Festive Cookies with Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Festive Cookies
Photography by Matt Armendariz / Recipe Development by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Julie Tanous / Food Styling by Marian Cooper Cairnes

“These Candy Cane Cookies were my favorite cookies growing up, and still are today. Every time we make the candy cane cookies now, my mom always reminds me of this one Christmas when she had made around six dozen of them for a big cookie exchange. I was around four or five years old. These cookies can be time consuming to make. You have to roll the dough out—and it’s a delicate dough—then you have to twist and shape each of the candy cane cookies individually. My mom finished all the cookies the night before the exchange, and laid them out on the counter. I really wanted some of the cookies, and I knew I wasn’t going to get any because they were for the exchange. I snuck into the kitchen that night, and snapped the ends off of each of the candy canes. I thought maybe she wouldn’t notice if they were a little shorter. So I ate about 40 cookies, and she could obviously tell immediately by looking at the cookies. They ended up looking more like horseshoes than candy canes. She was so mad, but I still think it was worth it.” – Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Read more about holiday baking with Chef Julie Tanous and award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Candy Cane Cookies
Makes about 48
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 3½ cups (490 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (210 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon liquid red food coloring
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, almond extract, and peppermint extract; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, and beat another minute until fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture, then half of the milk mixture, followed by the remaining half of flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
  2. Divide dough in half. Stir red food coloring into half of the dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°. Scoop one rounded teaspoon of dough from each half, and on a floured surface, roll into a 4-inch rope. Place the red and white ropes side by side; press together lightly and twist. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet; curve top of cookie down to form the handle of cane. Bake until set and very light brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Place cookie sheet on a wire rack to cool, and while the cookies are still hot, sprinkle each one with sugar. Cool completely before serving.


Growing up, Jesse and his two siblings would gather with their mom in the kitchen every Christmas to decorate these simple Sour Cream Cookies with frosting and little edible beads, candies, and sprinkles galore.

Jesse's Mom's Sour Cream Cookies
Makes 22 to 36
  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups (315 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 5 cups (700 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
  • Icing:
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups (216 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  1. For cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the egg yolks, vanilla, and sour cream, and beat until fluffy.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the cream mixture, and beat until just combined. Do not overmix. Wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Using your favorite holiday cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Bake cookies until the bottoms are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to apply icing.
  5. For icing: Melt butter, then whisk in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Whisk in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Ice cookies, and then lay flat in the fridge until set.


These traditional New Mexican cookies won’t last long in your cookie jar. Another holiday staple at Jesse’s house growing up, a biscochito is a thick sugar cookie flavored with brandy and cinnamon and dusted in cinnamon-sugar.

Makes 48
  • 1½ cups (336 grams) all-vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (246 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) anise seeds
  • 4 cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt About 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening and 1 cup (210 grams) of sugar until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the anise seeds. Beat until very light and fluffy, another 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the creamed mixture along with the brandy. Mix until a stiff dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Place the dough on one end of a long piece (about 3 feet) of waxed paper. Bring the long end over the top of the dough, and press to about 1 inch or slightly less in thickness, and refrigerate until chilled.
  4. Roll out dough between the waxed paper to just under ½-inch thickness. Cut with flour-dusted cookie cutters into the traditional fleur de lis shape or into 3-inch rounds. Combine the 3 remaining tablespoons (36 grams) sugar and the cinnamon in a shallow bowl; dip unbaked cookies into the sugar-cinnamon mixture on one side. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until tops of cookies are just firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool cookies on wire racks.


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  1. Step 2 uses up only half of the milk mixture. Presumably you add it at the end after the second half of the flour mixture, but I’d appreciate it if you could confirm and clarify the posted recipe. Thanks.


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