Candy Cane Cookies are a classic for Christmas! A easy small batch of cookies with twisted flavors of vanilla and peppermint – reminiscent of a candy cane twist. The cookies are soft and tender and are certain to keep you on the nice list!
Candy Cane Cookies For Christmas
These candy cane cookies are like a literal reference to Christmas. The iconic shape of a candy cane and the flavor of peppermint. So it seems fitting that they are popping up on the blog a week before Santa arrives.
These cookies, along with the chocolate crinkle cookies and snickerdoodles, have been a holiday staple in my family for years. Probably because Better Crocker made them a holiday highlight in her Cooky Book. I’ve mentioned this cookbook a few times now – it is worth adding to your library.
Small Batch Of Christmas Cookies
Full disclosure – I attempted these cookies last year. And failed miserably. I couldn’t get the cookies to shape ‘pretty’, and they spread like melted butter when baked. And in true Grinch form, I got frustrated and vowed never to make them again.
The cookie dough is actually the same dough from my butter cookies. Needless to say, I’m in love with this dough. The dough is soft and tender and almost has a ‘sandy’ texture. Which gives the cookies a good bite. Also, the cookies are not super sweet like a lot of holiday cookies.
And the small batch recipe lends itself perfectly for holiday cookies. Why? This cookie recipe makes approximately one dozen cookies. Of course, the size and shape of the cookie can yield a different quantity.
With this small batch of cookie dough, you can make a variety of cookies:
- Shaped – i.e. this recipe.
- Slice and bake – the dough is formed into a log and sliced when it is cold – like the lemon shortbread cookies.
- Rolled and cut-out – for your classic shaped sugar cookies. Similar to my gluten free cut-out sugar cookies, marshmallow sugar cookies, or classic gingerbread cookies.
- Drop – if you want to make a super easy batch of cookies, scoop the dough with a cookie scoop. Easy. Like chocolate chip or double chocolate chip cookie easy!
What You Need To Make The Christmas Cookies
For these shaped candy cane cookies, the ingredients and equipment is pretty, darn, easy.
- Unsalted butter – Unsalted so we can control the salt level.
- Granulated sugar – I have only tested the recipe with regular sugar.
- Egg yolk – The egg yolk makes the cookies tender, and helps with binding the cookies.
- Vanilla extract – You could also try other extract flavors. Almond would make a lovely cookie.
- Peppermint extract – A little goes a long way.
- All purpose flour – I have only test the recipe with AP flour.
- Salt – Salt is a wonderful flavor enhancer.
- Red food coloring – A few drops is all you need.
- Sugar or sugar sprinkles – Optional, but I like the little touch of sparkle on the cookies.
- Stand mixer – Another small batch recipe in which I chose to use my Kitchen Aid! If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand held mixer will work fine.
- Ruler – To measure your dough ropes.
- Plastic wrap
- Baking sheets
- Parchment paper
- Cooling rack
Tips For Making Candy Cane Cookies
- These cookies are not super sweet – You can certainly add a little more sweetness by sprinkling the cookies with sugar.
- These cookies are not super minty – If you want a peppermint forward cookie, add more peppermint extract. However, I would not add more than a 1/4 of a teaspoon. This is my flavor opinion. You can always taste a tiny amount of the peppermint dough and add more peppermint extract if you like.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl as you mix – Even though we are using a stand mixer, this is still a small batch and we want to make sure ingredients aren’t sticking to the sides or bottom of the mixing bowl.
- The dough needs time to chill AND must be shaped at room temperature – Contradictory, I know. But to successfully shape the cookies, it must be at room temperature. But, we also need to give the dough some time to chill to let the dough hydrate, the flavors develop, and the butter to firm.
- Shape the cookies before chilling – I provide steps in the recipe to shape the cookies before or after chilling the dough. However, I have found that shaping the cookies right after you make the dough may be easier. Then chill the shaped cookies.
- The chilled dough is crumbly – This goes with my tip above. Keep this in mind if you choose to chill the dough first. It must be at room temperature to shape the cookies successfully. Otherwise, if you don’t have the time (or patience) to let the chilled dough come to room temp, shape the cookies first.
- Making the candy cane shape – I have provided the way I twisted the two dough colors together. But you may have seen (or practiced) another way that works better for you.
- The number of cookies can vary, however this is still a small batch. Depending on how large or small you shape your cookies, you can get more or less cookies. I was able to make 12 cookies.
- Devour cooled cookies – These cookies taste much better when they have cooled completely.
faq’s: How To Make Candy CAne Cookies
I have not tested it, but I think it would work.
I have not tested this cookie recipe with a gluten free flour blend, and I can’t say how they will turn out. If you’re looking for gluten free cookies and desserts, check out my gluten free recipes!
You certainly can, I would just caution to be careful. A little peppermint goes a long way!
Yes. Giving the dough time to rest allows the dough to hydrate, the butter to firm up, and the flavors develop.
Yes – in fact that is my preferred method. See the recipe for notes on shaping the cookies before chilling.
Let the dough come to room temperature for a little longer. You can also gently knead the dough to get it to form. Don’t overwork it though, or the cookies will turn out tough.
The cookie batter gets handled quite a bit with the rolling and shaping. Giving them some time to chill and relax in the fridge. This also allows the butter to firm up.
You don’t. But this is my preference so I don’t have to worry about rotating the pans mid bake.
Yes, this dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap generously in plastic wrap, and place in a Ziploc bag to freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator when ready to use.
Yes, the cookies can be frozen up to 3 months. Either in a Tupperware, or gently placed in a Ziploc bag. Defrost the cookies at room temperature – may take 1 to 3 hours.
