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These candy cane cookies are a holiday favorite. They’re buttery cookies with a hint of peppermint and adorable candy cane shape!
Holiday baking is always my favorite. Every year, I try a few new Christmas cookie recipes, and I always revisit the Christmas cookie classics like these Cheesecake Cookies or these Christmas Pinwheel Cookies. These candy cane cookies are one of those recipes that I’ve made for years and always remind me of being a kid. They’re a tender, buttery cookie with just a hint of peppermint. But it’s the adorable candy cane shape and color that comes from dyeing the cookie dough that makes them irresistible.
The cookies aren’t very sweet, but more like a peppermint infused shortbread.
How to Make Candy Cane Cookies
Making the cookie dough for this recipe is very simple – but they do take a little work to form the dough into the candy cane cookie shape.
- First, you’ll make the cookie dough using the simple creaming method. You’ll beat together the butter and sugars until fluffy, then mix in the 2 egg yolks and peppermint extract. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt – and you’re done making the dough. Easy peasy.
- Then you need to divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. You’ll mix red food coloring into one half of the dough – this is for the red part, and leave the other half without any food coloring (the white part).
- Form both the red and white dough into balls, then wrap each in plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge to chill. Chilling the dough is absolutely mandatory – otherwise, the cookie dough will be too sticky to work with. You’ll need to chill the dough in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Typically I make the dough the day before and then chill it overnight.
- When you’re ready to assemble the cookies, you’ll want to take it out of the fridge about 10 minutes beforehand just so that it isn’t rock hard.
- Section of pieces of the red and white dough that are each about 2 teaspoons in size. I like to use a small cookie scoop for this so they’re uniform in size. But basically you’re looking for amounts that are smaller than a golf ball.
- Then pinch and roll each mound of dough into a little log shape about 4-5 inches long, and you’ll wrap the red and white dough around each other and form into a candy cane shape. Always do this with lightly floured hands on a lightly floured surface so that the dough doesn’t stick. You could also roll them out on a silicone baking mat too or even a piece of parchment paper (although – I find that parchment slides around).
- You can optionally brush a little egg white egg wash on top of each cookie and then sprinkle some coarse sugar or crushed candy canes on top of each. The egg wash helps to make the cookies look a little glossier and makes the sugar or crushed candy canes stick to the top of the cookies.
- Then you can pop the candy canes on a lined cookie sheet, and they’re ready to bake.
Tips, Tricks and Storage
- This recipe was developed using real, unsalted butter. The cookies will not turn out properly if butter is substituted with margarine or shortening.
- Note that the cookie dough uses 2 large egg yolks. Do not add the whole egg or otherwise, the cookies will not turn out.
- If you don’t like peppermint – feel free to leave out the peppermint extract. In its place, add in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon almond extract. The cookies will have a delicious, buttery sugar cookie flavor.
- The amount of food coloring you’ll need is up to you and how vibrant of a red color you want your cookies to have. I typically use gel food coloring because it packs a bigger punch when it comes to coloring the dough. Always start with a few drops, and then add more as needed.
- You can easily make the dough ahead of time. Wrap in plastic, and then chill in the fridge for up to 3 days before you form the dough into candy canes and baking.
- Alternatively, you can make the dough and wrap each ball in plastic. Then place wrapped dough into a freezer container and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw the dough in the fridge overnight, and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
- Baked Candy Cane Cookies can be frozen too. Cool the cookies fully, then place in a freezer container and freeze for up to 2 months.
For more candy cane Christmas recipes, don’t forget these other favorites:
- Candy Cane White Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies
- Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake
- Peppermint Oreo Truffles
- Peppermint Patty Brownies
Candy Cane Cookies
Candy Cane Cookie Dough
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract* or more to taste
- red food coloring
Optional Egg Wash & Topping
- 1 large egg white
- 2 teaspoons milk
- coarse sugar or crushed candy canes
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate large bowl, beat the butter until soft. Beat in the sugars.
- Beat in the egg yolks and peppermint extract.
- With the mixer starting on low speed, beat in the flour mixture.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Wrap the first piece in plastic wrap.
- With the remaining half of the dough, beat in the red food coloring - starting with just a few drops until the desired color is reached.
- Wrap the red dough in plastic wrap. Place both in the fridge for at least 4 hours to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Take the dough out of the fridge. If it's rock hard, let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so it's malleable.
- With lightly floured hands, break off sections of white dough about 2 teaspoons in size. Pinch and roll each section until it's shaped like a log about 4-5 inches long.
- Do the same with the red dough.
- Using one log of the red dough and one of the white dough, wrap the logs around each other and form into a candy cane shape. Place the candy canes 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheet.
- For the optional egg wash - whisk together the egg white and teaspoon of milk, then brush the tops of each cookie and sprinkle the top with sugar or crushed candy canes.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops look set. Cool fully on the tray.