This Christmas Candy Cane Cookies recipe is a family-favorite cookie that creates sweet holiday memories. Made from a simple cookie dough recipe, with plenty of festive peppermint flavor, the colorful dough is twisted to look like a real candy cane. Always a favorite at Christmas parties and cookie exchanges.
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When I was little, there were only two cookies that I vividly remember my mom making for Christmas. One was Russian Teacakes and while I certainly didn’t turn them down, they weren’t my favorite. But there was one cookie that my mom made for Christmas that I loved: Candy Cane Cookies.
I’ve talked with other people about Candy Cane Cookies over the years. A lot of times, they will me how they made them with their mom for Christmas and, because of that, the cookies always held a special place in their heart. Candy Cane Cookies always seem to be one of the top memory-making Christmas cookies.
But, making candy cane cookies side-by-side with my mother, wasn’t my memory. I don’t recall ever helping my mom make them. I’m not sure if she never thought to have us help, of if she preferred to do it herself, or maybe us kids didn’t want to help, but it wasn’t something I made with my mom.
But while that might seem a bit sad, it’s totally not. Because my memory is that when my mom made those cookies, she was a superstar baker. I didn’t understand how my mom could transform a candy cane into a delightfully sweet cookie. How did she make the two colors? How did she make it all twisted together? Just how did she do it? I asked her. I always asked a lot of questions. But she didn’t give me all her secrets and so the magic remained.
At some point, my mom stopped making Candy Cane Cookies. But her times of making them were enough to seal a memory in my mind. Eventually, when I was a young wife and mom, I made those Candy Cane Cookies for my kids. I’m not sure my kids are as impressed with mine, as I was with my mom’s, but I know they love them and I know that they eat them almost as fast as I can make them. And that’s good enough.
Chilling Your Cookie Dough
You’ll be relieved to know that no magic or superpowers are needed to make these cookies, but there is several important steps.
Because this dough requires you to handle and roll the dough with your hands, the chilling of the dough is VERY important. While all the steps to this recipe need to be followed, I would say it’s most important step. DO NOT skip this step and if your dough begins to get too warm (either due to the heat of your hands, the temperature in your home, etc), it may need to be put back into the refrigerator to chill some more.
Coloring Your Cookie Dough
This Candy Cane Cookie dough is a simple sugar cookie dough, which is divided in half. One half of the dough is left as the original cookie dough color, but the other half is tinted with red food coloring gel.
It is VERY IMPORTANT that you use gel food coloring and that you do not use liquid food coloring. The liquid food coloring will add too much liquid/moisture to the dough to achieve the bright red color. With food coloring gel, you’ll be able to use less food coloring since it’s more concentrated.
Some grocery stores may not carry gel food coloring. I usually buy it at Michaels craft store or JOANN Fabric & Crafts (be sure to use one of their coupons!), but I’ve also seen it at Walmart. Check the usual baking aisle or the craft department. If you have a local bakery supply store, they are also a great resource for food coloring gels.
Shaping Your Candy Cane Cookies
To make a Candy Cane Cookie, you take 1 teaspoon of each color and roll each color out into a “rope” that is about 5″ long. You’ll find that many Candy Cane Cookie recipes will tell you to make the ropes 4″ long. I like the 5″ long because I prefer a more slender candy cane look. The two rope colors are twisted together and then placed on a baking sheet, curving the top to one side so that it forms the look of a candy cane.
If your dough is becoming warm at any point, place it back into the refrigerator.
Crushed Peppermint Topping
The cookies are baked in the oven, giving you just enough time to create a mixture of sugar and finely crushed peppermint candies. For best result, small pieces of peppermint mixed with a finely crushed peppermint is the best mixture (see our photos). If you buy pre-crushed peppermint, you may need to crush it even more by placing it in a bag and smashing it with a rolling pin or crushing it more in a food processor (our preference).
The sugar/crushed peppermint is sprinkled on top of the hot cookies *IMMEDIATELY* after coming out of the oven. It won’t all stick, so don’t worry if it doesn’t. I recommend that you don’t skip this step – it really makes them quite pretty and even more delicious.
Once you’ve added the peppermint sprinkle on top, your Christmas Candy Cane Cookies are done and ready to be enjoyed!
When buying ingredients for these Candy Cane Cookies, please note that we used real butter (not margerine or shortening). Your results may vary if you substitute other ingredients.
Christmas Candy Cane Cookies Recipe
Christmas Candy Cane Cookies Recipe
- 1 cup real butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 egg
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Red food coloring gel
- 2 tablespoons finely crushed peppermint candies
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
In a large bowl, beat together butter, both sugars, both extracts, and egg on low, just until combined. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
Divide dough in half, making sure you have 2 equal portions. Add red food coloring gel to half of the dough until the desired color is reached. Wrap each portion of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 3-4 hours.
In a small bowl, combine peppermint candy and 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To make a candy cane cookie, take 1 level teaspoon of each dough. Roll each teaspoon into a 5″ rope (use a ruler, if necessary). Place one red and one white rope next to each other and begin twisting the two colors together, while pressing ends together so that they won’t unravel.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet, curving the top to one side to form the look of a candy cane. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately sprinkle cookies with the sugar/peppermint mixture.
Move cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.
This recipe adapted from the Betty Crocker Original Candy Cane Cookie recipe
I’d love to hear if you have Christmas Candy Cane Cookie memories – did someone in your family make them? Have you ever made them for your family?