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Candy Cane Cookies

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Enjoy the nostalgic flavors of Christmas with this small batch recipe for candy cane cookies. These soft and tender cookies are reminiscent of a candy cane twist, with a delicious balance of vanilla and peppermint. Perfect for holiday baking and cookie swaps!

A pretty stack of candy cane swirl cookies on a table.

Candy Cane Cookies For The Holidays

I published this recipe in 2020, and they continue to put a smile on my face every season!  The candy cane cookies are like a literal reference to Christmas for me.  The iconic shape of a candy cane and the flavor of peppermint.  So it seems fitting that they are popping back up on the blog as we prepare for Santa’s arrival!

These cookies, along with the chocolate crinkle cookies and snickerdoodles, have been a holiday staple in my family for years.  Probably because Betty 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.

Red and white candy cane cookies in a pile on a table.

Why You’ll Love These Christmas Cookies

  • Buttery and tender – The recipe is adapted from my butter cookies.  As the name implies, the butter in the cookies adds to the flavor and soft texture.
  • Lightly sweet – I’m sure we are all enjoying our share of indulgent treats this time of year!  (Eggnog cupcakes anyone?!)  But these cookies are a refreshing twist on all the sweets.  There is a delicate sweetness to the cookies that allows the peppermint and vanilla to shine.
  • Holiday icon – These cookies represent the shape and flavors of the holidays. 
  • Peppermint – Peppermint makes frequents visits this time of year.  Like in my white chip peppermint cookies, peppermint patty brownies, and peppermint thumbprints.  And it combines with vanilla in these delicious candy cane cookies!
  • Cute for cookie swaps – The fun candy cane shaped cookies are sure to put a smile on someone’s face!
Cute Christmas swirl cookie hooked off a glass of milk.

These candy cane cookies are certain to be a hit when jolly old Saint Nick finds his way down the chimney!  The delightful taste and appearance make the cookies a wonderful selection to set next the glass of milk.

Sparkling candy cane cookies placed next to each other on a table.

Everything You Need To Make Candy Cane Cookies

Key Ingredients

  • Unsalted Butter – Unsalted since we add our own salt. 
  • Granulated Sugar – I have only tested the recipe with regular white, granulated sugar.
  • Egg Yolk – The egg yolk makes the cookies tender and helps to bind the dough.
  • Milk – A little milk makes the dough soft and easy to shape.
  • 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, but a gluten free version is on my list!
  • Salt – Salt is a wonderful flavor enhancer.
  • Red Food Coloring – A few drops is all you need.  I recommend a color gel for a deeper flavor, but if all you have is the liquid food coloring, that will work.
  • Sanding Sugar or Crushed Candy Canes – These are optional, but they will add a little touch of sparkle on the cookies.

Baking Equipment

  • 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.
  • Baking Sheets Lined with Parchment Paper – I like to use my half sheet baking pans for cookies.
A pretty stack of candy cane swirl cookies on a table.

Candy Cane Cookies Success Tips

  • Bake one baking sheet at at time – I don’t like to bake 2 baking sheets at a time because I find cookies don’t bake evenly if you have to open the oven door, let out the heat, and rotate pans.
  • Shape and bake in 2 batches – To make shaping, chilling, and baking more efficient, I recommend shaping 7 cookies first. While these are chilling, you can shape the next 7 and chill those while the first batch is baking.
  • Chill the cookies before baking – The dough gets handled a bit to make the candy cane shape.  I recommend giving them time to chill in the refrigerator helpful so they don’t spread.
  • Making the candy cane swirl – Rather than trying to twist the colored dough ropes together, I find stacking the dough ropes together, then rolling to be easier.  And less chance of having the dough break.  
  • Add some sparkle sprinkles to the cookies before baking  –  To give the cookies a little shimmer!
Pretty stack of Christmas swirl cookies next to a glass of milk.

faq’s

Can this cookie recipe be doubled?

I haven’t tested a larger batch. If you try it, I recommend omitting the milk and use 1 whole egg.

Is it necessary to refrigerate the dough?

Yes! Giving the dough time to rest allows the dough to hydrate, the butter to firm up, and the flavors develop.

The dough is getting sticky and crumbly when I try to shape it, what should I do?

Re-wrap the dough in plastic wrap and stick it back in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.

Why do I have to refrigerate the cookies after I have shaped them?

The cookie dough gets handled quite a bit with the rolling and shaping. Give the cookies some time to chill and firm up in the fridge.

Can I freeze candy cane cookie dough.

Yes, the dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. I recommend chilling the dough first, before you freeze it. This will eliminate unnecessary moisture that may change the texture of the dough while it is freezing. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, chill, then place in a freezer bag to freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator.

