Soft and buttery shortbread cookies flavored with cherry and almond, then finished off with sweet white chocolate.
Today’s recipe in Sally’s Cookie Palooza is so pink, it makes Barbie’s corvette look pale. The cookies get their color from maraschino cherry juice and their flavor from butter, almond extract, and cherries. Cherry and almond is a divine combination (cherry almond pie, anybody?) and these have to be one of my favorite Christmas cookies yet!
You’ll find three main ingredients in most shortbread cookie recipes: butter, sugar, and flour. All three are imperative for structure, texture, and taste. Sometimes there’s vanilla and salt, but there’s no egg and no leavening. I’ve had a lot of problems in the past with shortbread cookies spreading. There’s so much butter that spreading is often an issue unless you have the right recipe or unless you bake them in a cake pan to make wedge-shaped shortbread cookies (so buttery! so good!).
Today’s recipe starts with these raspberry almond thumbprint cookies, a dough very similar to my basic shortbread cookies. Adding a thin liquid like this (and liquidy maraschino cherries) to a cookie dough so high in butter can spell disaster though. I tested with more flour, less flour, more cherry juice, less cherry juice, etc. I ended up reducing the butter slightly and that seemed to solve all the problems. The shortbread cookie recipe below still has all that extraordinary butter flavor and also includes cherries.
Keep a watchful eye on these cookies as they finish up baking. From a texture standpoint, overbaking the cherry almond shortbread cookies strips their tender, soft, slightly crumbly texture. And you’re left with hard cookies– not crumbly– just hard. And from an appearance standpoint, overbaking will leave orange brown dark spots on top of the cookies. Not a huge issue, but it replaces the pink!
While the cookies have so much cherry, butter, and almond flavor, I felt the cookies lacked something on the outside. A simple white chocolate drizzle makes them a little snazzy, right?
A cookie almost too pretty to eat.Print
Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies
- Prep Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 11 minutes
- Total Time: 5 hours, 15 minutes
- Yield: 24 cookies
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Soft and buttery shortbread cookies flavored with cherry and almond, then finished off with sweet white chocolate. This cookie dough must be chilled, so plan accordingly.
- 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2/3 cup (134g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) maraschino cherry juice
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 16 maraschino cherries (drained and chopped)
- optional: 4 ounces white chocolate
- Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Switch mixer to medium speed and add the the sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on high, slowly drizzle in 1 Tablespoon of the cherry juice. Beat for 1 minute on high. Turn the mixer off and pour the flour into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and slowly beat until a very soft dough is formed, then, with the mixer still running on low, add the chopped cherries. Beat just until the cherries are disbursed in the dough. Press the dough down to compact it and tightly cover with plastic wrap to chill until firm, at least 4 hours (and up to 3 days). If the cookie dough is not sufficiently chilled, your cookies will spread.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats (silicone mats preferred to reduce spreading). Shape the cookie dough into balls. Mine were about 1 Tablespoon of dough per ball. Make sure they’re nice and smooth. If you find that the balls of dough are sticky and/or have gotten a little soft after rolling- place the balls of dough back into the refrigerator to firm up. You absolutely DO NOT want soft dough.
- Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the edges. The cookies will puff up and spread slightly. Do not overbake. In fact, I only baked mine for 10 minutes. I prefer them a little soft. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before drizzling with white chocolate. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, in 20 second increments, stirring after each increment until melted. I used a plastic condiment bottle to drizzle the melted white chocolate.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Store cookies covered at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 6 days. Shortbread cookie dough may be frozen up to 2 months; baked cookies may be frozen up to 2-3 months.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
Keywords: cherry almond shortbread cookies, cherry almond shortbread
Reader Comments & Reviews
Absolutely amazing! Easy to make, beautiful in colour and takes so yummy and I always add these into my Christmas cookie tins for gifting! All of your recipes are fantastic, I only trust this website for baking recipes
Had a quick question before trying these out: could I substitute fresh and/or frozen cherries instead of Maraschino? Thanks!
Hi Julie, We haven’t tested this recipe with fresh or frozen cherries. You can certainly try it but the texture (and flavor) will be different. Let us know if you give it a try!
Easy, delicious shortbread cookies! Made these for someone who cannot have eggs.
