They look at me as though I am the Grinch who stole Christmas. All these years later, their wee toddler eyes pierce my memory, as I refuse to let them eat candy canes. It’s not their teeth I worry about. It is the choking hazard. In a desperate attempt to appease my children’s tears, I come up with a safer Christmas shortbread candy cane. Having long forgotten my peppermint candy cane cookies, having grandchildren has brought them back to the kitchen.

Candy cane sugar cookies

Peppermint candy cane cookies

Why peppermint candy cane cookies?

My children say that having a nurse for a Mom, meant they could never fake being sick for school. Have a Mom who works in an emergency department, and kids are in for extra grief.

Besides the choking hazard of hard candy, the long ends of candy canes and the roof of a young mouth, make painful companions.

When your mother told you never to run with something in your mouth, she knew what she was talking about.

Not wanting to cause you nightmares, I shall omit the gruesome description of what can happen when a child trips while sucking the long end of a candy cane.

Candy canes in a glass

Candy canes may look festive but use caution with small children

How the Christmas cookies became peppermint cookies

Decades ago, I collected all of the Company’s Coming recipe books. Yellow, well-used and worn, they remind my of my Grandma’s cookbooks. I believe that says something about my age.

When the candy cane dilemma with my children began, I found a candy cane cookie recipe in the cookbook collection.

With no offence to author Jean Pare, her candy cane shortbread cookies include a goodly portion of almond flavouring.

Now call me crazy, but small children are not easily fooled. The almond taste overpowered all else. My kids were having none of it. Peppermint candy canes is what they wanted!

Thus, with apologies to Ms. Pare, out with the almond, and the vanilla as well for good measure. Peppermint Christmas shortbread we shall have. Happy kids, no choking and definitely no punctures in mouths.

As to their teeth, all I can suggest is good brushing.

Candy cane cookie recipe

Peppermint candy canes – less dangerous than the real thing

Who invented candy canes?

Although there is no definite answer to the question, it is believed candy canes began appearing in the 17th century. Then, in Europe, candy sticks were all the rage.

Legend offers that a German choirmaster, in an effort to keep his singers still during church, handed out candy sticks.

When adults of the congregation complained that giving candy to children in church was inappropriate, he shaped them into a shepherd’s crook.

More appropriate to fit into the Christmas story I suppose.

Others say, that it is likely just German ingenuity. The hook shape added to make a candy cane that could hang as a Christmas ornament.

No matter how the candy cane trend began, my guess is no mothers were consulted. Let alone one who was a paranoid nurse.

Tips for making peppermint candy cane cookies

Christmas shortbread

Peppermint cookies – no need for perfection

Although these peppermint cookies require only 8 ingredients, they are a bit finicky to make. If you are a perfectionist, you may need to add on some time for creating your peppermint candy canes.

That or a holiday beverage to relax.

Not every candy cane sugar cookie needs to look exactly like the other. Let them have a little personality I say.

Any recipe that involves food colouring makes my eye twitch. Having had more than one catastrophe involving small children and non-washable food dye, I urge caution.

These candy cane cookies are far better than a traditional candy cane causing a toddler’s choking.  However a toddler who discovers how to apply red food colouring to himself and an entire kitchen, can be an issue. 

Candy Cane Cookie Recipe

Christmas shortbread

Christmas shortbread candy canes

5 from 2 votes

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Pretty Holiday Candy Cane Sugar Cookie recipe

Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Canadian
Keyword Baking, Christmas, Cookies, Dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 3 dozen
Author Sue Slaght


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp peppermint flavouring
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, all-purpose
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red food colouring


Mixing the cookie dough

  1. Using an electric mixer, combine butter, icing sugar, egg and peppermint flavouring.

  2. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well and then knead by hand to form ball of cookie dough.

    Sugar cookie dough

Forming the cookies

  1. Divide the dough into two equal portions.

    peppermint cookie dough halves
  2. In mixing bowl, add food colouring to one portion of the dough. Use mixer or a large spoon to blend. I like to knead by hand once the food colouring has been mixed in well.

    red shortbread
  3. Roll approximately 1 tsp. of each colour dough into ropes approximately 5 inches long. I use a small melon baller, which I find easier than using a spoon. Lay the two cookie dough ropes side by side.

  4. Pinch ends of the ropes together. Twist them to form a spiral.

  5. Lay on ungreased cookie sheet or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Shape spiral to form candy canes. Bake in 350 F oven for 8-10 minutes until pale gold. Cool on sheet for 2-3 minutes then remove.

Do you have a cookie recipe you like to make over the holidays?

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Shirley’s Saskatoon Berry Delight

Gluten Free Chocolate Avocado and Raspberry Cake Shots