Made with peppermint extract and decorated with white and red royal icing, these candy cane sugar cookies are a festive holiday treat that have great flavor and look like Christmas. And they’re made with our no-fail cut out cookie recipe so they always keep their shape.
Christmas is coming, which means it’s time for festive cookies!
These candy cane cookies are easy and fun to make, and the red and white stripes look great on a holiday season cookie plate.
Plus, the peppermint flavor is irresistible this time of year.
And we’ve solved the one problem with making candy cane cut out cookies…how to get them to stay in the shape of a candy cane.
No matter whether this is your first time or you’re an experienced baker, they’ll turn out looking exactly like they should with our no-fail sugar cookie recipe.
In case you want to skip ahead, here’s what we’re covering:
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Makes: about 30 cookies. This will vary depending on how thick you make your cookies and how big your cookie cutter is.
Here is your shopping list:
- sugar: 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 pound icing sugar
- dairy: 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
- eggs: 1 large
- flavoring: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
- baking supplies: 2½ cups all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ¾ teaspoon salt, 3 Tablespoons meringue powder
- food coloring: red gel food coloring – I used AmeriColor Super Red (available HERE* on Amazon). The brand makes a big difference when it comes to getting really red icing. And don’t use liquid food coloring. It will affect the flavor and consistency of the icing and will make it pink instead of red.
- For gluten-free cookies, use measure-for-measure gluten-free flour instead of regular all-purpose flour (this gluten-free brand* works the best)
- If you don’t want peppermint-flavored sugar cookies, replace the peppermint extract with almond extract (or omit it altogether)
- candy cane cookie cutter – You’ll want to get one that’s big enough for the cookies to hold their candy cane shape without breaking (like this one* from Amazon). Larger candy canes are also easier to decorate, since the stripes will be wider.
- piping bag – I like to use these re-usable piping bags*.
- piping tip #4* – You can use a smaller (#3) or larger (#5) tip if you prefer. (the smaller the number the smaller the hole so the less icing will come out)
- piping coupler* (optional) – this holds the piping tip steady in the piping bag and makes it easy to change tips if you need to.
How to make candy cane sugar cookies (the easy way)
Make the dough
In a small bowl, combine the egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract and ¾ teaspoon salt. I usually do this with a fork or hand whisk. An electric mixer isn’t necessary. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix together 2½ cups of flour, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ¼ teaspoon baking powder. Set aside.
Cut up 2 sticks (1 cup) of cold butter into ½ inch chunks.
Add the butter and 1 cup of white granulated sugar to the food processor and process until combined, about 30 seconds.
Mix in the egg mixture until combined, about 10 seconds.
Then add the flour mixture and process until all of the flour is combined, about 30 seconds.
Roll out the cookie dough
Divide the dough in half to make it easier to roll.
With a rolling pin, roll it out until it is about 1/8″ thick. Layering it with parchment paper on both sides prevents the dough from sticking.
Put the rolled out dough on a cookie sheet or tray, still keeping the parchment paper on both sides.
Repeat with the other ball of dough.
Refrigerate the rolled out dough for 1½ hours, or freeze for 30 minutes.
Cut Out The Candy Canes
Take the first sheet of cookie dough out of the refrigerator and peel off the top layer of parchment paper.
Use the candy cane cookie cutter to cut shapes in the cookie dough.
Put the cut out cookie dough back in the refrigerator (with the bottom piece of parchment paper still attached).
Repeat the process with the second sheet of cookie dough.
To make sure the cookies will keep their shape when you move them to the cookie sheet, refrigerate them for another 30 minutes or until the dough is stiff.
Bake the cookies
Use a metal spatula (or a cake knife) to separate the cookies from the bottom layer of parchment paper.
Put another piece of parchment paper down on a baking sheet. This prevents the cookies from spreading too much and losing their shape.
Then lay out the cookies about ½ inch apart.
Bake at 300℉ for 10 to 15 minutes, until the bottom of the cookies are slightly brown.
Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet.
Then move to a wire rack and let them cool completely.
Repeat with the other sheet of cut-out cookies.
Roll out the remaining dough to create another batch of cookies.
How to make the icing
Make white royal icing
Mix 4 cups confectioners sugar, 3 Tablespoons meringue powder and ½ cup of WARM water in a stand mixer on low speed. If you want your icing to have a peppermint flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract.
Once they are combined, increase to medium speed.
Mix for 5 to 8 minutes until the icing forms soft peaks. (When you remove the whisk, the icing should create a hill with a tip that leans over.)
Test the consistency of your icing
Next test that the icing is the right consistency for outlining and flooding (or filling in) the cookies:
- Run a knife through the middle of your icing and count how many seconds it takes for the cut to close.
- If it takes longer than 15 seconds (or it doesn’t close at all), the icing is too stiff. Add in a few drops of water.
- If it’s closing faster than 15 seconds, mix the icing for a little while longer until it gets stiffer.
- Repeat the test until the cut in the icing closes in about 15 seconds.
Make red royal icing
Move half of the white icing into another bowl.
Add about 1/8 teaspoon of red food coloring to the icing, and mix until combined.
If it still looks pink, add a little more. You don’t want to add any more than is necessary because it can add a bitter flavor to the icing.
The color will get darker as the icing dries, so it’s okay if the color is not quite as red as you would like it.
Cover the top of the icing with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
Pushing it all the way down into the bowl so that it is touching the top of the icing will prevent the top from getting crunch.
