Candy Cane Shortbread Cookies

published Nov 26, 2022
Strawberry-Mint Candy Cane Shortbread Recipe

Fruity meets minty in these tender shortbread cookies with a cool and festive look perfect for the holidays.

Makes27 (8-inch) cookies

Prep40 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes

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candy cane cookies on plate
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling; Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Sarah Smart

This recipe is a part of Secret Family Cookies — a dozen recipes from our favorite bakers, inspired by the people who make them feel at home. Get all the amazing cookies here.

Christmas cookie season was a thing in my house when I was growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money to buy gifts for friends and family, but my mother worked in restaurants so she could pretty easily secure 25-pound bags of flour and sugar as well as a case of butter.

We started in mid-December, making various doughs and fillings after dinner, then baking, cooling, cutting, and decorating on the weekends. By Christmas Eve we had tins of assorted cookies ready to be gifted to loved ones. There were at least six varieties per season: seven-layer bars, powder sugar-coated pecan tea cakes, linzer cookies, crispy oatmeal raisin cookies that were more like a delicate tuile, chocolate chip, and, the most festive of all, Betty Crocker’s candy cane cookies.

My mom altered the recipes a bit each year, building on her accumulated notes, making substitutions, and trying new things. I have continued to play with her cookie recipes, and while I might not make nearly as many as we used to, nothing makes the holiday season look and feel as festive as candy cane cookies. Mine are light on the peppermint with a touch of strawberry (there are freeze-dried strawberries in the red stripe) and some sparkle.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling; Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Sarah Smart

Strawberry-Mint Candy Cane Shortbread Recipe

Fruity meets minty in these tender shortbread cookies with a cool and festive look perfect for the holidays.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes

Makes 27 (8-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 1/3 cup

    whole milk

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    freeze-dried strawberries (about 2 1/4 cups)

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    peppermint extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red food color

  • 1 cup

    white sparkling or sanding sugar

Instructions

  1. Place 2 sticks unsalted butter, 1/3 cup whole milk, and 1 large egg in a large bowl and let sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

  2. Meanwhile, place 1 1/2 ounces freeze-dried strawberries in a mini food processor or blender. Starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high, process into a powder. Sift through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl to remove the seeds; discard the seeds.

  3. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl of butter. Whisk vigorously until a smooth paste is formed.

  4. Add 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Stir with a flexible spatula or wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms.

  5. Transfer 1/2 of the dough (about 1 pound) to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times. Pat into a flat rectangle, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

  6. Add 2 teaspoons water and 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring to the strawberry powder and stir until a paste forms. Add to the remaining dough in the bowl. Cut and stir the paste into the dough until the color is evenly distributed.

  7. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times. Pat into a flat rectangle, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate both doughs for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

  8. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Place 1 cup white sparkling sugar on a small rimmed baking sheet or pie dish.

  9. Form the candy canes: Cut off 1 tablespoon of each chilled dough and roll into long ropes that are each about 1/4-inch thick and 12-inches long. Place the red rope in the sparkling sugar and flip a few times to coat all over (do not flour the red dough, you want it sticky enough for the sugar to stick).

  10. Place the red rope next to the white rope so they are in a straight line. Twist the ropes together, trim both ends, and curve the top to make a cane shape. Place the candy cane on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing them at least 1-inch apart, 5 to 6 per baking sheet. If the dough gets too soft to work with, refrigerate until firm before continuing.

  11. When the first baking sheet is full, place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, shape enough cookies to fill the second baking sheet. Refrigerate the remaining doughs.

  12. Bake one sheet at a time until the edges of the cookies are just turning brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

  13. Continue shaping and baking off the remaining dough. Let the baking sheets cool between batches, but you can reuse the parchment or silicone baking mats.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The red and white doughs can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.

Storage: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.