Whipped Shortbread for a Running Head Start on Holiday Baking


Coming soon to a kitchen near you: holiday baking.

“This is the very first cookie I make for the holidays,” wrote Alison Keef when she sent me the recipe. This Whipped Shortbread, she wrote, was a “staple of the holiday season” when she and her family lived on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, from 1973 to 1984. “We enjoyed the wonderful mix of First Nations people, Acadian French, Irish, Scots, and people from Sweden,” when they lived there. This version of shortbread made using a mixer, is a slightly easier one than the traditional Scottish shortbread which has a very stiff dough mixed with a spoon, kneaded, and patted out, pricked and baked.

I adore shortbread, and shortbread style cookies: flour, sugar, butter. No rising agents, no eggs. Can’t beat it. Over the years, I have used a cut and roll shortbread-style recipe which I can decorate to look more Christmasy, and it makes what seems to be a ton of cookies. But this one from Alison can be used as a drop cookie, which she says she prefers, and that makes it very easy. I rolled mine quickly between my hands, dimpled it with a spoon, and sprinkled on coarse decorative sugar for holiday sparkle. If you wish, Alison says you can use this dough with a cookie press which works very well.

Alison reports that it is a wonderful keeper, and, if you are cookie freezing person, this one freezes well, too. To be truthful, I’ve never frozen cookies. My experience, gained I suppose from my cookie-baking mother who produced several hundred annually, was that cookies keep well in tins. Mom kept her tins in the unfinished attic of our house (out of sight, out of my dad’s mind, at least mostly.) I stack my tins up under the dining room sideboard. Cookies simply don’t need to be frozen and if they stay frozen a tad too long, they end up tasting like the forty other things in the freezer. Bleah.

The recipe calls for powdered sugar. You can use confectioner’s sugar; I put a cup of granulated in the blender and whirled it until it was very fine. Also, I use parchment paper these days to bake on which beats greasing a cookie sheet, and makes it sooo easy to lift cookies off to a rack. And I reuse my parchment paper (unless it gets sticky and awful.)

So go ahead and make a batch, and see if you can keep your hands off them between now and the holidays. Good luck with that.

Whipped Shortbread
Serves: up to 7 to 8 dozen, depending on size
  • 1 pound whipped butter
  • 1 cup confectioners or powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Candied cherries or decorative sugar, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
  4. Gradually add cornstarch and flour and mix until fluffy. Pause mixing to scrape bowl sides and bottom to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Drop teaspoons-full on the cookie sheet, decorate with a quarter of a candied cherry or a sprinkle of decorative sugar.
  6. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until the bottom edge of the cookie just begins to turn brown, and the cookie is set and lightly golden.
  7. Cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.