Dessert Hack: Store-Bought Cookie Dough Gets a Holiday Makeover

image source: brooke mclay
image source: brooke mclay

Holiday party season is as much about cookies as it is about all the other festive shenanigans. This time of year will have most of us hunting the web for quick and clever recipe ideas. And this store-bought cookie dough hack is about as easy as baking gets.

Grab a pack of pre-made sugar cookie dough, a few favorite candies, and tie on your apron because it’s time to get your modern June Cleaver on. These fun shortcut cookie ideas will have you baking up a whole plate of eye-popping noshes. No from-scratch, sink-full-of-dishes, messy-house-making nonsense required. Just totally adorable treats, made easy. Here’s how to pull this quick cookie hack off in your own kitchen.

Image Source: Brooke McLay
Image Source: Brooke McLay

Prep the Dough

Add Flour. Purchase a tube of refrigerated sugar cookie dough. Place dough in a large bowl and knead 1/3 cup of flour into the dough until well mixed. This will keep your final cookies round and cute, rather than flat and melty looking.

Grab a Scoop. Using a small cookie scoop, place rounds of dough on a large parchment-lined baking sheet. If desired, roll in sprinkles or sparkling sugar.

Time to Bake. Place the cookies in a preheated oven and bake for about 7-8 minutes. You want to remove the cookies as soon as they’re set, just as they turn a light golden brown around the edges.

Image Source: Brooke McLay
Image Source: Brooke McLay

Add Candy

As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, it’s time to press candies into the center of your cookies. Have everything ready to go, so you can work quickly. The cookies must be hot for the candies to melt and adhere into the center of the cookies.

Here are the candy thumbprints we pressed into our sugar cookie dough:

Rainbow Drops

To make this colorful cookie, roll dough in rainbow sprinkles. Press a red candy melt into the center of each cookie once baked.

Image Source: Brooke McLay
Image Source: Brooke McLay

Caramel Swirls

For these cookies, I took swirly soft caramels, flattened them into 1/4-inch flat rounds, and then pressed them into the center of the just-baked cookies. For the red version, I used raspberry-vanilla caramels, purchased from the candy section of my local grocer.

The same company makes a variety of flavors, so we tried the vanilla caramels as well and loved the look (and taste!) when melted into the sweet sugar cookie.

Image Source: Brooke McLay
Image Source: Brooke McLay

Gumdrop Cookies

Roll dough in sparkling sugar, bake, then press spice drops or gumdrops into the center of your cookie.

Alternately, gummy candies can be pressed into the dough prior to baking, for a colorful, gooey center.

Image Source: Brooke McLay
Image Source: Brooke McLay

When the kids came home from school to a giant plate of colorful cookies, can you guess which one they chose first?

The gumdrop cookies were the clear winner. The kids loved getting a little extra treat on top of their cookie. My daughter even declared them “the cutest cookies I’ve seen all day!”

Image Source: Brooke McLay
Image Source: Brooke McLay

More Favorite Fillings

It’s easy to make dozens of variations on these easy Thumbprint Cookies! Hit the candy store with your kids and let them pick a few favorites! Or, try these other faves on for size:

  • Chocolate candies
  • Nonpareil-covered dark chocolate drops
  • Candy bar slices
  • Candy bar miniatures
  • Mini peanut butter cups
  • Gumdrops
  • Gummy candies
  • Jam or jelly

Note: If you’re using gummy candy, hard candies, jam or jelly, press them into the cookies before baking.

Thumbprint Sugar Cookies

Makes: 24 cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 1 (16.5-ounce) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup sprinkles or sparkling sugar (optional)
  • 24 candies (candy melts, candy bar miniatures, or gumdrops)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together sugar cookie dough and flour until well combined. Drop by tablespoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, rolling dough balls into sprinkles, if desired.
  3. Bake for 6-8 minutes, just until the cookies set.
  4. As soon as you remove them from the oven, immediately press candy into the center of the cookies. Allow to cool completely before serving.
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