Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

4.89 from 26 votes
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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!

For more delicious treats, check out my classic sugar cookies or m&m cookies recipes.

Chocolate and vanilla pinwheel cookies on a plate.

This recipe yields a delightful buttery, shortbread texture. Those who like vanilla and chocolate will get the best of both flavors. When I first worked at a European bakery in high school, I first had these, so one bite always brings back nostalgia. 

When craving a cookie, simply reach into the refrigerator, slice the dough, and bake. People call these icebox cookies because you chill the dough until you’re ready to bake a batch. The recipe involves creating two dough flavors, layering them, and rolling them into a cigar-like shape to create the spinning design.

Use softened butter

Cream the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl to make the cookie dough base. Since no chemical leavening agents like baking powder or soda are added for lift, this creaming process creates tiny air pockets to help the crumb stay light and tender.

The temperature of the softened 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.

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 dry ingredient gives an intense chocolate flavor without adding moisture that would cause spread. I make the vanilla dough first, then the chocolate for less cleanup.

Combine the dough together

You will not need to chill the dough before rolling because it will be stiff and ready to use immediately. 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 it with flour as needed.

Roll the dough into large rectangles and then press them together. You’ll want to flip occasionally and roll so the layers are an even thickness. Carefully roll the long side of the dough into a cigar-shaped log, using the parchment paper to help lift it up and over.

Chill after rolling

The log will be long, so I recommend dividing the dough in half. Then wrap the two dough logs in plastic and chill for about an hour.

Slice and bake

Slices of chocolate and vanilla pinwheel cookies ready to bake.
Step 6. Cut into slices

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, or one tray at a time. Cooling on the warm baking sheet for 10 minutes allows them to finish cooking and dry to the crumb center.

Freshly baked pinwheel cookies on a parchment paper lined sheet tray.
Step 7. Bake the cookies

Add two sugars for less spread

These cookies tend to hold their shape and not spread too much during baking because we use two types of sugar; 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.

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!
4.89 from 26 votes
Prep Time1 hour 45 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time2 hours
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 bowl's sides and paddle with a spatula. Beat until fluffy and pale in color, 30 seconds.
    Scrape down the bowl. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract, and beat on medium-high speed (setting 6) until combined, about 30 seconds.
    Scrape down the bowl. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed setting (stir) and gradually add flour. Mix until combined and clumpy, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl halfway through. 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 bowl's sides and paddle with a spatula. Beat until fluffy and pale in color, 30 seconds.
    Scrape down the bowl. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract, and 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 bowl. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed setting (stir) and gradually add the flour and cocoa mixture. Mix until combined and clumpy, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl halfway through.
  • Roll Out the Dough – Transfer the chocolate dough to a piece of parchment paper. Shape into a 1" thick rectangle. Dust the rolling pin and dough with flour, using more as needed to prevent sticking. Roll into an 8" by 6" rectangle. Set aside. Use your hands to make the edges straight. Repeat the process with the vanilla dough using a new piece of parchment paper.
    Stack the dough on top of each other. Roll into a 12" by 8" rectangle, dusting with flour as needed and occasionally flipping it over. Use your hands to straighten the edges. Starting on the long side of the dough, roll it into a tight cigar-like shape. Use the parchment paper to help roll the dough over itself.
  • Chill the Dough – Cut the dough logs down the middle into two pieces. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions. Heat oven to 325ºF (163ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you are only baking one tray or want crisper cookies, bake them in the middle of the oven.
  • Slice the Cookies – Allow the cookie dough to sit on the counter while the oven preheats, about 15 to 20 minutes before slicing. Slice each log into ¼" thick pieces, and place them 1" apart on the baking sheets.
  • Bake – Place the pans in the oven and bake for 7 minutes, then switch the pan positions and rotate. Continue to bake until the edges set, and the vanilla turns light golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.
    Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer them 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 45 cookies
Calories 77kcal (4%)Carbohydrates 9g (3%)Protein 1g (2%)Fat 4g (6%)Saturated Fat 3g (15%)Cholesterol 19mg (6%)Sodium 27mg (1%)Potassium 11mgFiber 1g (4%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 135IU (3%)Calcium 3mgIron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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  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!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Leslie! If you go to the recipe card, click on the “metric” button, which will provide all of the weight measurements for the cookie recipe. Thanks!