Holiday Traditions: Revamping Candy Cane Cookies

When life hands you lemons, make cookies.

Last week was difficult for our family. We attended our second funeral in three weeks. This time it was a classmate of my daughter’s whom we’ve known since Kindergarten and who just graduated with my daughter in June from high school. It was heartbreaking because she was a friend and so young, but it also brought out other emotions in my daughter who was hit two months ago today by a car and survived.

As I’ve wrestled with my own emotions, I wondered, “What do you do when the lemons you’re being handed are just too tart for making lemonade?” There isn’t enough sweetener in the world to turn such an event into anything other than what it is — a tragedy.

In the midst of our sad week, one of my sister-in-laws emailed me, asking about cookies which I used to make years ago — peppermint candy cane cookies. I hadn’t made them in a long time because I had found that substituting for the powdered sugar and cutting back on the butter really did affect the cookies.

This week, however, I decided that sometimes you just have to relax the standards a bit, because when people say, “Life is short,” it may be shorter than we anticipate. So, I adapted the recipe to be dairy and gluten free but still with sugar and fat. My thinking now is that sometimes we are given lemons, not so we can learn how to make lemonade when life is tough, but so we will be reminded to stop and make cookies with our children.

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies


1 1/2 cup powdered sugar*

1 1/4 cup Earth Balance soy and dairy free butter**

1 egg at room temperature

1 tsp peppermint extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups gluten free flour blend (use a brown rice version like King Arthur’s or Authentic Foods)

3/4 cup sorghum flour

1/4 tsp salt

red gel food color

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line flat cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a mixer, mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, and the peppermint and vanilla extracts, beating just until well mixed and creamy.

3. Mix the gluten free flour blend and the sorghum flour and salt. Add to the wet mixture and mix just until well blended.

4. Divide the dough in half and add a drop or two of the red gel food color to one of the halves.

5. To make the cookies, roll one tsp of each color, white and red, into straight strands. Then twist the two strands together and curve the top to look like a candy cane.

6. Place the cookies on the lined cookie sheets with enough room for some spreading, and bake for 8 to 12 minutes until they are puffed and beginning to harden. (Time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the cookies, which inevitably will get bigger as your children continue to make the cookies!)

7. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before removing them to the wire cooling rack to completely cool.

8. Store cookies in a container lined with waxed or parchment paper or a paper towel.

* If you want to avoid using sugar, you can make your own powdered sugar out of Truvia or coconut sugar. You simply process either in a food processor until it’s powdery like powdered sugar and then substitute your version into the recipe. I have found, though, that this does affect the taste and texture of these cookies, though.

** You can cut the butter in half for this recipe if you really do need to watch your fat intake. The cookies just won’t be as buttery or puffed.




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s