Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Chocolate pinwheel cookies are as soft and delicious as they are fun to make.  Stand out in a boring sea of chocolate chip cookies with these stunning beauties!

closeup photo of chocolate and vanilla swirled pinwheel cookies

I’m excited to once again participate in The Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange, a cookie-based fundraiser for pediatric cancer.  Just like last year, we’re helping to raise funds for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for research to develop new, improved, and less toxic treatments for pediatric cancer.

For a little refresher, CLICK HERE to learn a little more about the organization, my own research background in pediatric cancer, and why you should consider donating to this great charity!  (And there’s a really great chewy chocolate mint cookie recipe on the other side of that link too, in case you need a little extra motivation to click.)

unbaked frozen chocolate and vanilla swirled dough cut into half inch rounds for pinwheel cookies

This year, rather than share a brand new recipe, I’m giving a little revamp to an old recipe.  My absolute most favorite cookies ever are my grandmother’s pinwheel cookies.  They are the perfect combination of delicious, fun to make, and unique enough to stand out in a sea of chocolate chip cookies recipes.  And for me, they are full of wonderful nostalgic, childhood memories.

I first shared this recipe back in 2012, and I’ve had a lot of requests for step-by-step photos since then.  It was high time to give my favorite cookies the attention they deserve!

chocolate pinwheel cookies arranged in rows on a baking sheet

How to Make Pinwheel Cookies

Pinwheel cookies are one of those recipes that seems a lot harder than it really is — in reality, these are pretty darn easy.  The dough is mixed together in a mixer, like any standard cookie dough.  Once it comes together, split the dough in half and add melted chocolate to one half.  Then refrigerate.

The key to getting good, defined pinwheel swirls is always working with cold dough. We’ll chill three times in this recipe:

  1. Chill the dough after mixing together. Form into rectangles, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Chill the dough again after rolling up into a pinwheel.  This helps the dough keep its round shape — don’t forget to roll it a few times to ensure the bottom doesn’t flatten!
  3. Freeze the dough before slicing.  This ensures the dough will slice well without squishing. 

Because there’s so much chilling involved, these are perfect cookies to break up and make over several days (or weeks – or months!).  The dough can be refrigerated at each step for quite a while, and the final rolled dough can even be frozen for months.  I’ve been known to keep a few rolls of these in my freezer at all times, just in case the cookie bug strikes!

a pile of black and white chocolate swirled pinwheel cookies on a white plate

How to Roll Pinwheel Cookies (Step-By-Step Photos)

I think the process of rolling up the pinwheel cookies can be a little intimidating for some people.  Fret not: it’s easy!  And here’s some step-by-step photo instructions, because a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

step by step photo instructions for rolling pinwheel cookies

  1. Roll out the chocolate and vanilla dough separately, into a rectangular-ish shape roughly the same size.  Stack the dough on top of each other (it does not matter which flavor is on top).
  2. Use a knife to cut the dough into a rectangle, roughly 6 inches by 7 inches.
  3. Lift the long edge of the dough up from the counter using a bench scraper or spatula.
  4. Start to roll the dough away from you, carefully rolling both sides of the dough.
  5. Roll the whole way and press the edge down to seal.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator.

side angle view of a pile of vanilla and chocolate pinwheel cookies

Pinwheel Cookie Variations

I always like mine as chocolate and vanilla swirls, just the way my grandmother made them.  But you can use this dough rolling technique to make any combination of colors or flavors!

Stick with just vanilla dough and a little food coloring for some festive cookies (red and green for Christmas, red and blue for 4th of July, etc).  

Paint a thin layer of fruit jam on top of the dough before rolling for a jam-filled pinwheel.  Maybe some orange zest in the dough and cranberry jam?  Or how about adding coconut extract and flakes of coconut to the vanilla dough?  Or if you’re like me and love lemon desserts, maybe a layer of lemon curd?  The possibilities are endless!

A little soft in the middle.  A little crispy along the edges.  Chocolate and vanilla, rolled into one.  Pretty to look at, delicious to eat.  A lifetime of memories rolled up into perfect chocolate pinwheel cookies.

More Cookie Recipes:

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Yield: 4 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
Chocolate pinwheel cookies are as soft and delicious as they are fun to make.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in sugar and beat an additional 2 minutes more. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, followed by the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat on low until just combined.
  3. Divide the dough in half. Form half of the dough into a 4 by 4-inch square, wrap in plastic wrap, and set aside. Return the other half of the dough to the mixing bowl. Using a double boiler or a microwave on low power, melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Form the chocolate dough into a 4 by 4-inch square, wrap in plastic wrap, and place both chocolate and vanilla doughs into the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or up to 3 days).
  4. Cut each dough into four even strips. Roll out one strip of vanilla dough between two sheets of parchment paper, into a roughly 6-by-7 inch rectangle. Repeat with a strip of the chocolate dough. Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper from each dough and flip the vanilla dough over onto the chocolate dough. Trim excess dough into a rectangle and run a rolling pin lightly over the dough to ensure they stick together. Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper, then roll the dough into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Repeat with remaining strips of dough to form 4 logs.
  5. Refrigerate logs for 1 hour, then remove from refrigerator and roll each log on the counter several times to prevent the bottom from flattening. Transfer to the freezer for 2 hours, or up to 3 months. Keep dough frozen until ready to slice and bake.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 °F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, slice dough into 1/4-inch thick slices and place 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until vanilla dough is slightly golden, 9 to 11 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Notes

A Bunsen Burner Bakery Family Recipe

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 2 cookies
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 191 Total Fat: 9.5g Carbohydrates: 24g Protein: 2.5g
This recipe was first published in July 2012 and updated in November 2018.