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. I had fun with this recipe! I already made your sugar cookies for decorating last week and wish I had read this and made my stained glass cookies then! I had lifesavers and those butterscotch old-fashioned stick candies. I made two of each and made the rest as plain cookies to decorate because it’s so fun and relaxing! I liked the butterscotch a lot, the red lifesaver was good, the green lifesaver was not. I think if I were to do it again I’d use the coloured sugars and the butterscotch sticks.

  2. I gotta say these cookies are delicious! The cookie itself soo good! My whole family loved them. And the egg wash and coarse sugar just puts this cookie over the top definitely making again.

  3. Cookies themselves are great, not sure any of us loved the candy melted but they looked great and we couldn’t get enough of the sugar cookie!

  4. I’ve always loved your favorite sugar cookie recipe! The stained glass effect really makes it festive and gives the “Wow “ response that we bakers love to hear! YumI think I will indulge in deliciousness with a cup of tea and with my feet up…Have a Holly Jolly Christmas everyone!

  5. I made the Buche De Noel as the alternate challenge. The recipe was time consuming but came out well, especially since Sally gave such great, clear instructions. I baked the cake the day before and left it on the counter rolled in the tea towel. Unfortunately, the cake dried out. Next time I’ll cover it also with plastic wrap. The whip filling and ganache were great! Making it was fu n and challenging!

  6. The recipe was easy to follow and was a great way to celebrate the holidays!

  7. I used to make stained glass window cookies with my kids when they were little! It was such a joy to see this recipe come up so I decided to make them with my daughter! All of the instructions were very clear, the dough came together very easily and the cookies look amazing and taste even better!

    1. What a sweet memory 🙂 and how fun to make them again with your daughter!

  8. The cookies look beautiful and will make any cookie tray look festive! Thanks for the recipe!

  9. My alternate entry was the Yule Log. I had so much fun doing it. I did it over several days. I would work on it in the evenings after I got home. My toddler loved the final product. “Oh WOW! Mommy, you made a tree!” I will definitely do this annually. I customized my recipe to use almonds and almond extract instead of hazelnuts and the hazelnut liquor. It was just delicious. Looked and tasted wonderful.

    1. That is so sweet, Abby! Thank you for sharing. I’m glad the Buche de Noel was a success for you.

  10. Those Jolly Rancher centers were definitely a hit with the little ones and super fun and easy to make! I found I couldn’t find a small enough cookie cutter for the center so I used a bottle cap from my oil container instead and it made for a perfect round center for the candy!

  11. Rebecca Loscombe says:

    Such a fun recipe that turned out so pretty!!

  12. What a great recipe! My 13 year old daughter made these entirely by herself. She used Life Savers for the center. They were good, but we agreed that the Life Savers had a bit of an odd taste. We would use Jolly Ranchers next time. Thank you for the beautiful addition to our holiday cookies!

  13. I made these cookies to give away. They turned out wonderful. My family and I loved experimenting with different shapes.

  14. Loved making these cookies! My daughter loved to help me as well and they add such nice colour to my Christmas cookie boxes!

  15. This recipe is perfect!! So much fun to make, and they’re guaranteed to be the most beautiful cookie on your plate. It looks so professional and impressive, but in reality it’s so simple!! I loved it and it’s going to be a staple in future Christmas cookie bakes.

    1. Thank you for the positive feedback, Madeleine — I’m glad it was such a success for you!

  16. Delicious & so easy! These were beautiful & we made so many that we even strung some up as ornaments!

  17. Rebecca Craddock says:

    My family is not very particular to sugar cookies…but they loved these! I’d say these are the best I’ve every had. Plus, they’re fun to make, allow a lot of creativity, and are so pretty! I have a good amount of cookie cutters, so I did a lot of mixing and matching shapes. I did change the center contents. I didn’t really have any traditional fruit flavored hard candies on hand, so I used butterscotch, peppermints, and cherry flavored lolipops! We expecially liked the peppermint ones, but like mentioned above, they don’t have the stain-glass effect. (The red and white swirl was very pretty though)

    1. Sounds like they were a big hit with your family, Rebecca 🙂 Thank you for participating and giving these a try.

  18. A really fun recipe. Had to hammer away at the Jolly Ranchers, but it added to the fun! Will be careful next time to not bake some as long since it not only changed the color of the dough but of the window too

  19. This recipe was fun and the results were so pretty! I made super large cookies and they are beautiful! Cookies have a great flavor and are not too sweet. Of course for those that want an extra kick of sugar, I put a lot of sugar sprinkles on the cookie. But the ones that I did without a ton of sprinkles were the most beautiful and very elegant.

  20. Very pretty cookies. My son wanted me to bake sugar cookies with icing for him but after looking at these pretty cookies coming out of the oven, he instantly changed his mind. The cookies tasted well with the Jolly ranchers.

  21. Hi Sally! These cookies turned out to be delicious and beautiful, the perfect Christmas cookie! (Just like all of your other cookies) I baked these cookies and they were gone the next day!

  22. These cookies are delicious and oh so festive! What I like most about this recipe is how simple/clear it is while still leaving lots of room for creative interpretation. Plus, crushing the Jolly Ranchers totally counts as an arm workout 😉

    1. Definitely 🙂 thank you for participating, Ruth.

  23. What an excellent recipe! Love it, the look, the taste, the simplicity of the recipe, you make it so easy to follow. I am glad I came across this challenge joined, looking forward for more upcoming ones. You are such an inspiration!

    1. Thanks so much for joining, Sanita! If you haven’t already, you can sign up for my Baking Challenge email list (https://sally-s-baking-addiction.ck.page/fb98751c33) so you’re notified as soon as the challenge recipes are published. Happy baking!

  24. These were fun to make (and not too difficult)–and my family couldn’t get enough. It’s definitely a recipe I will be using again!

  25. I always avoid cookies because they never seem to work out well. But these were really easy. Dough was easy to work with. The hardest part was crushing the candy.

  26. These were so much fun to make and decorate! And they smell so good thanks to the Jolly Ranchers!

  27. Thoroughly enjoyed making these!
    Was quite hard to crush the candy..
    We don’t have jolly ranchers so used fox’s fruit glaciers instead

  28. I made these cookies using English Fox fruit sweets – while my Candy were more muted in colour tones they tasted nice and fruity and I only made a few as I want to freeze the leftover sugar dough to use it for your other sugar cookies like the fudge stripe cookies or cinnamon roll cookies which were amazing when I made them in 2018! I put a little hole using a toothpick in the top of my unbaked cookies then after cooling I stuck some thread and hung them on my Christmas tree. Thanks Sally for another 12 months of wonderful challenge recipes with your helpful tutorials and videos, can’t wait for Jan 2021 challenge!

    Happy Baking and kind and good health wishes for the the New Year!

    1. And thank YOU for participating in my challenges, Vi Kate! I truly appreciate it.

  29. Loved making these cookies!! I let me kids help and they loved crushing the candies. They came out beautifully and tasted delicious.

  30. These cookies were beautiful and tasted delicious! The candy center adds such a nice fruit flavor surprise! These were a beautiful addition to my Christmas cookie box this year. Thanks for another great recipe, Sally!

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