I Tried Reddit’s Popular “Whipped Shortbread” and It Was Nothing Like I Expected

updated Dec 18, 2020
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Credit: Patty Catalano

Cookie baking has proved to be the sweet escape I’ve needed this year, and the month of December is certainly no exception. I started with family favorites that I make yearly (pizzelles and spritz cookies), then quickly moved on to new varieties from Kitchn’s Quarantine Cookies feature. But with still more days in December (and more butter in the fridge!), I knew couldn’t stop there.

I was searching for my next baking project when a recipe on Reddit for whipped shortbread cookies caught my eye. After reading through it, I envisioned trays of fluffy clouds of buttery shortbread cookies, each crowned with a festive red cherry. Would these become a new tradition for me as they have for so many others? Here’s what happened when I whipped up a batch.

Credit: Patty Catalano

How to Make Whipped Shortbread Cookies

Cookies don’t get much easier than this one. The ingredient list is short — just four items! —and the technique is straightforward. Begin by whipping softened butter, flour, and confectioner’s sugar with an electric mixer for 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes, until the batter becomes light and fluffy. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet, top each round with a glazed cherry, and bake at 325°F until set and very light golden.

My Honest Review of These Reddit-Famous Cookies

The r/Old_Recipes subreddit has proven to be a goldmine of delicious heritage recipes, from Grandma’s Lemon Bars to Murder Cookies and Nana’s Devil’s Food Cake. Needless to say, I had very high hopes for these four-ingredient cookies, and pictured making them for years to come. But once the cookies cooled, I realized that unless I made a few recipe alterations, these cookies won’t become a tradition in my home any time soon.

Let’s start with the flavor. It’s unclear whether to use salted or unsalted butter, so I read through dozens of comments. The original poster, u/magschung, clarified they’ve only used unsalted butter, so that’s where I began. I was worried that without salt in the ingredient list or in the butter, the cookies would taste flat and bland, and that’s exactly what happened. While the appeal of shortbread is a not-so-sweet cookie, I found myself wanting more from this tiny treat. The cookies have a starchy, floury flavor with no hint of vanilla or even buttery richness. Glazed cherries, the ones sold for fruitcakes, add a colorful color to the top of the cookie, but not much in the way of flavor. I halved the cherries for a better cherry-to-cookie ratio.

Now onto the texture. The defining characteristic of this cookie is the long whipping period — 10 minutes! I used an electric hand mixer, but other Redditors have also reported good luck with a stand mixer and the paddle attachment. The batter turns a creamy white color and the texture is very light, which I hoped would translate into a cloud-like cookie. Instead, the cookie was very delicate and crumbly. It was difficult to keep the cookies intact when moving from baking sheet to plate or plate to my mouth!

Old recipes have the quaint custom of including the bare minimum of information, so it’s hard to know when a teaspoon means an actual utensil or the measurement tool. I tried baking the cookies by the teaspoon, tablespoon, with an actual teaspoon, and everything in between. Using photos posted on the Reddit as my guide, I discovered that two teaspoons, or the amount of dough scraped off of a silverware teaspoon, was the ideal one-bite size (Since these cookies are so delicate, it’s essential they be consumed in a single bite). But at this size, they bake in eight to 10 minutes, not 15 to 20 as the recipe says.

While this cookie could be improved with a few flavor updates, with so many exciting cookie recipes out there I won’t be adding this confection to my holiday cookie cache.

Credit: Patty Catalano

A Few Tips for Making Whipped Shortbread Cookies

  1. Use good-quality butter. When a recipe calls for so few ingredients, it’s essential to use the best available. For the shortbread cookie, butter is the ingredient where flavor can play the biggest role.
  2. Don’t forget the salt. Every dish needs salt — even sweets. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the cookie dough or simply use salted butter instead.
  3. Add flavorings. Upgrade the glazed cherry with small-batch Marischino cherries or even Luxardo cherries (although these have a purple, not holiday red, hue). Not a fan of cherries? Top with a nut or a piece of chocolate. These cookies would also be a brilliant use for vanilla or citrus sugar.
  4. Use a teaspoon from your silverware drawer to measure the cookies. Or if you’d prefer precise measurements, scoop the dough into two-teaspoon portions. The cookie to cherry ratio is perfect and they can be eaten in just one bite.
  5. Cool completely on the pan. The cookies are terribly delicate and difficult to transfer. Wait until the cookies cool completely on the pan before transferring to a plate or cooling rack. A very thin spatula, like this fish spatula, is ideal for moving the cookies.