Stained Glass Window Cookies

These stained glass window cookies are made with my favorite sugar cookies. Cut out the center of each and fill with crushed hard candies before baking. The candy melts as the cookies bake, creating a gorgeous windowpane effect. There’s no extra decorating or icing required! This is a fun and wildly impressive cookie you can add to your holiday baking.

stained glass window snowflake cookies with melted Jolly Rancher centers

I’ve always wanted to make this style of cookie. I saw stained glass window cookies, also known as windowpane cookies, featured on the cover of Food Network’s holiday magazine and decided it was fate. I used my own sugar cookie recipe, topped them with crisp sparkling sugar, and was delighted with how beautiful they turned out. My daughter was in awe!

Today I’m showing you exactly how I did it plus some success tips that I found helpful.


Tell Me About These Stained Glass Window Cookies

  • Texture: Underneath all this glitz and glamour, we have a buttery sugar cookie. If you avoid over-baking, they’re relatively soft with slightly crisp edges. The sparkling sugar on top adds a pleasant crunch. After the melted candy center cools, it becomes hard candy again. I found it easiest to eat the sugar cookie edges and save the hard candy center for last. The candy center is a thin layer, so it’s much easier to bite into/suck on than a full-size Jolly Rancher or other candy.
  • Flavor: The sugar cookies have a sweet vanilla flavor. I was going to prepare them with vanilla sugar, but felt the fragrant vanilla bean would get lost under the fruity candy.
  • Ease: Not too tricky! If you’re comfortable making cut-out sugar cookies, you’ll do just fine with these. I appreciate that there’s no finicky icing or decorating required– the cookies are decorated right out of the oven.
  • Time: The cookie dough comes together in minutes. Roll it out, then chill it in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours. Without chilling, the cookies will completely lose their shape. (It’s a crucial step.) After that, cut the dough into shapes, re-roll the scraps, then fill with crushed candies and bake. Set aside a few hours to complete this recipe.

stained glass window cookies on baking sheet with decorative ornaments

Stained Glass Window Cookies Video Tutorial


Overview: How to Make Stained Glass Window Cookies

The full printable recipe is below.

  1. Make sugar cookie dough. You only need 7 basic ingredients for this cookie dough.
  2. Divide in two pieces. Smaller sections of dough are easier to roll out.
  3. Roll out cookie dough. Roll it out to 1/4 inch thick or just under 1/4 inch thick.
  4. Chill rolled out dough. Without chilling, the cookies won’t hold their shape. Chill the rolled out dough in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
  5. Crush your candies. Unwrap the hard candies, separate the colors, then crush them into smaller pieces. More on this step below. Warning: it gets messy!
  6. Cut into shapes. You need 2 cookie cutter sizes for this recipe– 1 large and 1 small. If you don’t have a small cookie cutter, use a knife to cut out a circle, diamond, or other easy shape. Have a little flour nearby when you’re rolling out the cookie dough. Keep your work surface, hands, and rolling pin lightly floured. Re-roll all your scraps– you’ll be surprised how many cookies you get from this amount of dough. Work quickly during this step because you don’t want the dough to become too soft.
  7. Top with coarse sugar or sprinkles. The topping is optional, but adds a beautiful sparkle. Brush the cookies with a beaten egg white or water to help the coarse sugar stick.
  8. Fill the centers with crushed candies.
  9. Bake & cool. Depending on their exact size, the cookies take about 12-13 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets until the melted candy center solidifies. Cooling usually takes about 15 minutes.

The Trick is the Order of Steps

Notice how I roll out the dough BEFORE chilling it in the refrigerator? If you’re curious, let me explain why I do this. To prevent the cookies from over-spreading, the cookie dough must chill in the refrigerator. Roll out the dough right after you prepare it, then chill the rolled-out dough. (At this point the dough is too soft to cut into shapes.) Don’t chill the cookie dough and then try to roll it out because it will be too cold and difficult to work with. I divide the dough in half before rolling it out and highly recommend you do the same. Smaller sections of dough are simply more manageable.

overhead photo of cookie ingredients including butter, sugar, flour, egg, and jolly rancher candies

sugar cookie dough in bowl and divided in half

rolled out sugar cookie dough with snowflake cookie cutters

snowflake shaped sugar cookie dough on baking sheet

crushed jolly rancher candies inside sugar cookie dough

Best Candies to Use

Any semi-translucent hard candy works. Some examples include Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, or clear-ish lollipops. (For lack of better words!) Candy canes work too– you just won’t have the same stained glass window look. If you don’t have candy like this where you live, you can make hard candy from scratch. Here’s a homemade hard candy recipe I’ve used and loved.


