes were originally created in Denmark in the early 20th century to commemorate a visit from the French actress the cookies are named for. Christmas cookies are a staple for local Christmas preparation, with many homes producing a wide variety of cookies. Ástríður shared the recipe with her colleagues as a teacher in Melaskóli and later published it in Gestgjafinn food magazine. The cookie’s popularity has only grown through the years and these days, several people earn some extra income before Christmas by making the cookies and selling them online.
“The law is clear, this is completely illegal,” Business Manager with The Federation of Icelandic Industries and coordinator with the National Federation of Master Bakers Gunnar Sigurðarson told RÚV. “Unfortunately. You can make Sarahs at home for charity bake sales or fundraisers, we have regulations that allow for that, but as soon as you’re baking for profit, you’re at the same table as others, including professional bakers.” Permits are necessary for the sale of baked goods, and taxes and other fees need to be paid. Public health authorities also need to monitor food production. Gunnar says the rules come from the authorities and the responsibility doesn’t lie with the Federation of Master Bakers.
Ástríður agrees with the bakers’ point of view: “Of course people are taking a risk buying Sarahs from strangers, you don’t know what their home is like.” She added, however, that she prefers the homemade version to the ones available in bakeries.