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These shortbread cookies are the Christmas cookies mom has made every holiday season. They're whipped shortbread cookies that are so soft they literally melt in your mouth. You will LOVE them!
This recipe was originally published in 2011. We've updated the post with some new photos, and more information but the delicious recipe remains the same.
This is the shortbread cookie recipe our family has been making for decades. They were part of the Christmas cookie spread that always included mom's nanaimo bars, turtles, and butter tarts. Christmas wouldn't be the same without them.
These shortbread cookies are crazy soft. When we say they melt in your mouth, we mean it. No chewing required. They’re the most tender shortbread cookies you will ever eat. In the words of one of our taste testers, “I don't know what just happened in my mouth, but I want more of it.”
This shortbread cookie recipe has only 5 ingredients, is made in one bowl, and is the best shortbread you will ever eat. Are you sold? You should be!
This easy recipe is made with only five ingredients!
- Butter – We prefer to use salted butter. If you only have unsalted butter, simply add salt to the recipe. Make sure the butter is at room temperature before making these cookies.
- Flour – Unbleached, all-purpose flour works best in this recipe.
- Icing sugar – Also known as powdered sugar.
- Cornstarch – This is added to make the shortbread cookies even softer.
- Vanilla – We add this for a subtle flavor.
Making whipped shortbread is incredibly easy. But it does help to have a look at the pictures above so that you can see what the dough looks like in the 4 different stages that it goes through while you're beating it.
- You'll start by slowly mixing the salted butter, flour, icing sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla using electric beaters at their lowest setting – this is to prevent a cloud of flour dust from flying out of the bowl. After a minute, the dough will no longer be dusty but will have larger chunks of butter coated in flour.
- A few minutes later, when the dough starts to look like sand, turn the beaters up to medium speed. At this point, you'll likely think that it will never come together, but have patience and trust that it will.
- Keep beating the sandy dough for 3-4 minutes and all of a sudden you will feel your beaters start to strain and the dough will come together.
- Turn your beaters up to high and continue to beat the dough for another 1-2 minutes, or until it resembles thick whipped cream.
Now all that's left to do is drop mounds of the dough onto baking sheets and bake them for 15 minutes. So easy!
Using a stand mixer to make shortbread cookies is a little trickier as you have to stop often to scrape the bowl AND it's easy to overwhip them.
- Always use the whisk attachment. The paddle attachment is not able to whip the shortbread properly.
- Stop frequently to scrape the side of the bowl. Otherwise, some of the dough will be whipped and some won't. You'll see the difference the first time you stop to scrape the bowl.
- Keep a close eye on the dough at the end. As soon as it resembles thick whipped cream, stop beating it. Overbeating the dough can cause the cookies to flatten when they bake.
- The total time you'll need to whip the cookie dough in a stand mixer is about 5 minutes.
Variations to try
- Top with red and green sprinkles for Christmas shortbread cookies. You can also try blending the sprinkles right into the batter.
- Add lemon or orange zest to the batter.
- Drizzle the tops with chocolate.
- Swap the vanilla for your favorite flavor extract.
- Make whipped shortbread cookies with Toblerone by stirring 1 cup of chopped Toblerone into the batter.
- This recipe works best if you beat the dough with electric beaters. While you can use a stand mixer, you'll need to watch the dough carefully to make sure that you don't overwhip it.
- Make sure the cookie dough is cold before you put it in the oven. If your house is quite warm, put the cookie dough in the fridge to chill it before you bake the cookies.
- Watch the dough. We used to set a timer and beat the dough for 10 minutes. This worked great with older beaters, but more powerful ones are able to whip the dough in a shorter amount of time. It's best to watch the dough and stop beating it once it looks like thick whipped cream.
- Use salted butter. This has nothing to do with making the softest shortbread cookies, but it will make the tastiest ones.
Eating this shortbread is like eating buttery soft crumbly clouds.
If you're after a firm, biscuit-like shortbread (like our Scottish shortbread), then this is not your recipe.
This recipe is for you if you want soft, melt in your mouth shortbread. (And really, who doesn't want that?)
What is shortbread?
There are two kinds of shortbread: Irish shortbread and whipped shortbread. This is a whipped shortbread recipe. The difference between the two is that in whipped shortbread the ingredients are whipped until they become light and fluffy. When the cookies are baked, they have an airy texture from being whipped.
What’s the difference between butter cookies and shortbread cookies?
Shortbread cookies have the highest ratio of butter to flour. Butter cookies (while very buttery, as the name suggests) have more flour and sugar, which results in a sturdier dough that can be rolled and cut.
What type of flour should I use?
This recipe has been tested using unbleached, all-purpose flour.
What type of butter should I use?
This recipe works best with salted butter. Remember to let it soften to room temperature before you use it. If you only have unsalted butter, make sure to add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or ½ teaspoon of table salt to the batter.
Is this a sweet cookie recipe?
No, this shortbread is not overly sweet. If you'd like them a little sweeter, a sprinkle of icing sugar after they come out of the oven does the trick!
Can you decorate shortbread cookies?
Because these cookies are quite delicate, they cannot be rolled and decorated with icing. However, several readers have commented that they've had success using this dough with a cookie press. If you really want to decorate these shortbread cookies, wait until they have cooled completely and then drizzle a little chocolate over the top.
If you'd like to make shortbread cookies that you can decorate, try our Scottish shortbread cookies!
Can I use margarine?
No, margarine doesn't make great shortbread cookies. It will cause the cookies to spread more when making and they won't have a nice buttery flavor.
How do I know the shortbread is done?
The cookies will puff up ever so slightly and the bottoms will be the lightest golden brown while the tops of the cookies will remain almost white.
This shortbread cookie recipe is great to make ahead of time. Not only do they keep well for many many days on your counter, but you can also put them into your freezer for months. So go ahead and make a big batch and have some on hand next time a cookie craving strikes!
One of the many wonderful things about shortbread cookies is that they stay fresh for a LONG time. They will keep well stored in a container on your counter for at least a week.
Or you can put them in your fridge for up to two weeks.
If you love shortbread cookie recipes, also try our almond flour shortbread cookies!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups salted butter (at room temperature – see notes)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Colored candied cherries or dried cranberries (for garnish)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Position your oven rack in the middle of your oven.
- Add the flour, butter, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla to a deep mixing bowl.3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups salted butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, ½ cup cornstarch, 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Begin mixing the ingredients using electric beaters at their lowest speed. Once the dry ingredients begin mixing with the butter and are not dusty anymore, increase the speed to medium.
- A few minutes later, the dough will start to look like sand. Keep beating the dough for another 3-4 minutes and it will start to come together.
- Once the dough comes together and your beaters start straining, increase the speed to high and beat the dough for another 1-2 minutes, or until it resembles thick whipped cream.
- Drop the dough into small mounds (about 2-3 tablespoons) on a baking sheet. If using, gently press a dried cranberry into the tops of the cookies then bake for 15 minutes. It is best to bake one sheet of cookies at the same time. Use a new sheet pan for the next batch. The cookie dough must be added to a cool baking sheet.Colored candied cherries or dried cranberries
- Let the cookies cool for at least 10 minutes then use an offset spatula or slotted fish spatula to remove the cookies from the sheet pan and transfer them to a cooling rack.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.