the heart of my Christmas baking – shortbread cookies

My Mom was a great cook – never anything fancy, but everything she made was made with fat love which made it all extra delicious.

Macaroni and cheese, bread pudding, perogies and pancakes.

And she would go baking-crazy at Christmas – maple fudge, Chex mix, rosettes, butter tarts and shortbread cookies.

My Mom made the very best shortbread cookies.

The absolute very best.

And since she died, I have been trying to recreate her shortbread recipe.

With not very good results.

But then last year, I was reading a local food blog and Chris wrote about his Mom’s shortbread cookie recipe.  Still on the search for that perfect shortbread cookie, I thought I would give it a try.

It was good.  It was probably the closest I have gotten to my Mom’s recipe, but it still seemed not-quite-right, so I fiddled with it and made another batch and they were more than not-quite right so I gave up for the year.

But this year, I had an epiphany…everything my Mom made was the most basic, simple recipe there was, and I was pretty sure that her shortbread recipe came from…the back of the Canada Cornstarch box*!

So I Googled that recipe and everything clicked.

This was it.

I also noticed that it is exactly the same as Chris’s recipe (only halved) – so I gave it another try.**  I was so confident that these were “the ones” that I made 8 dozen of them before even tasting one!

Then, even though just one of those butter-laden cookies would cause me a night of gallbladder pain, I tried one.

And I am VERY happy with the results.

*from, like, way back in the 70’s

**I’m not sure what I did wrong last year, but I must have messed up even that simple recipe, because the exact same recipe is exactly right this year 

40 thoughts on “the heart of my Christmas baking – shortbread cookies

  1. That’s a nice Bedtime story!

    Butter is so important. Probably the most important ingredient. (people around me substitute butter with margarine. :-/

    1. I have grown up with this recipe for years as my own mom made the exact ones. Yes butter IS the best to make shortbreads…never substitute margarine.. I wonder though if other store brands of cornstarch work the same?

    2. I have always used this recipe from the cornstarch box, my grandmother and mother bothed used it. Last year I made it with Unsalted butter….BIG NO NO!…shortbread tasted very bland! Always use salted butter or add salt to it if using unsalted butter. I am wondering if this recipe can be made a food processor?

  2. The best shortbread I ever made from a recipe had a pinch of lemon zest. Ah, I miss shortbread…with hot tea and a big fuzzy blanket.

    Most of the time, the simplest recipes have the best results because you rely, chemically speaking, on the best products.

  3. So glad you posted the recipe! I’ve relied on this one for years and now the corn starch containers I buy don’t have the recipe listed. I hate baking with a passion but will make these and gingerbread every year…almost :)

  4. I *love* shortbread cookies. My grandma makes shortbread that just melts in your mouth. I finally got the recipe and I can’t wait to try them this year. I’m so glad you found your mom’s recipe. There’s just something about that specific taste, right?

  5. Thank you so much for posting this. I always follow the box for this recipe and they no longer have the box. I have now written it down so that I can continue to make these every year.

  6. I personally hate shortbread. HOWEVER, the best recipe that was ever made, and gets the best results and reviews from my family, is the Canada Corn Starch recipe. I was freaking out this year, as I have a sale that I am baking for on Saturday. We haven’t purchased the Canada Corn Starch in a box for at least 2 years. THANK YOU for having the image on your blog!!! I greatly appreciate it!!!

  7. These are my favorite shortbread cookies. Just recently my husband threw away the old, empty cornstarch box (I buy cornstarch at the bulk store now but have kept the box for the recipe) not realizing that I’d not written the recipe down anywhere else. I’m happy to come across your blog with the picture of the recipe because this way I know it’s definitely the one I am looking for. Thank you very much!

  8. Thank you for posting this, it’s not on the box anymore (even though it was right up until a few years ago). My great-aunt Ruby made amazing shortbreads and when i asked her for the recipe she slyly whispered to me that it was the cornstarch box recipe – but her special little touch was that she used brown sugar instead of icing sugar. This makes them flakey and taste like real Scottish shortbread! Every cookie is attached to a memory of the person who made it originally, thank you for sharing your story.

    1. I have been making these for over 30 years – passed down from my scottish grandmother. I made them one year with a cookie press and food colouring and my own sister thought I had bought them. And she makes the same recipe!
      I am going to try the brown sugar tomorrow to see how they compare. thanks for the idea Jenn

  9. Happy to find your post. This is the shortbread recipe I used when I moved to Canada and wanted to make shortbread for my Canadian in-laws and my own children. I used it and never looked any further.
    I like to place a chocolate candy in the center, like a Hershy’s Kiss but something smaller than that. Can’t be without a bit of chocolate!
    Basic is the best! It’s a great recipe. Thanks.

  10. You saved me with this recipie and I just love seeing the original box picture!! Also love the pic of the fork pressed cookies..havent done that before!! I have saved it on my computer now. Thanks so much!!

  11. Thank you so much for this. I couldn’t find this recipe anywhere in my files and I had been using it for years. They don’t have it on the new Cornstarch “boxes” and when I went on their website to find it…well you try it. Didn’t work. You saved my Christmas…the kids would have been heartbroken to not have shortbread!

