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Candy Cane Cookies

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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, 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.

Stacked cookies shaped like candy canes

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.  

Until now.

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.
  • Rolled and cut-out – for your classic shaped sugar cookies.
  • Drop – if you want to make a super easy batch of cookies, scoop the dough with a cookie scoop.   Easy.
A tray of candy cane twist cookies

What You Need To Make The Cookies

For these shaped Candy Cane Cookies, the ingredients and equipment is pretty, darn, easy.

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar – I have only tested the recipe with regular sugar.
  • Egg yolk
  • 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
  • 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.

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.
  • Plastic wrap
  • Baking sheets – My go-to baking sheets are from Nordic Ware.  I have every size and for small batch cookies I always use the half-sheet.
  • Parchment paper 
  • Cooling rack – Another Nordic Ware find.  And it is the perfect size for the baking sheet.
A Christmas peppermint twist cookie with milk

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, you can 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.
  • Chill the dough – I’m becoming even more of an advocate for chilling cookie dough.  Dough likes some time to relax.  And after all of the mixing and kneading, it is nice to give it a rest and it gives the dough time to hydrate.  Also, a good rest will give the ingredients time to mingle and yield a flavorful cookie.
  • Shape the cookies before chillingThis is optional, but shaping the cookies before you chill them may make shaping the cookies into candy canes easier.  Otherwise, bring the chilled dough to room temperature before shaping.
  • 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.  Bottom line – there are no rules when it comes to making the shape of this cookie. 
  • 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.  
Festive candy cane cookies

Common Questions For Making Candy Cane Cookies

Can this cookie recipe be doubled?

I have not tested it, but I think it would work.

Will a gluten free 1:1 flour work to make these cookies gluten free?

I have not tested this cookie recipe with a gluten free flour blend, and I can’t say how they will turn out.

Can I add more peppermint?

You certainly can, I would just caution to be careful. A little peppermint goes a long way!

Is it necessary to refrigerate the dough?

I say yes. Giving the dough time to rest allows the dough to hydrate, the butter to firm up, and the flavors develop.

Can I shape the cookies first, then refrigerate them?

Yes! See the Recipe for notes on shaping the cookies before chilling.

The dough is too crumbly to roll into the logs and shape. What should I do?

Let the dough come to room temperature for a little longer. You can also gently knead the dough to get it form. Don’t overwork it though, or the cookies will turn out tough.

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

The cookie batter gets handled quite a bit with the rolling and shaping. Giving them a few more minutes in the fridge allows the butter to firm up.

Do I really have to bake one baking sheet at a time?

You don’t. But this is my preference so I don’t have to worry about rotating the pans mid bake.

Can I freeze the dough?

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.

Can I freeze the cookies after baking?

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.

More Christmas Cookie Recipes

Two candy candy cane cookies
Two perfect peppermint twist holiday cookies
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4.5 from 8 reviews

Candy Cane Cookies

Yield: 1 Dozen (approx.)
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!  
Prep15 mins
Cook9 mins
Chill2 hrs
Total2 hrs 24 mins
High Altitude Adjustment: May not require full bake time. Start checking for doneness at minimum bake time if noted.

Ingredients

Butter Cookie

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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 only 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.
  • Chilling Options – At this time, you can either wrap the two doughs separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Or, you can shape the cookies (see below for shaping), place on the prepared baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • 30 minutes before you are ready to make the cookies – remove the dough from the refrigerator and let come to room temp on the counter. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Note – If you chose to refrigerate shaped cookies, you do not need the cookies to come to room temp. Skip below to the baking instructions.
  • Shaping the Cookies – Take 2 teaspoons of each dough at a time to make a candy cane cookie – 1. (separately) Roll each color of dough into a ball with the palms of your hands. 2. Roll each dough ball into a rope 5 inches long. 3. Gently press the two dough ropes together. 3. 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. 4. Once you have your dough swirled, roll the rope a couple more times to smooth out any seams. 5. Gently curve the top to make the top of your candy cane. 6. Optional – sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar or sprinkles.
  • Note – if you find your dough to be crumbly as you are forming the dough balls and rope, let the dough sit at room temp for a few more minutes – it may be too cold. Another option – when you are making the small dough balls, you can knead the small dough balls 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.
  • Place your cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. At this point, 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.
  • Baking the Cookies – One baking sheet at a time – bake the cookies for 9-11 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!

Notes

  • 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.    
  • 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.
Check out the blog post for more Tips and FAQ’s!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich
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4 thoughts on “Candy Cane Cookies”

  1. 3 stars
    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

    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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