How to decorate candy cane cookies
Create white stripes
Put the white icing in a piping bag with your piping tip attached.
Draw diagonal lines across the candy cane cookies with the icing. Using a knife as a guide will help to keep them straight.
They don’t have to be perfect since we’ll be filling them in, so you can fix any gaps later.
Now fill in between the lines of the top section with white icing.
If your icing is running over the side, you may need to draw an outline along the edge of the cookie between the two lines to prevent that.
Skip a section (this will be red).
Then repeat with every other section so that you have white stripes alternating with plain cookie stripes.
Use a toothpick or knife to fill in any empty spots if necessary.
Let the icing dry for a few hours (or overnight) before adding the red icing. Otherwise the colors may bleed.
Create red stripes
Now we’re going to fill in the alternate stripes with red icing.
Because the icing has been sitting for a little while, you may need to mix it a little before putting it in a piping bag.
And if it’s too stiff, add a few drops of water. Literally, just a few drops…otherwise the icing may not dry.
(I didn’t add any water and my red icing was a little too thick so it didn’t smooth out as much as it should.)
Outline the first plain cookie section with red icing. Then flood the middle.
Use a toothpick or knife to fill in any gaps.
Repeat so that all the rest of the plain cookie sections have been turned into red stripes.
Let the cookies sit for a few hours so the icing has a chance to dry before storing them.
How to store sugar cookies
The candy cane sugar cookies can be stored in an airtight container:
- at room temperature for about 3 days.
- in the refrigerator for about a week.
- in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To keep your cookies looking their best, place a layer of parchment paper between each layer of cookies.
Other Christmas Cookies You Might Like
- Christmas tree sugar cookies
- Grinch heart sugar cookies
- Lemon cream cheese Christmas cookies
- Peppermint chocolate fudge balls
- Simple angel cut out cookies
Candy Cane Sugar Cookies
- 2 mixing bowls
- food processor
- rimless cookie sheet
- parchment paper
- rolling pin
- candy cane cookie cutters
- thin spatula
- wire cooling rack
- stand mixer with mixing bowl
- medium mixing bowl – for red icing
- plastic wrap
- Piping bag
- Piping tip #4 (#3 or #5 will also work)
- Coupler (optional) – helps to keep icing from leaking
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup 2 sticks cold unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons meringue
- 1 pound icing sugar
- red gel food coloring
- In a small bowl, beat an egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract and ¾ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- In another bowl, mix together 2½ cups of flour, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ¼ teaspoon baking powder. Set aside.
- Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) of cold butter into ½ inch chunks.
- Process the butter and 1 cup of granulated sugar in the food processor until combined, about 30 seconds.
- Add in the egg mixture. Process until combined, about 10 seconds.
- Then add the flour mixture and process until all of the flour is combined, about 30 seconds.
- Divide the dough in half.
- Roll the cookie dough out to about 1/8" thick with a rolling pin. Putting a piece of parchment paper on either side of the dough will prevent it from sticking.
- Repeat with the other ball of dough.
- Refrigerate the rolled out dough (leaving the parchment paper in place) for 1½ hours, or freeze for 30 minutes.
- When the cookie dough is stiff, take the first sheet of cookie dough out of the refrigerator (leaving the other one in).
- Peel off the top layer of parchment paper.
- Use the candy cane cookie cutter to cut shapes in the cookie dough.
- Repeat the process with the second sheet of cookie dough.
- To make sure the cut-out cookies keep their shape, refrigerate the dough for another 30 minutes or until the it is stiff.
- Use a thin spatula (or a cake knife) to separate the cookies from the bottom layer of parchment paper.
- Put another piece of parchment paper down on a cookie sheet.
- Then lay out the cookies about ½ inch apart.
- Bake at 300℉ for 10 to 15 minutes, until the bottom of the cookies are slightly brown.
- Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Then move to a wire rack and let them cool completely.
- Repeat with the other sheet of cut-out cookies.
- Roll out the extra dough to create another batch of cookies.
How To Make White Royal Icing
- Mix 4 cups icing sugar, 3 Tablespoons meringue powder and ½ cup of WARM water in a stand mixer on low speed
- Once they are combined, increase to medium speed.
- Mix for 5 to 8 minutes until the icing forms soft peaks.
How To Make Red Royal Icing
- Move half of the white icing into another bowl
- Mix a few drops red gel food coloring into white icing a little bit at a time until you get the color you want.
- Cover the top of the icing with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
How To Decorate Candy Cane Sugar Cookies
- Put the white icing in a piping bag with a #3, #4 or #5 piping tip attached.
- Draw diagonal lines about a half inch apart down the length of the candy canes.
- Connect the first two diagonal lines by drawing a line across the edge of the cookie. Then fill in the middle to create a white stripe. Use a toothpick or knife to spread the icing around to fill in any gaps.
- Leave the next section of the cookie plain (this will be a red stripe).
- Then repeat with the following section.
- Wait a few hours until the white icing has dried before continuing. Otherwise the red color could bleed.
- Put the red icing in a piping bag with a #3, #4 or #5 piping tip attached.
- Outline and fill in the plain sections of the cookie with the red icing so that you have alternating red and white stripes.
- Covering the cookie sheet with parchment paper prevents the cookies from spreading which helps to keep their shape.
- Only bake 1 sheet of cookies at a time since stacking them in the oven will cause uneven heating
- Using a knife as a guide when drawing the diagonal lines across the cookies will help to keep them straight.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
This post was originally published on December 2, 2021 but was updated with new content on February 20, 2023.