Easy Candy Cane Whipped Shortbread Cookies
This delightful twist on classic melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies is equal parts easy, delicious, and pretty. Nothing fussy with these Candy Cane Whipped Shortbread cookies! These little gems are loveliest if you use traditional red, green, and white candy canes. However, if you cannot find those, you can use white and red candy canes or even substitute crushed peppermint candies.
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The easiest way to crush the candy canes is in a gallon freezer bag and using the blunt end of a meat tenderizer, but if you don’t have one of those, you can use a rolling pin or even a sturdy coffee mug. You want the pieces relatively small, but not powdered!
Where to find traditional red, green, and white candy canes
Traditional peppermint candy canes with red, green, and white stripes can sometimes be hard to find! I’ve rounded up a few places that sell them online, but check your local stores first as that will probably be the most economical option. If you can’t find them locally, try Target (good price and may be able to pick up locally), Fleet Farm (the best individual price I’ve found, but you’ll have to pay for shipping unless you’ve got enough other things to order), or Amazon (you’ll be buying 108 candy canes, but hey, they can last forever, and they make pretty additions to all your wrapped gifts!). You can even buy a 2 lb bag of already crushed candy canes on Amazon if you’ve got some serious Christmas baking to do!
The key to these cookies is to make sure the dough is nice and fluffy! It will be easiest to get the dough airy if you use a stand mixer, but a hand mixer can do the trick as well. (Here’s a fun fact: I cherish my Kitchen Aid mixer that has chugged along faithfully in my kitchen for many years, ever since a friend gifted it to my husband and me for our wedding well over a decade ago! These mixers can certainly be an investment upfront, but it should give you many, many years of dependable use and delicious creations!).
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A Note About the Butter
It is very important to use real butter, not margarine or a butter blend. Also, the butter should be just soft enough to be able to cream together with the sugar but not melted. Using butter that is melted or very soft will affect the cookies, making them spread during baking.
A general rule of thumb is to let the butter sit at room temperature for about an hour before using, but of course there will be some variance to this rule depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Here is a helpful article that talks about the science behind using just-right softened butter, and a trick for how to soften your butter quickly if you are forgetful like me!
Once your dough is well mixed, gently fold in the crushed candy canes. You can certainly add a little more or less than I call for, but I find that four candy canes is just the right amount to give the cookies pretty pops of color without the peppermint flavor becoming overwhelming for such a delicate cookie.
Candy Cane Whipped Shortbread cookies make a lovely gift for friends and family, but if you plan to give some away, you may want to go ahead and make a double batch right away because they are that good! Serve them with a glass of milk or a steaming mug of tea for a perfect Christmastime treat.
Is your mouth watering yet? Turn on your favorite Christmas tunes, and let’s get baking!
Here’s What You’ll Need to make Candy Cane Whipped Shortbread
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (see note)
½ cup powdered sugar (see note)
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
Four regular size candy canes, crushed (about ¼ cup)
Heat oven to 375°. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (here are the silicone mats that I use).
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar with a hand mixer or a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and cornstarch. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture while continuing to whip the dough until the flour mixture is completely incorporated and the dough is fluffy.
Using a spoon or spatula, gently fold in the crushed candy canes into the dough.
Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the prepared sheets, keeping two inches between each cookie.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before carefully transferring them to a cooling rack. Once the cookies are completely cooled, store in an airtight container for up to one week.
A Note About the Type of Sugar
For years I used granulated sugar in this recipe with consistently great results. However, after hearing from some who tried this recipe and had the cookies spread far too thin, and then having the same issue myself when I switched brands of butter AND used a different oven, I experimented with using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar and got the same great results that I had been having for years. To help ensure that everyone has the same success with their cookies no matter what other factors are involved, I’ve updated the recipe to call for powdered sugar. You can still use granulated sugar in this recipe instead of powdered sugar if you’d like, but I now recommend powdered sugar for the most consistent results.
Candy Cane Whipped Shortbread
- Stand mixer or hand mixer
- Cookie sheets
- Silicone baking mat
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter softened
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 4 regular size candy canes, crushed (about ¼ cup)
- Heat oven to 375°. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar with a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, until light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and cornstarch. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture while continuing to whip the dough until the flour mixture is completely incorporated and the dough is fluffy.
- Using a spoon or spatula, gently fold in the crushed candy canes into the dough.
- Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the prepared sheets, keeping two inches between each cookie.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before carefully transferring them to a cooling rack. Once the cookies are completely cooled, store in an airtight container for up to one week.
- It is important to use butter that is softened but not melted. Using butter that is very soft or melted will affect your baking results.
