Candy Cane Christmas Cookies Satisfy Our Inner Child

One of my favorite Christmas gifts to share with loved ones, dear friends, and neighbors comes from my oven – Christmas cookies. Carefully nestled between layers of parchment paper in decorative tins or stacked in transparent cellophane sacs tied with curling ribbon, these gifts are always greeted with smiles and joy.

These simple gifts are made with flour, sugar, lots of love, and tons of sprinkles. From my traditional Swiss Springerle cookies and Italian Pizzelles to sugar cookies and shortbread decorated with frosting and tinted sugars, a gift of Christmas cookies can evoke childhood wonder no matter the receiver’s age.

This year, I’m adding Candy Cane Cookies to my list of favorites. Like candy canes tucked in stockings and hung from the Christmas tree, these cookies are swirled through and through with red and white sweetness. Before forming the cookies, I tint half the dough with red gel food coloring (liquid food coloring adds too much moisture), then roll scant tablespoons of each color into 5-inch ropes with my hands and braid them together. After bending the tops and sprinkling the cookies with sparkling sugar, they’re baked until firm.

Presentation is a significant element of any recipe, but when the recipe is a gift, it takes on added importance. When slipping a few cookies into cellophane sacs, a bit of red or white shredded paper in the bottom of each sac and a red bow are all that’s needed. When creating a more lavish gift, I present the cookies in a Christmas mug or vase. A large glass container is ideal for buffets, so the entire length of the candy cane cookies is visible.

For holiday cookie exchanges, dessert buffets, treats for delivery drivers, and gifts for loved ones, Candy Cane Cookies are a whimsical treat that appeals to the child in all of us. 

Merry Christmas!

Candy Cane Cookies


1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla

¾ teaspoon almond extract

2 2/3 cups flour

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon red gel food coloring

1 egg, for egg wash

1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Clear sparkling sugar, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, and confectioners’ sugar until light. Add egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat until well blended.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt. Gradually stir flour mixture into the creamed mixture to form a soft dough. Divide the dough in half and transfer one half to a separate bowl. Add red gel food coloring to the remaining dough and beat until the color is thoroughly combined.

Lightly dust the counter with flour. Using your hands, roll a scant tablespoon of white dough into a rope 5 inches in length. 

Do the same with a scant tablespoon of red dough. Place the two ropes side by side, press together gently, and twist the ropes to form a spiral. Transfer the spiral to the cookie sheet and curve the top to form the hook of a candy cane. 

Continue with remaining dough.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water together to form an egg wash, and gently brush it over the cookies. 

Sprinkle with sparkling sugar and bake 12 to 13 minutes until the cookies are firm. Remove them from the oven and cool completely on the cookie sheets before transferring them to a wire rack.

Yield:  22 cookies

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Christy Rost

Public television chef Christy Rost is the author of three cookbooks and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.

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