Tools You Need

  • Rolling Pin
  • Cookie Cutters: As I mention above, you need 2 cookie cutter sizes– 1 large for the cookie’s shape and 1 for the center cut-out. I recommend a 3.5 or 4 inch cookie cutter for the cookie, then a 1.5 inch cookie cutter for the center. If you don’t have a tiny cookie cutter for the center, don’t worry about it. You can cut out a circle or any other shape using a sharp knife. If you want to purchase a large and mini cookie cutter set, though, I recommend this snowflake cookie cutter set (used in the photos and video) and this star set (used in the photos, great for kids). Or use a 3.5-4 inch circle cookie cutter and any shape mini cookie cutter. This is a fun mini Christmas cookie cutter set.
  • Plastic/Paper Bags: The best way to crush the hard candies is to place them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin, which is a convenient tool because you need one for the dough. A meat mallet works too! Don’t crush the candies into a fine powder– we don’t want it to caramelize and burn. Instead, crush them into fine pebble-sized bits. The crushed candies will pierce the bag no matter how careful you are. Some candy dust will escape, so just know that this step is messy. If you don’t want to use plastic, use a paper bag or paper plate.
  • Cookie/Baking Sheets: If you need a brand recommendation, I use and love USA Pan and Nordic Ware 12×17 half sheet pans.
  • Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mats: I recommend baking the stained glass window cookies on lined baking sheets because the melted candy center will harden and stick to a bare pan. Using parchment paper or silicone mats is crucial if you want to remove the cookies in 1 piece. I actually use parchment paper and/or silicone baking mats for rolling out the cookie dough too. This is my little trick because you can easily transfer the rolled out dough to the refrigerator this way. Lift the paper/mat with the rolled out dough on top, put it on a baking sheet, and place it in the refrigerator. If you don’t have enough room for 2 baking sheets in your refrigerator, stack the rolled out dough on top of each other. (You can watch me do all this in the video tutorial above.)
  • Pastry Brush: If you decide to top the cookies with coarse sugar or sprinkles before baking, you need to brush the surface of the cookie with a beaten egg white or a little water. This helps the coarse sugar/sprinkles stick. A pastry brush is handy.

stained glass window cookies on baking sheet

Can I Do This With Other Cookie Dough?

Absolutely! Instead of sugar cookie dough, try this process with chocolate sugar cookies, cut-out cream cheese cookies, or gingerbread cookies. Or you could even cut windows in gingerbread house dough to make actual stained glass windows. I need to try that next.

Print
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stained glass window snowflake cookies with melted Jolly Rancher centers

Stained Glass Window Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (includes chilling)
  • Cook Time: 13 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours (includes cooling)
  • Yield: 24
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Sugar cookies turn into colorful windows when you fill their centers with crushed hard candies. Before starting, review the helpful video tutorial and success tips above.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1520 unwrapped hard candies, such as Jolly Ranchers or Life Savers