- These cookies are prettiest if you use red, green, and white candy canes. However, if you cannot find those, you can use white and red candy canes or even substitute peppermint candies.
- The easiest way to crush the candy canes is in a gallon freezer bag and using the blunt end of a meat tenderizer, but if you don’t have one of those, you can use a rolling pin or even a sturdy coffee mug to crush the candy. You want the pieces relatively small, but not powdered!
Are you looking for some more Christmas baking inspiration? Check out these amazing Cranberry Christmas Cookies right here!
Can I use Cookie cutters to give them fun shapes? Or would it not work with this type of cookie?
I am very excited to try this recipe for my holiday baking! It looks delicious!
Hello! Thanks for your question. These cookies would not be the best for rolling out and cutting into shapes. A traditional sugar cookie would be a nice option – I found this recipe from another blog that looks really good: https://www.beyondthechickencoop.com/sugar-cookies-with-crushed-peppermint/
My cookies were flat as well as if an ingredient was left out. We followed the recipe exactly the way it is written. I would check the recipe. Super bummed they didn’t turn out.
Hi Alison, thank you for your feedback. I’m sorry these cookies did not turn out for you. I understand why you’d be bummed! I’ve gotten so many mixed comments on this recipe, both here on the blog and on Pinterest. Some people have great success, and the recipe is a complete flop for others – which is terribly disappointing. My response below is long, but I hope that it will help to ensure better success for everyone in the future!
This is the exact recipe I’ve used for over 15 years, and it was a mystery to me what was going wrong for some people. So, I ran an experiment and tried a few different things. And today, I had the same issue that it sounds like several others have had – my cookies spread too much. The only thing I have changed is 1). The butter I use (for budget reasons, I’ve been using the Great Value brand lately), and 2). My own oven died at Thanksgiving, and I had to borrow someone else’s today.
As I’ve been researching online and trying to figure out what might be going wrong, I noticed that most other whipped shortbread cookie recipes call for powdered sugar, not granulated sugar. I had never used powdered/icing sugar before in this recipe, but I tried a batch with that today and had much better results.
I want everyone to be confident that their cookies will be great, no matter what brand of butter they use (I don’t even know if that is part of the problem, but I plan to experiment soon with a few different brands to satisfy my own curiosity), or what type of oven they use (convection/non-convection, heats a little low, heats a little high).
So, since the batch that I made today with powdered sugar had results consistent with those I have had for years, I am going to be updating my recipe to call for powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar. Hopefully, that will be the ticket for everyone to make Candy Cane Whipped Shortbread Cookies that are pretty and delicious. I am also going to adjust the baking time by a couple of minutes since even the batch made with powdered sugar browned faster in the oven that I used today.
Thank you again for giving this recipe a try, and for leaving helpful feedback. I hope you’ll make the recipe again using icing sugar and that your results will be stellar! If you do, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Can the cookie dough be frozen for a few days before baking?
Thanks for your question! I’ve never tried freezing the dough, so I can’t say for sure. If you decide to try I would recommend dropping the dough into individual cookies on a baking sheet, then freezing them. Once they are frozen, you could place them in a Ziploc bag or container. Then bake as directed when you are ready, keeping in mind that they may need an extra minute or two of baking time.
If you give this a try I’d love to hear back about how it turned out for you!
What if I don’t have a whisk attachment for my hand mixer? Will they come out badly?
I’ve only ever used the whisk attachment on my Kitchen-Aid mixer, so I can’t say for sure, but I would think that the standard attachment on your hand mixer should work fine. You just want to get the dough nice and airy.
My cookies spread and spread until they were the consistency of lace and I couldn’t lift them off the cookie sheet without them crumbling. Any tips as to how too prevent this?
Hi Heather, I’m sorry this happened to your cookies-so disappointing! It sounds like you may need to add a little extra flour to your dough, but there’s a few possibilities of what may have gone wrong. Here’s a helpful article I found from Taste of Home: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/why-are-my-cookies-flat/
I’ve never chilled my dough, but many people do, so that may be something to try as well.
Thanks for reaching out, and let me know if you have more questions!
My cookies went flat when I mistakenly had the oven set to 350. They came out perfect when I baked another batch at 375. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
Thanks for your helpful feedback, Sheila! I’m so glad to hear that the second batch turned out well with the correct oven temperature. These cookies have been a family favorite for many years, and it’s my pleasure to be able to share the recipe with others.
Yum! I love shortbread of any kind, but candy cane sounds extra good! Definitely going to try these!
I’m sure you and your family will really enjoy them! And they are so pretty and festive!