Sally, I love your recipes. You are my go-to person. Quality recipes and helpful details. Thanks for the idea of the plastic bottle to drizzle chocolate. What a life saver! Less mess.
Thanks for an amazing recipe! These are SO delicious! It’s nice to have something new for the Christmas cookie plate. I added a few extra maraschino cherries to my recipe (20 total), and omitted the white chocolate, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly and they turned out perfect. Great cherry flavor and texture! 🙂
I’d like to get a jump on my Christmas cookie baking. Can I make the dough, roll them and freeze on a tray, then bag them up and hold them in the freezer until a week before Christmas? Or is it better to bake them off and freeze them after they’ve cooled?
Either way works, I prefer to make the dough balls now, freeze, then bake them so they’re “fresh” 🙂
Ok did i do something wrong? the dough is so floury!! i think i need to add more liquid… not making dough at all, keeps falling apart its so dry. i double checked the measurements of my ingredients and they were all correct. not sure what happened? any quick suggestions?? thank you
Thanks for sharing such a great recipe! I found this is the perfect POP of color for my Christmas Cookie Tray.
One Question, how can I get more cherry flavor without messing with the consistency of the dough? I felt like some of the actually almond/cherry flavor was lacking. I used salted-butter, could that have caused it? Would it be okay to use cherry extract?
I’ve seen cherry extract online before and have heard wonders about its flavor. Even a 1/2 teaspoon of that can help!
I made these last year and they were a big hit! I am planning to make them again this year, and wondering if salted butter will make such a difference?
Thanks so much for the great recipes (my mother and I love the raspberry thumbprints too!)
Hi Amber! Sorry for the delay responding. You can use salted butter instead of unsalted. I’ve done it before (accidentally actually!) and didn’t notice a taste difference at all.
OH.. MY.. HEAVENS, these are DELICIOUS!!!
I’m going to try making these tonight. It’ll be my first time ever making shortbread cookies. Can I roll them into balls and place them on cookie sheets prior to chilling them? Do you have any other tips? I only get one shot because they’re for an event tomorrow and I’ve been promising my sister that I would make them lol.
Hi Stephanie! I do recommend chilling then rolling. You could, however, chill for 2 hours, then roll, then chill for a remaining 2 hours. Let me know how they go!
I’m making these for a cookie exchange and they don’t seem to be turning out as described. I used a medium sized ice cream scoop to scoop out the cookies. They never spread out at all. The outside of the cookie is hard/crunchy and the inside texture is like a raw cookie. I tried keeping a batch in the oven until the bottom was pretty brown and the inside was still the same consistency. Any thoughts?
Would it be possible to roll out this dough and use a cookie cutter? I am trying to make cookies in the shape of tea bags for an afternoon tea event I am hosting, but didn’t want just plain shortbread.
These would spread too much– not really hold their shape at all! My sugar cookies would work, maybe you can add a flavor extract?
Hi! I made these today and I refrigerated then and after a couple of hours brought them out to roll into balls and placed back in the fridge for a total of 4 hours refrigeration. When the cookies came out of the oven the are didnt come out dome shaped like yours. They were a little flat. Do you think I needed to keep in fridge longer?
Longer chill time will help, for sure. If you make them again, try adding 2-3 more Tbsp of flour. That should help bulk them up a bit!
When I tried to make these cookies (twice) the dough was so dry after the blending of ingredients…? (Yes, I doubled and tripled checked the ingredient amounts called for in the recipe.
It’s supposed to be a little dry and crumbly. Can you form it into balls?
Could I use Cherry chips instead of maraschino cherries?
I don’t see why not!
I absolutely LOVE these and can’t wait to make them again this year. I can’t have chocolate so I am always looking for delicious non-chocolate recipes. I have a request, though. I have been searching for a lemon butter cookie that is exactly the same consistency, shape, etc. as these; only with lemon. I don’t want cut-out cookies or traditional shortbread. How can I adapt this recipe to be lemon instead of cherry? Maybe with a lemon glaze on top, too. Thank you! I love what you do, Sally! This is my go-to site!
Carin, that sounds SO good. I would just leave out the cherries and add lemon extract. (Keep the almond and vanilla.) It’s that easy! With a lemon glaze, too.