Optional Topping Before Baking

  • 1 large egg white OR 2 Tablespoons (30ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (65g) coarse sugar or sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be relatively soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Place each portion onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness or slightly thinner (anywhere between 1/8 – 1/4 inch is fine). Use more flour if the dough seems too sticky. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly thick.
  5. Lightly dust one of the rolled-out doughs with flour. Place a piece of parchment on top. (This prevents sticking.) Place the 2nd rolled-out dough on top. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. As the cookie dough chills, begin crushing the candies. The best way to crush the hard candies is to separate them by color, place each color in plastic bags, and crush them with a rolling pin or meat mallet. Don’t crush the candies into a fine powder– crush them into fine pebble-sized bits. The crushed candies will pierce the bag no matter how careful you are. Some candy dust will escape, so just know that this step is messy. If you don’t want to use plastic, use a paper bag or paper plate. (A bag is preferred so candy doesn’t go flying everywhere.) Set crushed candy aside.
  7. Once cookie dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Carefully remove the top dough piece from the refrigerator. If it’s sticking to the bottom, run your hand under it to help remove it– see me do this in the video above. Using your large cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Using your small cookie cutter, cut out the center shape. (You don’t need the center piece– re-roll it!) Re-roll all the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with 2nd piece of dough. Note: It doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but you get a lot of cookies from the dough scraps you re-roll.
  8. Carefully arrange cookies on baking sheets 3 inches apart. If your cookies are intricately shaped, use two hands to transfer them to the lined baking sheet.
  9. Optional Topping: If using an egg white, beat it lightly with a fork or small whisk for 10 seconds. It’s easier to brush onto tops of cookies if it’s beaten first. Brush tops of shaped cookies with egg white or water. Sprinkle coarse sugar/sprinkles on top.
  10. Fill Cookie Centers: Fill the cut-out centers about 3/4 full with crushed candies. The candy pieces melt and expand, so you don’t need to over-fill. I use and recommend 1 color per cookie, but feel free to mix for a spotty multicolor look. The candies are sticky, so wipe off your fingers as needed.
  11. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until candies have melted and the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet until the melted candy center sets, about 15 minutes. Once melted candy center has set, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  12. Cover and store cookies at room temperature for up to 1 week. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Sugar cookies freeze well up to 3 months. After candy center cools and sets, layer the cookies between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months before rolling it out. Prepare the dough through step 3, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disk as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, then freeze. To thaw, thaw the disks in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 4, then chill rolled out dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes – 1 hour before cutting into shapes and baking.
  2. Optional Topping: In the pictured cookies, I used an egg white and white sparkling sugar sprinkles, something you can usually find in the baking aisle at the grocery store. (I like Wilton brand.) The egg white created a lovely golden sheen. If you use water, the cookies may look a little pale in comparison.

Adapted from Food Network

Keywords: sugar cookies, Christmas cookies

stained glass window cookies with candy centers

295 Comments

  1. These are so pretty!

  2. these are gorgeous! they look so fancy but I love how you make it so seem so approachable!

    1. Thanks so much, Hannah 🙂 They’re definitely not as tricky as they might first seem! Hope you will give them a try.

  3. These are absolutely beautiful! I’ll definitely have to try making them soon!

  4. Sally I know your cookie base is yummy, but did you really enjoy eating a crunchy candy with it? (Your cookies are pretty)

    1. Thanks Iram, you’re so sweet as always. Best way to eat them like I mention– eat the cookie first and save the hard candy for last. Hard to eat it all together!

  5. Dennis Yannakos says:

    These cookies literally look so lovely! the recipe seems not too hard to try. Many thanks for sharing!

  6. Laurie Chaplen says:

    So pretty a new addition for my neighbors and family cookie plates.

    1. I love that idea, Laurie!

  7. Do you have any alternatives to the hard candy center? I love the look of these but I know for sure nobody here is going to enjoy the center.

    1. Would anyone enjoy candy canes instead? That’s a listed option. Or you can leave the centers empty.

  8. I love the trick of pre rolling before chilling!!!

    1. Makes such a difference! Hope you found it helpful 🙂

  9. Ahhh, so excited for this challenge! I love stained glass window cookies, they’re SO festive and so easy to make! <3

  10. Hi Sally!

    Can’t wait to make these. What size are your cookie cutters? And why does the recipe call for rolling out 2 discs?

    1. Hi Elisa! See if the section above labeled “Tools You Need” is helpful. I link to some favorite cookie cutters, too. (Basically, I recommend a 3.5-4 inch large cutter with a 1.5 inch small cutter.) Additionally, see the section above labeled “The Trick is the Order of Steps.” Dividing the dough in half is helpful because it’s easier to work with smaller sections of dough.

  11. Pratima Lakhani says:

    What can use instead of egg?

    1. Hi Pratima, I haven’t tested this cookie with an egg substitute, but let me know if give any a try. For the egg wash, water can be used in its place. See my recipe notes for more details.

  12. So festive, easy, and good. They are delightfully different.

  13. Mollie Wright says:

    Such a fun, easy recipe for a seemingly complex cookie. The sugar cookie recipe by itself is simple and delicious. I would suggest using a spoon to place and spread the crushed candies into the centers of the cookies – it helps your fingers from getting too sticky!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Mollie! Glad to hear you had fun with this recipe – thank you for participating!

  14. I make similar biscuits using jelly jam every year for Christmas – a family favourite. I love the look of these ones though, so will give them a go and see if they taste as good as they look!

  15. Made these last night – I love that my kids had enough leftover Halloween candy that we could make these without shopping for ingredients! They enjoyed getting to help too! I normally get nervous baking something new for the first time with kids at my side, but this was easy and fun for them too. My daughter especially loved watching the Jolly Ranchers melt in the oven. The cookies were tasty and unique, and the candy filling set up within a few minutes out of the oven. Not only are they fun and festive for the holidays, these would be a great additional treat at a birthday!

