stained glass window cookies on a plate

Ready to bake the prettiest cookies for Christmas? ME TOO. These Stained Glass Window Cookies are both stunning and simple: the perfect combination. A super-forgiving sugar cookie dough with a kiss of molasses is baked with centers of crushed candies and decorated with icing for a fun, festive and straightforward cookie recipe you’ll want to bake year after year.

Stained Glass Window Cookies Recipe

Have you ever heard of stained glass window cookies, aka windowpane cookies? They’re the most beautiful Christmas cookies in all the land, and they’re surprisingly easy to make! Here is what you can expect from this gorgeous dessert:

  • A soft and sweet sugar cookie dough with a hint of molasses for color and depth of flavor
  • A pretty-as-a-picture melted candy center made from crushed clear candies (see Recipe Notes for all candy options!)
  • The perfect canvas for decorating with icing
  • An extremely easy-to-work-with, forgiving cookie dough you can reroll again and again (i.e., maximum cookie output!)
  • A great recipe to make with kids and/or for cookie exchanges or holiday parties
bowls of crushed hard candies with cookie cutters around them

Ingredients You’ll Need

One of my favorite things about this Christmas cookie recipe is that not only is it impressive, but the ingredient list is far from fussy. Here is what you’ll need to accomplish these treats:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar and brown sugar, for sweetness and flavor
  • Molasses, for a hint of color and depth of flavor
  • Vanilla extract
  • Egg, for binding and texture
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt, for flavor
  • Baking powder, for a little lift and tenderness
  • Clear hard candies, such as Jolly Ranchers or Life Savers
  • Powdered sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract and milk, for an optional decorating icing

How to Make Stained Glass Window Cookies

While the actual process of making these cookies is simple, you will need to set aside some decent time to make them, since you’ll be doing a lot of rolling out dough, cutting dough into shapes, adding candies, decorating, etc. Here is the basic overview of how to make these cookies (please scroll down to the bottom of this post for the FULL recipe!):

  • Step One: Make the cookie dough. Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then add the molasses, vanilla extract and egg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then add them to the wet ingredients in three additions just until a soft dough forms.
  • Step Two: Chill the dough. Divide the dough into two disks. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
  • Step Three: Assemble the cookies. Divide the candies by color into plastic bags, seal, then use a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to crush the candies. Remove one dough disk from the fridge, unwrap and roll out with a rolling pin. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into shapes, then use smaller cookie cutters or a paring knife to cut out shapes inside each cookie cutout. Transfer the cookies to a lined baking sheet.
  • Step Four: Bake the cookies. Spoon or sprinkles crushed candies in the small cutouts of each cookie. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the cookie dough is just set and the candy centers are fully melted (but not bubbling over). Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes on the cookie sheet so the candy has time to cool and set.
  • Step Five: Decorate! If desired, prepare a simple decorating icing (recipe below). Transfer the icing to a piping bag or plastic bag and snip off a small piece of the tip. Pipe icing onto fully cooled cookies as desired. Allow icing to set completely before serving or storing.
stained glass window cookies on a cooling rack

Can I Make These Ahead of Time?

You can make the cookie dough and refrigerate it for up to 2 days before rolling/shaping/baking. You can also freeze the dough: Place the wrapped disks of dough in a resealable plastic bag, then freeze for up to 3 months. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator to soften overnight before rolling/shaping/baking.

Best Way to Store Stained Glass Window Cookies

You can store these cookies stacked in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days. For longer storage, you can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 10 days. You can also freeze these cookies fully baked in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container for up to 2 months; thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator before serving. If freezing, I recommend you leave off the decorating icing and decorate after thawing.

stained glass window cookies on a surface

More Christmas Cookie Recipes!

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stained glass window cookies on a cooling rack

Stained Glass Window Cookies

  • Author: Stephanie
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 32 to 48 servings (varies based on size of cookie cutters) 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Delicious and beautiful sugar cookies with a hint of molasses and a see-through candy “window” make these a fun and festive Christmas cookie recipe! The cookie dough is super forgiving and the candy centers are so easy to make–perfect for baking with kids or for cookie exchanges.


Ingredients

Units Scale

For the cookie dough:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 20 to 30 hard candies, such as Jolly Ranchers*

For the icing (optional):

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Instructions

  1. First, make the cookie dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in molasses, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and egg until well-combined.
  2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter-sugar mixture in three additions, stirring after each to fully incorporate dry ingredients.
  3. Divide dough into two pieces. Press each piece into a 1-inch-thick disk, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
  4. Next, assemble the cookies: Divide candies by color into several resealable plastic bags. Use a meat tenderizer, hammer or rolling pin to crush candies into small pieces. Set aside. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  5. Remove and unwrap one disk of chilled dough from the fridge. You have two options here: Either roll out the dough between two large sheets of parchment paper, or roll out on a well-floured surface (sprinkle some flour on top of the dough before rolling out, too). Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch-thick, then use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Use smaller cookie cutters or a sharp paring knife to cut out smaller shapes in the centers of each cookie. Transfer the cookie cut-outs to the prepared baking sheets, spaced at least 1 inch apart.
  6. Spoon or sprinkle crushed candies into the small cut-outs in each cookie. You’ll want to completely fill the holes, but not overfill. Be sure to remove any candy bits that are stuck to the tops of the cookies, or they will dye the cookie.
  7. Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are just set and lightly golden and the candy centers have completely melted. Cool cookies at least 10 to 15 minutes on the cookie sheets so the candy cools enough to remove easily from the sheets. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. Repeat Steps 5-7 with remaining cookie dough (you can reroll the scraps at least 2x, so use as much dough as you can!).
  9. Once cookies are fully cooled, decorate with icing (optional): In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and milk until a smooth, thick icing forms (it should have the consistency of thick honey). Transfer icing to a piping bag or resealable plastic bag; snip off a small tip (you’ll want it really small for precise decorating).
  10. Pipe icing onto cookies as desired. Allow icing to set completely before stacking, about 30 minutes.
  11. Store finished cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Notes

  • *You can use any clear/see-through candy for this recipe, such as Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, transparent lollipops, etc.
  • I highly recommend using silicone baking mats to bake these cookies so the candy won’t stick. Parchment paper works well, too, but may give you just a little more trouble.
  • Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Keywords: molasses cookie dough, sugar cookie dough, windowpane cookies, candy cookies, cookie icing