Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

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Easy to make pinwheel cookies with beautiful swirls and lightly crisp edges. Just stack chocolate and vanilla dough and roll them together to create the design. A popular treat during the holidays!

Chocolate and vanilla pinwheel cookies on a plate
Table of Contents
  1. Use softened butter
  2. Make one dough, but two-ways
  3. Rolling out the dough
  4. Slice and bake
  5. Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies Recipe

When you’re craving a cookie, simply reach into the refrigerator, slice the dough, and bake. This recipe yields a delightful buttery, shortbread texture. Those who like vanilla and chocolate will get the best of both flavors. The first time I had these was when I worked at a European bakery in high school, so one bite always brings back nostalgia. 

People call these icebox cookies because you chill the dough until you’re ready to bake a batch. The recipe simply involves creating two dough flavors, layering them, and rolling them into a cigar-like shape to create the spinning design. The use of two types of sugars prevents them from spreading out during baking.

Use softened butter

To make the base of the cookie, first, cream the butter and sugars together. Since there are no chemical leavening agents like baking powder or soda added for lift, this creaming process creates small air pockets to help the crumb stay light and tender. 

The temperature of the butter should be between 64 to 67ºF (17 to 19ºC). This range ensures easy mixing and enough stability to allow the needle-like beta prime fat crystals to hold and trap air. To test, if you press the butter with your finger, it should indent slightly.

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Make one dough, but two-ways

Each cookie dough layer uses the same base of butter, sugar, egg, salt, vanilla, and flour. This combination yields a tender, shortbread-like texture that is durable yet delicately crumbles in the mouth.

The only difference is I use cocoa powder in the chocolate dough. This ingredient gives an intense chocolate flavor without adding in moisture that would cause spread. I make the vanilla dough first, then the chocolate for less cleanup.

Layering two pieces of rolled out dough on top of each other

Rolling out the dough

You will not need to chill the dough before rolling because it will be pretty stiff and ready to use right away. I recommend rolling out each flavor on a piece of parchment paper, so it will be easy to transfer and stack later. If the work surface or dough gets too sticky, dust with flour as needed.

I prefer to have the chocolate on the outside of the swirl, so I place that on top. Roll the doughs into large rectangles and then press them together. You’ll want to flip and roll one more time so the layers are an even thickness.

Now you can carefully roll the dough into a cigar-shaped log, using the parchment paper to help lift it up and over. The log will be long, so I cut I recommend cutting it in half. Finally, wrap them in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.

Slice and bake

The cookie dough will be pretty hard once you remove it from the refrigerator. I like to let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats to make it easier to slice. Cut into ¼-inch thick pieces about 1-inch apart. Bake both trays at a time, switching pan positions halfway through for even cooking. 

If you like a crisper cookie, bake them longer until the bottoms are more golden in color, or one tray at a time. Cooling on the warm pan for 10 minutes allows them to finish cooking and dry to the crumb center.

pinwheel cookies baking on a sheet tray

Add two types of sugar for less spread

These cookies tend to hold their shape and not spread too much during baking because we use granulated sugar and powdered sugar. The larger crystals give the texture a slight snap. The cornstarch in the confectioners’ sugars and fine texture absorbs and holds moisture in the dough more tightly so that it does not expand as much.

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Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

Make pinwheel cookies that have beautiful chocolate and vanilla swirls with lightly crisp texture. A popular treat during the holidays!
Pin Print Review
4.05 from 21 votes
Prep Time1 hr 45 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time2 hrs
Servings 45 cookies
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Vanilla Dough

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to 64 to 67ºF (17 to 19ºC)
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour, plus 2 tablespoons

Chocolate Dough

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to 64 to 67ºF (17 to 19ºC)
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Instructions 

Vanilla Dough

  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the softened butter, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt. Gradually increase to medium-high speed (setting 6) and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle with a spatula. Beat until fluffy and pale in color, 30 seconds.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract, beat on medium-high speed (setting 6) until combined, about 30 seconds.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed setting (stir) and gradually add in the flour, mix until combined and clumpy, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl halfway through mixing. Transfer dough to a bowl, cover, and set aside. Save the mixing bowl to use for the chocolate dough.

Chocolate Dough

  • Add the softened butter, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt to the mixer bowl. Gradually increase to medium-high speed (setting 6) and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle with a spatula. Beat until fluffy and pale in color, 30 seconds.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract, beat on medium-high speed (setting 6) until combined, about 30 seconds.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour and cocoa powder. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed setting (stir) and gradually add in the flour and cocoa mixture. Mix until combined and clumpy, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl halfway through mixing.

Assembly

  • Transfer the chocolate dough to a piece of parchment paper. Shape into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Dust a rolling pin with flour and the surface of the dough, using more as needed to prevent sticking. Roll into a 8 by 6-inch rectangle. Set aside.
  • Remove the vanilla dough from the refrigerator. Place it on a new piece of parchment paper. Shape into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Dust a rolling pin with flour and the surface of the dough, using more as needed to prevent sticking. Roll into a 8 by 6-inch rectangle. Use hands to make the edges straight.
  • Stack the chocolate dough on top of the vanilla dough. Roll into a 10 by 7-inch rectangle, dust with flour as needed. Carefully flip the dough over onto a piece of parchment paper. Roll into a 12 by 8-inch rectangle, dusting with flour as needed. Use hands to straighten the edges.
  • Starting on the long side of the dough, roll into a tight cigar-like shape. Use the parchment paper to help roll the dough over itself. Cut into two logs. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Allow cookie dough to sit on the counter while the oven preheats, about 15 to 20 minutes before slicing. Set the oven rack to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions. Heat oven to 325ºF (163ºC). If only baking one tray or want crisper cookies, bake in the middle of the oven.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice each log into ¼-inch thick pieces, place them 1-inch apart on the baking sheets.
  • Bake the cookies for 7 minutes, then switch the pan positions and rotate. Continue to bake until the cookies are set on the edges, dry on the bottoms, and light golden in color on the vanilla part, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • Make ahead: The cookie dough can be wrapped and stored in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost, and bring to a sliceable temperature before using.
  • Storing: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week at room temperature or freezer for up to one month.

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Nutrition Facts
Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 77 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 3g15%
Cholesterol 19mg6%
Sodium 27mg1%
Potassium 11mg0%
Carbohydrates 9g3%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 135IU3%
Calcium 3mg0%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Leslie says

    Can you give weights for ingredients, please? I find it helpful. Otherwise I feel as though I overpack or under pack my measuring. Thanks!

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