Candy Cane Cookies
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (plus more for sprinkles )
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 to 3 drops Red Food Coloring
- In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment – Add the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light an fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated – scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Turn the mixer down to low speed and sprinkle in the salt, then flour in a few increments – letting the flour mix in before adding the next increment. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. After adding the last increment of flour, let the dough mix for about a minute until it starts to form a rough dough. The dough will be crumbly.
- Turn off the mixer and remove half of the dough. Gently knead the dough together with your hands until it forms a ball. Set aside on a piece of plastic wrap or baking sheet.
- With the remaining dough in the stand mixer bowl, add the peppermint extract and 2 drops of red food coloring. Turn the mixer on low and beat until the food coloring starts to color the dough. You can add more food coloring to get your desired color of red – I recommend a drop at a time. Once the dough is mostly red (there can still be little streaks of white, since we are going to knead the dough into a ball), turn off the mixer and gently knead the dough together with your hands until it forms a ball.
- Important Note – To shape the cookies easily, the dough must be at room temperature. AND, the dough ALSO needs time to chill for the flour to hydrate, the flavors to develop, and the butter to set. See the two options below.
- Option 1 (Preferred Method) – Shape the cookies after mixing, then chill the shaped cookies. See below for shaping cookies. Place the shaped cookies on the prepared baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Then follow the steps below for baking. Tip – This option is best if you have room in the fridge for 2 baking sheets and don't want to wait for the dough to come to room temperature to shape.
- Option 2 – Chill the dough after mixing – Wrap the two doughs separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. 1 hour before you are ready to make the cookies, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature on the counter. See below for shaping cookies, then follow the remaining steps in order. Tip – This option is best if you are limited on fridge space and have the time to let the dough come to room temperature before shaping.
- Option 2 Tips – If you find your dough to be crumbly as you are shaping the cookies, let the dough sit at room temp for a few more minutes – it may be too cold. Another option – as you are making the small dough balls to form the ropes, knead them a little more to get the dough to a workable temperature. Don't knead too much though – we don't want the cookies to be tough.
- Shape the cookies 1. Take 2 teaspoons of each dough at a time to make a candy cane cookie 2. Separately, roll each color of dough into a ball with the palms of your hands. 3. Roll each dough ball into a rope 5 inches long. 4. Gently press the two dough ropes together. 5. Roll the dough rope in one direction so it starts to twist and make the swirl. You can also hold one end of the rope and gently twist the other end to make the swirl. 6. Once you have your dough swirled, roll the rope a couple more times to smooth out any seams. 7. Gently curve the top to make the top of your candy cane. 8. Optional – sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar or sprinkles.
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
- Place your cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Note – If you chose option 2 for chilling the dough, I recommend placing your shaped cookies back in the fridge for about 10 minutes. With all of the rolling and shaping, it is good to let the dough relax and the butter to firm back up.
- Bake the cookies – One baking sheet at a time, bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the edges just start to golden. Note – While the first baking sheet of cookies are baking, refrigerate the other baking sheet of cookies until ready.
- Cool the cookies on the baking sheet set on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to the cooling rack to cool completely. Happy Holidays!
- The cookies are not overly sweet – The (optional) sugar sprinkles on top add a little more sweet.
- The cookies are not overly minty – A little peppermint extract goes a long way. However, if you want a peppermint punch in your cookies, you can add a little more. I don’t recommend using more than 1/4 teaspoon. You can taste a small bit of your red dough after you add the peppermint extract to taste test.
- Chilling the dough – Even though we want to work with room temperature dough when shaping the cookies, I still recommend chilling the dough for at least a couple of hours. This gives the dough time to hydrate and the flavors to develop before baking.
- The dough needs to be at room temperature to shape it – Cold dough will be too crumbly.
- Shaping the candy canes – There are a variety of ways to twist the the two dough colors form the iconic swirl. My method works for me, but you may find another method to be better for you.
- The number of cookies can vary, however this is still a small batch. Depending on how large or small you shape your cookies, you can get more or less cookies.
- Freezing the Cookie Dough – The cookie dough can be frozen – for up to 3 months. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap generously in plastic wrap, and place in a Ziploc bag to freeze.
- Freezing Baked Cookies – Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months. Either in a Tupperware, or gently placed in a Ziploc bag. Defrost the cookies at room temperature – may take 1 to 3 hours.
8 thoughts on “Candy Cane Cookies”
Just made these, well almost, they are chilling. I rolled and shaped before hand and they came together nicely. I like that it is a small batch as well. I don’t have to feel guilty for eating too many cookies. Can’t wait to try them.
Wonderful to hear you are trying the cookies! Thanks for visiting the blog and trying the recipe! Happy Holidays!
Hi I love your cookies they look so cute ☺️ I tried the recipe it was simply and quick to get dough together. I chilled it over night and brought it to room temp but still found it very difficult to roll out logs it would crack on the ends or middle. I let it warm up more but after an hour I tried again and the 9 logs keep getting smaller so i said screw it and made what I had managed to keep together. I think the idea is super cute the flavor could use a little more tweaking for my preference but over all good directions, simple recipe to customize and great idea! Thank you
Can these cookies be frozen and then defrosted when ready to serve?
Hi Jen – Yes, the cookies can be frozen. I’d recommend freezing them flat so they don’t break, and it will likely take 1 to 3 hours for them to defrost.
This dough is impossible to work with. As soon as I mixed it I was like there is no way this will rollout even when chilled. And I was right — after chilling and then trying to roll out logs the dough kept crumbling and wouldn’t stay together. Super disappointing.
Sorry it didn’t work for you Michelle. As I note in the recipe instructions, the dough works best when it is at room temperature.