Candy Cane Cookies are a festive, easy Christmas Cookie. Made with a simple cookie dough that is dyed and twisted together to form the classic shape of candy canes, these Christmas Candy Cane Cookies are buttery, tender, and perfectly delicious.
Baking Christmas cookies with my family and friends is one of my most cherished holiday memories. From baking Christmas cookies with my grandma and mom to baking cookies with my own children, it is one of the sweetest traditions.
Reasons to Love Candy Cane Cookies
- Fun to Make. Similar to a cut-out sugar cookie, candy cane cookies are more time-consuming than a simple drop cookie, but the results are worth it and the process is actually quite fun for kids to help with!
- Buttery and Delicious. This recipe is made with a simple butter cookie dough. They are tender and buttery and remind me of classic shortbread cookies. Perfect for dipping into a mug of Peppermint Mocha, Christmas Tea, or Hot Chocolate.
- Store Well. Candy cane cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to a week or frozen for up to a month to enjoy the entire holiday season.
- Adaptable. While my family has never made these candy cane cookies with the addition of peppermint extract, you certainly can opt to flavor the cookies with peppermint if desired.
Notes On Ingredients
- Butter: Be sure to unsalted butter for these cookies, to control the level of salt yourself. You also want your butter to be at room temperature so that it creams easily into the batter.
- Red Food Coloring: You can use either gel or liquid red food coloring to achieve the classic red dough for the candy cane braid. I opt to purchase all-natural red food coloring, but any variety will work.
- Extract: I use both almond and vanilla extract, just as I do in my sugar cookie recipe. This gives the cookies a nice sweet, nutty flavor.
- Powdered Sugar: The powdered sugar will dissolve easily into the cookie dough, keeping it tender, light, and flaky.
- Extract: I use both vanilla and almond extract to flavor the candy cane cookies.
- Sparkling Sugar: I love finishing the cookies with a bit of coarse sugar. You can use clear or red, or a combination of the two. The sparkling sugar adds a nice sweet crunch to the cookies, but it is totally optional.
Peppermint-Flavored Candy Cane Cookies
This recipe for Candy Cane Cookies is a simple buttery cookie. If you would like to flavor them with mint to compliment the candy cane shape, follow the following modifications.
- Omit the almond extract and replace it with ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract to the cookie dough when you add the vanilla extract to the batter. Peppermint extract is very strong, so you don't want to go overboard and add too much, or your cookies may end up tasting like toothpaste.
- If desired, sprinkle the cookies with ½ cup of crushed candy canes. Not only does this add a festive touch, but it indicates the flavor of the cookies. Just be sure to sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the cookies as soon as you remove them from the oven, as that will help the crushed candy adhere to the cookies.
How to Make Candy Cane Cookies
The following tips are provided to help you achieve perfect results. You will find the detailed instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step One: Prepare the cookie dough. The dough for candy cake cookies comes together easily using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Keep in mind that once you add the flour, mix on low until just folded together. You don't want to overwork the dough or you will end up with a tough cookie.
Step Two: Dye half the dough red. In order to achieve the red and white striped aesthetic of a classic candy cane, half the dough needs to be dyed a vibrant red color. I like to remove half the dough from the mixing bowl and then add several drops of red food coloring to the dough remaining in the mixing bowl. Be sure to add enough red food coloring to ensure the dough is a bright and vibrant red.
Step Three: Chill the cookie dough. The dough will be much easier to shape once fully chilled. The chilling will also help prevent the cookies from spreading and hold their shape when baked. This can be done up to 2 days prior to baking if desired.
Step Four: Shape the candy cane cookies. Once the dough is fully chilled the fun truly begins! If you have willing helpers, now is the time to put them to work to help you shape the candy cane cookies and make some memories in the process. One tip is to place a white and red log of dough next to each other before shaping the candy canes so that you ensure they are the same length.
Step Five: Chill the candy cane cookies. In order for the candy cane cookies to hold their classic shape and not turn into blobs, it is crucial to chill the dough for 15 to 30 minutes once the cookies are shaped.
Step Six. Add sparkling sugar. To add a little sparkle to the candy cane cookies, sprinkle the cookies with sanding or sparkling sugar before baking.
Step Seven: Bake. Bake the cookies until just beginning to turn a light golden on the bottom. You don't want to overbake the cookies, they will continue to set up as they cool.
Storing & Freezing Candy Cane Cookies
- Storage: Candy Cane Cookies should be stored in an airtight container after they have cooled completely. They will keep for up to one week at room temperature.
- Freeze: You can freeze candy cane cookies for up to 1 month. I highly recommend freezing the candy cane cookies in a freezer-safe container rather than a freezer-safe bag, as the delicate shape can easily be broken if tossed too much in the freezer.
More Festive Christmas Recipes
If you enjoyed this Candy Cane Cookie Recipe, I would love for you to leave a review and comment below.
Candy Cane Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red food coloring
- 2 teaspoons sparkling sugar optional
- In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, then add in the egg, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt. Beat again on medium speed until everything is fully incorporated.
- Add the flour to the creamed ingredients, and mix on low speed until JUST incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
- Divide the dough in half and remove half the dough from the mixing bowl. Add ½ teaspoon of red food coloring to the remaining dough left in the mixing bowl. Fold the food coloring into the dough, using a spatula or your hands until the dough is evenly dyed. If needed add up to ½ teaspoon of additional food coloring until the dough is a bright, vibrant red.
- Pat each half of the dough into 1-inch thick disks and wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days to fully allow the cookie dough to chill.
- When ready to shape the cookies, line two large baking sheets or cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Cut off about ½ tablespoon of dough from each disk of dough, so that you have both a red and white section of dough. Using your palm, not your fingers, roll each section of dough into a thick rope about 5 inches long, ensuring that each log of dough is the same length.
- Pinch the tops of the white and red ropes together and twist them together, curving the top of the dough into a candy cane shape. Place the shaped candy cane cookie onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart. Repeat the process until no dough remains.
- Place the baking sheets with the shaped candy cane cookies into the refrigerator and chill for 15-30 minutes before baking. During this time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Once the oven has preheated and the cookies have chilled, remove the baking sheets from the refrigerator and sprinkle the sparkling sugar over the cookies.
- Bake until the bottom edges are just barely starting to turn lightly golden, about 8-10 minutes.
- Once golden, remove the cookies from the oven. Cool the cookies for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer them to wire cooling racks and cool completely.
- Omit the almond extract and replace it with ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract to the cookie dough when you add the vanilla extract to the batter.
- Omit the sparkling sugar, and instead sprinkle the cookies with ½ cup of crushed candy canes as soon as you remove them from the oven.