Can I freeze baked candy cane cookies?

Yes, the candy cane cookies can be frozen up to 3 months. Gently place the cookies in a freezer bag(s).  Thaw at room temperature.

Two candy cane swirl cookies stacked on top of each other on a table.
Red and white candy cane cookies in a pile on a table.
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4.50 from 14 reviews

Candy Cane Cookies

Yield: 14 Cookies
Enjoy the nostalgic flavors of Christmas with this easy small batch recipe for candy cane cookies. These soft and tender cookies are reminiscent of a candy cane twist, with a delicious balance of vanilla and peppermint. Perfect for holiday baking and cookie swaps!
Prep40 minutes
Cook10 minutes
Chill3 hours
Total3 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk, room temperature (any kind)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 to 3 drops red food coloring
  • white sparkling sugar (optional)

Instructions

  • In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and creamy. Add the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined – scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 large egg yolk, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons milk, room temperature
  • Turn the mixer 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 until it is no longer crumbly and a dough forms.
    1 ¼ cups all purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Turn off the mixer and remove half of the dough. Gently knead the dough together with your hands to form a ball. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.
  • With the remaining dough in the mixer, 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. Add more food coloring to get your desired color – I recommend a drop at a time. Gently knead the dough together with your hands to form a ball. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.
    ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract, 2 to 3 drops red food coloring
  • Refrigerate the dough discs for 2 to 3 hours.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with a piece of parchment paper.
  • Shape the cookies
    1. To make shaping, chilling, and baking more efficient, I recommend shaping 7 cookies first. While these are chilling, you can shape the next 7 and chill those while the first batch is baking.
    2. Use a teaspoon for each dough to not cross colors. Take 2 teaspoons of each dough.
    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. Gently hold one end, and roll the dough rope in one direction so it starts to twist and make the swirl.
    7. Once you have your dough swirled, roll the rope a couple more times to smooth out any seams.
    8. Gently curve the top to make the top of your candy cane.
    9. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Optional – Sprinkle the cookies with sparkle sugar for a little shimmer.
    10. Refrigerate the baking sheet with shaped cookies for 10 minutes. The cookies will benefit from time to chill again so they don't spread.
    11. While the first batch of cookies are chilling, shape the remaining and follow the steps to chill and bake.
    Note – If the dough starts to get too sticky, or hard to roll without breaking, re-wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up.
  • Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the edges are set and barely start to golden.
  • 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. The cookies can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.
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RECIPE NOTES

  • Serving Size – This is a small batch recipe.  I have not tested a larger batch.  If you try it, I would recommend omitting the milk and using 1 whole egg.
  • Yield – As written, the recipe will yield 14 cookies.  The number of cookies will depend on how large or small you make them.
  • Bake One Sheet At A Time – I prefer to bake one baking sheet at a time to get an even bake on the cookies.  Otherwise, opening the oven and having to rotate pans may yield an uneven bake and it lets the heat out of the oven.
  • Shape and Bake in Batches – Since we bake one baking sheet at a time, shape the cookies in two batches.  While the first batch of shaped cookies is chilling, shape the second batch.  This creates an efficient rotation for shaping, chilling, and baking.  Also, you only have one baking sheet in the refrigerator at a time!
  • Chill Shaped Cookies – To avoid spreading, refrigerate the shaped cookies for 10 minutes before baking.  This will give the dough time to firm up.
  • Freezing the Cookie Dough – The cookie dough can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the refrigerator first.  This will eliminate any extra moisture that may alter the texture as it freezes.  Then, place in a freezer bag.  Thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Freezing Baked Cookies – Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Gently place in a freezer bag and thaw at room temperature. 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich
Nutrition information is calculated by a third-party and should only be considered an estimate and not a guarantee.
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about the author ...

I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!

I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch gluten free and traditional desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you! Click here to learn more about me!

4.50 from 14 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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comments & reviews

6 thoughts on “Candy Cane Cookies”

  1. 1 star
    My daughter and I followed this recipe and instructions for chilling then room temperature exactly. However, when it came time to roll the ‘ropes’ for twisting the red and vanilla dough together, they kept cracking and breaking apart. The dough was at room temperature, too. It is a cute idea but honestly this recipe needs tweaking. I can see why the photo on Pinterest only has 3 candy cane cookies in it 🙂

    1. Sorry the recipe didn’t work for you Ali. I have made some adjustments to the recipe to make shaping the cookies easier. Thanks for trying it though!

  2. 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.

    1. Wonderful to hear you are trying the cookies! Thanks for visiting the blog and trying the recipe! Happy Holidays!

    1. Erin | Butter and Bliss

      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.

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