    1. What a fun activity for your kiddos 🙂 I agree, these would be a perfect addition to a birthday celebration! Thanks so much for participating, Amanda.

  16. These cookies are so pretty and easy! My kids were so excited to crush the candies. Thanks for a great recipe!!

  17. These cookies are so fun! So much fun to make and SO pretty!

  18. Loved these sugar cookies! I have been looking for a good sugar cookie recipe and the added sugar on top is perfect. The stained glass look was really pretty. I made snowflakes and trees and even tinted my egg white green to make the trees green. Fun to think of creative ideas. I also made the chocolate sugar cookies with crushed peppermint.
    This is my first baking challenge (but not my first recipe from Sally) and my 9 year old was so excited to hear I was doing a Baking Challenge with Sally that it was like I won the lottery. She said that Sally is the best baker! So, thank you, Sally, for doing a monthly challenge!

    1. Thank you for this incredibly thoughtful note, Jenn! I’m glad you decided to join your first baking challenge, and what delicious flavor combinations. I love the creativity! You and your daughter are the sweetest – thank you for following along and making my recipes!

      1. Sally, you made her day by replying and including her. Thank you!

  19. This recipe was fun and easy! I love the idea of switching up the candies! I think peppermint candies would look beautiful! I definitely didn’t measure the flour correctly because I added a bunch after because it was too sticky! So fun though! I also love cutting cookies out!

    1. Peppermint candies would be lovely, especially with my Chocolate Sugar Cookies! Thank you for participating, Karah.

      1. That’s a great idea! Thank you!!

  20. Love how easy this recipe is. It look’s complicated but really not!

  21. Such a beautiful cookie Sally! I’ve completed every challenge this year and I loved being excited to wait what each challenge would be. Thank you for having me try so many new things I didn’t think was possible

    1. Thank you so much for participating in all my monthly challenges, Patricia – I truly appreciate it! Hope you enjoy this one 🙂

  22. Karilea Jo Cate says:

    These were so much fun to make! I found it easier to brush the cookies with water and dust with sugar before adding the candy into the cutouts. My cookies were pale as warned so I would definitely use an egg white instead of water next time. Also, don’t skip the sugar on top! I left it off a few to see how much of a difference it made and the ones with sugar were so much prettier!

    1. I’m glad you had fun with this challenge, Karilea – thank you for your participation and feedback!

  23. I really enjoyed making these cookies! I used crushed Life Savers, they made my kitchen smell like cherry Pop-Tarts (YUM!!) Mine did stick a bit to the parchment paper, but I was able to get most of them un-stuck without too much damage.

    1. I bet they were awesome with cherry Life Savers! Thanks for participating in this month’s challenge, Theresa 🙂

  24. Hi hope you are doing great
    Well I made these beautiful stained glass cookies last night ,and waited for the bright sun to shine early morning just to see the magic.
    Sending you the warmth of this sunlight straight from India…i always love your recipes and am so excited to be a part of it.

    Warm hUg from India
    Merry X mas

    1. Hi Sana, thank you for this kind and thoughtful note! I’m thrilled these cookies made your morning so special. Thank you for making and trusting my recipes, and happy holidays to you, too!

  25. What a fun recipe! I have always thought this kind of cookie looked like too much work so was pleasantly surprised to find how easy and fun it was to make. Great recipe for doing with kids as they can help sort and crush candies. My son loved doing these with me and has asked me to make them every year already. Thanks for a new family tradition!

    1. How sweet! I love that this recipe has already become a holiday tradition. Thank you for participating, Megan!

  26. Made these this morning. First time entering any kind of bake off!

    1. Thank you for participating, Katie – hope you enjoyed these and that you will join in on future challenges!

  27. I made these cookies this morning and they turned out great! They look so cool and were surprisingly quick and easy to put together. They taste delicious too!

  28. Noha Bham Nana says:

    These were so fun to make with my kids and tasted delicious! I was surprised at how good the candy, sugar cookie combo tasted!

  29. I’m a long time follower but just emailed my first picture! These stained glass cookies were so much fun to make.

    1. Thank you, Susan! Appreciate your participation and many years of loyal readership 🙂

  30. Sally,
    Can you use isomalt in replacement for the candy?

    1. Hi Kelly, I don’t recommend isomalt for the filling. Stick with hard candies.

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