Hi Sally! just made these cookies and followed the recipe exactly but they came out so small and did not spread out at all!! They also seem very undercooked in the middle even after baking for over 12 minutes. I left the dough in the fridge for almost 2 days….could it be the dough was too cold and therefore too dense?? Please help because they taste soooo good, but they are so tiny 🙁
Jackie, they won’t spread *too* much. The dough could have been super cold or even a little dried out. Try chilling for less time. And letting the dough/dough balls come to room temperature before putting into the oven.
Are these cookies soft? What type of texture?
They’re soft in the center with a slightly crisp edge.
Hey Sally can this dough be used in other ways ? like for rolling and cutting out? or forming into a log and then slice and bake? or do you have any other shortbread recipe that can be used in many ways?…I hoping to bake them as gifts – it will be nice to have a little variety!…
Amanthi, this dough can work as slice and bake. unsure about rolling out and using cookie cutters.
I just baked these like a second ago but they came out beautifully. Thank you, your website has been an inspiration to this wannabe baker 🙂
I’m disappointed! I followed this recipe exactly (I even measure the flour according to your tutorial) and my dough came out beige (not even even close to the same pink) and extremely crumbly. I chilled it for about 2 hours and it was hard as a rock and disintegrates in my hands . I haven’t baked them yet, but am wondering why the colour didn’t pop and why the pre-chilled dough was stiff and crumbly rather than pliable and sticky?
Do you think you overmeasure the flour at all? Did you change anything about the recipe? The butter amount? The chopped cherries beaten into the dough usually help intensify the pink color.
I just made these tonight and they are going to fast! Love the combination of flavours! I just have one question though, mine didn’t get as pink as the recipe picture and I used 1 TB of the cherry juice. Should I add more?
Also, a suggestion for the white chocolate drizzle if you don’t have a plastic squeeze bottle is to spoon the chocolate into a small ziplock bag and make a slight cut at the corner of the bag for piping/ drizzling. Easy solution 🙂
You may add a tiny bit more– or even a drop of red food coloring if you’d like.
I made your holiday sugar cookies with my two young boys and they were a HUGE hit. With this recipe do I compact the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or should I roll this dough and wrap tightly? Also, you say to let chill for at least 4 hours, would overnight be good? It’s already 6:30 here. I don’t want to stay up all night baking lol. I have a 4 yr old who loves to wake mommy up super early. Thanks
I love love all of your recipes. Thank you for sharing them with us
Compact the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and yes– overnight chilling is just fine. Take the cookie dough out and let it sit at room temperature for 30ish minutes because it will be extremely firm right out of the fridge. I’m so glad you all enjoyed my sugar cookies!
I host an annual Holiday Cookie Exchange and I made these yummy cookies won “best dressed” and “most unique”! Love the tips along the way-valuable to the success of this delicious cookie.
Yummy! I made these tonight and they were fabulous. I didn’t even let them cool all the way before I was gobbling them up.
I made these cookies last weekend for a cookie exchange. I admit that I didn’t think they were very pink when I first mixed them together, but they definitely turned out a lovely shade of pink! The white chocolate is a must in my opinion. Hubby and I tried them with and without, and decided they are better with the white chocolate drizzle. My 6 yr old daughter is not a fan of these cookies, since she said they were too rich for her. I loved the simplicity of the cookie and the wonderful texture, even on day 3. Thanks Sally!
Hi Sally, I just love, love,love your easy to fallow recipes. My 13 yr old daughter is finally showing her interest in cooking/baking. We both love anything w/ a cherry & chocolate combo. I was wondering, instead of drizzling melted chocolate over the cherry almond shortbread cookies. Would pressing a chocolate cordial kiss on top of the cookie after baking work?
I can’t see why not! Sounds like a great idea for a festive cookie Tina.
Hey Sally! I made these last night and they are perfect! They are so soft, so flavorful, and soooo pink! (which just happens to be my favorite color!) I am making these along with your gingersnap cookies and candy cane kiss cookies for Christmas! Thank you for this wonderful recipe and happy holidays!
Do you think these can be made into cookie bars?
Absolutely! I would say a 9-inch square baking pan. I am unsure of the bake time.