  12. just spent the last two hours going through my recipe box, as well as my moms looking for this recipe.. even made my husband go to the Safeway to take a picture of the recipe… THANK YOU…. these are the only cookies that my 11 year old daughter eats as she is not allergic to anything in them and I was getting sad thinking I could not find the recipe.. THANK YOU.. off to the kitchen I gooooo….

  13. my sister gave me a recipe once said it was the secret recipe my gramma made she said I had to use the same brand ingredients so for years I made it the same using all the same brand flour but monarch flour cant be found now so I switched flours and they still were great I tell everyone it is my grammas secret recipe because she never told us the secret that we could find the recipe on the Canada cornstarch box. I figured that is why she said we had to use the same brand ingredients it was the cornstarch NOT THE FLOUR.

  14. Hi Robyn! Wow- I’m blown away! Today I was obsessed with finding my beloved mom’s perfect shortbread cookie recipe from the 70’s and like you, I lost my mom a few years ago too :-(. We are linked by such a similar experience and because it’s so specific, it’s so cool! Thanks so much and I hope this is “the one” for me too. Cheers, and have a wonderful holiday.

  15. You can’t know how precious this recipe is to me ! I’m a Canadian living in France and my Granny used to make these lovely shortbreads when I was a kid. I was longing to make them but did not have the recipe (I knew she had it from the cornstarch box). THANK YOU so much for putting it on the internet. They are the BEST in the world and you are a darling!

  16. I’ve made these cookies for over 30 years and I have noticed occasionally if I don’t really mix it well with my hands they just are not as good, maybe that’s why yours weren’t as good last time.
    I had lost my recipe though and it was not on my box of cornstarch (it isn’t always there!) so I’m really glad to see this! Thanks,

  17. Try 1/2 margerine (the block kind, not the soft kind) and 1/2 butter.

    If your mom grew up during the depression, chances are she did this like my mom, because butter was so scarce and dear.

    This may be sacrilidge to some, but this is the kind of shortbread I grew up with, and find the all butter onces overwhelming.

  18. I love these cookies. I actually found the recipe on the corn starch box when I was a kid and used to make them. I’ve been online searching for a good shortbread recipe and seeing the picture of the box, I know this is THE ONE. I[‘m off to make some with cream cheese icing and sprinkles on top and maybe some with cherries instead of sprinkles. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  19. Making these for my baby girl …she’s 17 and she loves shortbread. This is a wonderful recipe and the woman that posted the recipe seems like a sweetie pie :) Have to say i LOVE the photo on the left!

  20. Thanks so much for printing the cornstarch recipe picture. I had been making these for over 45 years and had cut out and saved the recipe from the cornstarch box of the 1960’s but during a move four years ago it got lost. I googled it three years ago but could not find the same one. I am so happy that I found your picture (I know it is the recipe I had even though my box picture was different) that I may just make some without waiting for Christmas. I always stamp mine with a thistle-patterned wooden cookie stamp. Thanks again.

  21. This is the exact same recipe my mom has always used. This is the first Christmas mom isn’t with us but we will still keep the tradition going as mom has for 57 years. I remember the first year I was married asking Mom for the recipe and she wrote it down for me and I made them every year with my children as well. But a few years ago we were moving and lost some of my recipes and these cookies were one of them. I phoned mom in a panic to get it again and she had a great laugh telling me that it was on the back of the Corn Starch box. I always thought it was a special recipe. For some reason I had never paid attention to the recipe on the box. Now here we are for this Christmas and I am at my Dad’s home looking for mom’s recipe and it is no where to be found. It only took a couple of minutes to find your page with the recipe. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I just read the post before mine saying that she always stamped mine with a thistle-patterned wooden cookie stamp. I had one of those as well that I had bought at a castle gift shop in Victoria. What a small world. 😀 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.

  22. this is the only christmas cookies I baked that my adult children still love, I misplace this recipe and I was so glad someone put it on the net. Thank you and now my christmas is completed

  23. my mom used the same recipe as well and in our family there are four girls – now grown women we all use the same recipe from the box. it would not be christmas without these shortbread… i was up north and had to make cookies – did not have the box. Had to go iinto cyber space and luckly found the recipe… the box has as much nosttaligic value as the cookies themselves.

  24. My mom had used the same recipie for years and it was from the back of the Canada cornstarch box with the rooster. Believe it or not tay still post the recipie. Just don’t overmix with the flour and make sure you are accurate. I follow this after my mom passed away and the best compliment was that mine came closer to mom’s then my sisters’ and this from my dad. My sisters are great cooks and bakers but they prefered doing things different while I hardly in the kitchen must have picked up that touch from mom.May they rest in Heaven knowing that things still are followed.

  25. I have been using the Canadian cornatarch recipe for years. Last year I made a batch with the change of replacing half of the butter with regular peanut butter. It was great!! My husband liked the peanut butter ones better than the original. I love them both :).

  26. This is the best shortbread recipe ever. My mom baked it, I’ve baked it for 50 years., and have found no other to compare. Sometimes I put a bit of almond extract in it for a little different taste. It is so versatile as it can be used as the base formany recipes that require a shortbread base.

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