Zoe Denenberg; Prop Styling: Rachel Mulcahy
Active Time
40 Mins
Total Time
3 Hours 40 Mins

With shiny red and white stripes and a crystaled sugar finish, these Candy Cane Sugar Cookies are whimsical, yet elegant; they're guaranteed to impress the crowd at your holiday cookie swap. The design is simple enough for amateur cookie decorators to try out, but still results in a professional-looking finish. The white sanding sugar works twofold—not only does it make the cookies look shiny and add a layer of texture, but it also covers up any sloppy piping where the red meets the white. I used larger sanding sugar crystals, but you can use finer sprinkles to achieve a sleeker look.

Red is probably one of the most difficult colors to dye your icing—it can take a lot of dye to lift it out of pinkish-orange territory and achieve that rich, deep shade of red. Keep in mind is that it takes time for the food coloring to fully develop, so after mixing in a few initial drops of red food coloring, cover the icing with a wet paper towel (to keep it moist) and let it sit for an hour or two, even if you haven’t quite achieved the shade of Christmas red you’re hoping for. Allowing the icing to rest will let the color fully develop—when you return to the icing an hour later, you’ll find that it’s a bit darker than before! From here, you can mix in more food coloring if desired, but this trick will help ensure that you only use as much food coloring as you really need.

These impressive, homemade decorated sugar cookies look straight out of a bakery window. (In fact, a few cookie swap participants jokingly accused me of buying my cookies from a bakery instead of baking them myself.) Pair them with my Snowflake Sugar Cookies and you’ve got a festive themed set. Plus, I can almost guarantee that these sugar cookies taste better than the minty candy canes of your childhood.

For more cookie decorating tips and some insight into the vocabulary and techniques mentioned in this recipe, check out this guide to cookie decorating. Conveniently, you can purchase tipless piping bags on Amazon (you’ll want the 12-inch size for cookie decorating).

How to Make It

Step 1

Bake Easy Sugar Cookies, cut with candy cane cutter. Make Royal Icing.

Step 2

Divide Royal Icing into 2 bowls. Snip a very small opening (approx. 1/2 cm) in tips of 2 piping bags (for piping-consistency icing). Snip a slightly larger opening (approx. 1 cm) in tips of 2 piping bags (for flooding-consistency icing).

Step 3

Leave 1 bowl of icing white; dye remaining bowl of icing a deep red. Fill 2 piping-consistency tipless piping bags with 1/2 of each icing. Mix an additional tablespoon of water (or amount needed to achieve flooding-consistency icing) into each of the remaining 1/2 bowls of red and white icing; fill 2 flooding-consistency tipless piping bags with remaining quantity of respective icings.

Step 4

Using red piping-consistency icing, pipe the outline of red stripes on candy cane cookies. Using white piping-consistency icing, pipe outline of white stripes, ensure there are no gaps between the two colors of stripes.

Step 5

Flood red stripes with red flooding-consistency icing. Let dry for 1-2 hours.

Step 6

Flood white stripes with white flooding-consistency icing. Let dry for 1-2 hours.

Step 7

Pour white sanding sugar into a shallow dish or plate. When cookies are completely dry, pipe white lines where red and white stripes meet. Quickly dip cookies in sanding sugar so the sugar clings to the white lines. Brush off excess sanding sugar. Let dry for 1-2 hours.