These decorated candy cane cookies are the perfect Christmas treat, easy to make and a fun addition to Christmas parties. The sugar cookie base is firm, but moist and the royal icing is flavored with peppermint to add that classic candy cane flavor.
Candy canes are such an essential part of the holiday season for so many, but there are people out there who don’t actually like the taste of the candy itself!
These candy cane cookies are great for everyone, as you’ve got the classic candy cane look, but you can make the icing with or without peppermint so the usual candy cane haters can enjoy a candy cane that they’ll enjoy.
The sugar cookie base is also perfectly formulated to not spread in the oven, thus keeping your candy cane shape, while not being rock hard.
You can actually bite into these without fear of breaking a tooth, which I find is a problem with some decorated cookies.
In this tutorial on making candy cane cookies, I’ll teach you how to decorate candy cane cookies, how to make the sugar cookie base for candy cane cookies, and how to use royal icing to decorate candy cane cookies.
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What Ingredients Do I Need to Make Candy Cane Cookies?
These candy cane cookies are made using a sugar cookie base and royal icing.
To make the sugar cookies, follow the cut-out sugar cookie recipe and make sure you have: powdered sugar, granulated sugar, flour, butter, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, and eggs.
For the royal icing, follow this royal icing recipe and gather up icing sugar, meringue powder (it’s safer for pregnant women and means the cookies can be stored at room temperature, as opposed to egg whites), water, and vanilla extract.
You can also add peppermint extract instead into these cookies if you want to make them taste like actual candy canes.
Must-Have Baking Tools (seriously)
- Silicone baking mats – I use this brand and my cookies slide right off without burning!
- a cookie scoop – get this one. It makes the perfect rounded cookies every time!
- silicone spatula – try this set. It’s the best way to get the most out of your dough and batters
- rolling pin guides – I use this one. Genius way to roll your dough out evenly!
What Tools Do I Need for Making Candy Cane Cookies?
To make candy cane cookies, you’ll need the very basics like:
- candy cane cookie cutter – this is the best one
- baking tray
- parchment paper or silicone baking mat – I love these ones
- piping bags – this is the best brand
- toothpick or scribe (to adjust icing if needed)
- red food coloring, I prefer gel like this one
Making the Sugar Cookie Base for Candy Cane Cookies
You can’t have candy cane cookie decorating without the sugar cookie bases!
This cut-out sugar cookie recipe is the perfect one to use to make sure you’re making candy cane cookies that won’t spread in the oven.
They hold together well, but aren’t crumbly or rock solid, instead having a bit of chewiness to them.
They go really well with the royal icing, and the vanilla extract gives them a nice flavor on their own.
When you go to roll out the cookie dough after chilling (oh, yes, chilling is an important step which you’ll read in the recipe as it means less spread in the oven!), take your time with it as it will be hard to roll out at first.
But don’t let it sit out too long, as then you’ll be left with dough that’s hard to work with.
You also want to make sure when you’re using the cookie cutters that you’re not tugging on the dough too much, as it can cause misshapen cookies in the oven.
I take my cookies out just as they are turning a very slight golden on the edges.
Too late, if it’s already browning, and your cookies will be hard, and earlier than that and they won’t be done.
For my oven, this is about 8 minutes, but keep an eye on yours and keep in mind that the cookies will need to continue hardening on the baking sheet before moving to the cooling rack and will be soft and squishy right out of the oven, so don’t let them alarm you!
Making the Royal Icing for Candy Cane Cookies
Royal icing can be intimidating to the new baker, but it doesn’t have to be!
It’s really fun to use in the piping bags, and it hardens into a smooth surface that you don’t get with other kinds of icing like buttercream.
To make the royal icing, follow this royal icing recipe and keep going with it until you reach about a 10-12 second consistency.
This means that if you drag a knife through the icing, it will take that many seconds for the line to completely disappear.
I like to use icing with one consistency, so I use this all throughout my cookie, though others make two consistencies, a thicker one like toothpaste and a thinner one like honey.
The thicker one would be used to outline and for details, and the thinner one would be used to “flood” or fill in the large areas.
Whatever you do, you can always adjust the icing by adding more powdered sugar or more water (use a spray bottle to evenly distribute it and not add too much at a time), so don’t fret!
How Can I Store the Candy Cane Cookies?
These decorated candy cane cookies can be stored at room temperature in an air tight container for 2 to 3 weeks.
If you really want to make them much further ahead of time, I recommend making the bases and freezing them for up to 3 months, and then making fresh royal icing closer to the time.
You can freeze royal icing if you have put your cookies in heat sealed bags, but in general, the home baker shouldn’t attempt to freeze fully decorated cookies as you could end up with lots of coloring mishaps and cookies that don’t thaw correctly.
Can I Make Substitutions in the Candy Cane Cookies?
For the most part, these recipes need to remain in tact in order for the right amounts of each ingredient to play their part.
Unlike in cooking, baking is a science and is formulated for your specific needs, ie, for the cookies not to spread in the oven or for the royal icing to be able to be whipped into the right consistency.
If you are on a special diet or have an allergy, I would recommend using a recipe specifically formulated for that purpose, and then using my instructions to decorate.
The one thing you can add is a peppermint flavoring to these if you want to get festive!
How to Decorate Candy Cane Cookies
Decorating candy cane cookies is the fun part!
The basic principles of decorating are that you outline the portion of the cookie you want to be a certain color, then fill the rest in with the same color, and repeat until the cookie is finished.
Once the entire base is dry, which takes about 8 to 10 hours, you can then add on any details.
I’ve done a few different options with these cookies, which include outlining and flooding the entire cookie in one color and then adding the detail on top and outlining and flooding in red and using the “wet on wet” technique where I then put wet white icing to make polka dots that became one with the base of the cookie.
You can also make the candy cane pattern by putting both white and red icing onto the base of the cookie in turns, first outlining a section of the cookie and filling it in with white, then waiting about 30 minutes for it to set, and then outlining and filling in a red section, and continuing like that.
Get as creative as you want and try as many royal icing decorating techniques you find to make some whimsical and festive candy cane cookies!
- 24 cookies using cut-out sugar cookie dough
- 1 batch of royal icing, separated in the colors you want to decorate
- Bake the candy cane cookies using the sugar cut-out cookie recipe
- Make a batch of royal icing using the royal icing recipe
- Separate out the royal icing into red and white icing and put into piping bags
- Outline the candy cane in one color or outline sections on the candy cane in the same color to mimic the look of a real candy cane
- Immediately flood these sections in the same color
- Wait 30 minutes if you've left sections of blank cookie that you need to fill in with the other color and then outline and flood in the opposite color
- Wait 2 to 3 hours if you've already flooded the whole cookie and add decorations on top like squiggles or circles for a whimsical candy cane
- Let dry for 12 hours
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