Searching for the best pinwheel Christmas cookie recipe? Look no further. Delicious sugar cookies laced with almond and vanilla are crafted into a mesmerizing swirl and dipped in sprinkles. This bright batch of baked goodies is perfect for cookie swaps or Christmas gifts!
Does anyone else feel like last Christmas was yesterday not 12 months ago? Where did our year go!? As much as I love traditions and repeating the same recipes I know my family will adore, I am constantly thinking of ways to switch things up a bit. Whether it’s a show stopping centerpiece like my gingerbread man cookie wreath or delicious cinnamon twist bread or fun cocktails like holiday champagne or cranberry orange hard lemonade, I love including an element of surprise that will make my loved ones smile and the festivities even more unforgettable.
This year’s wild card? The best Christmas Pinwheel Cookies! Trust me, these colorful cookie swirls are so delicious and vibrant that they look straight out of a Dr Seuss Book. They are guaranteed to brighten any buffet table, steal the show at your cookie exchanges or make an unforgettable gift this holiday season.
The best part? There are no cookie cutters or fancy frosting required; the art is all in that mesmerizing swirl. These festive pinwheel cookies begin as scrumptious sugar cookie dough. The dough is divided and dyed before rolling and layering. The layers are then rolled into a log for that signature swirl, covered in sprinkles, sliced, and baked! Who knew such a striking cookie could be so simple?
The only caveat is the chill time. While it may be tempting to bake your dough ASAP, allowing it to chill is the key to elevating these from regular pinwheels to the BEST fun Christmas cookies. The chill time firms up the dough, allowing crisp definition between your layers for that spellbinding swirl.
A cookie this creative doesn’t need to compete with complicated flavors so I’ve kept it simple with vanilla and almond extract. This creates the ideal balance of sweet but not too sweet – perfect for pleasing all ages! I’ve used sprinkles on the edges as a festive finishing touch that also brings a contrasting crunch to the soft-baked cookie. With cookies that look and taste this good, your family will still be talking about them 12 months later!
WHY WE LOVE THIS IS THE BEST PINWHEEL CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPE
- The perfect sugar cookie – Looking beyond the colorful swirl, is a beautifully even, soft baked cookie that holds its shape perfectly when baked. Also known as the perfect sugar cookie! Skip the food color entirely or change them up for Sports events, Easter or Valentine’s.
- Festive flavor – Who doesn’t love the Irresistible buttery flavor of sugar cookies? The optional addition of almond extract is the perfect pairing to vanilla and heightens the amazing depth of flavor to your cookies.
- Freezer friendly – Keep a log of this pinwheel cookie dough in your freezer, ready to slice and bake as soon as those cookie cravings hit (or unexpectant visitors show up on your doorstep!)
- Minimal mess – Confession time. I love baking with my kids, but the mess? Not so much. I find when baking frosted sugar cookies or decorating gingerbread men that my countertops turn into a sticky sea of dripping piping bags, candy sprinkles and licked spoons. I spend more time cleaning up than I do anything else. With pinwheel Christmas cookies however, there is minimal mess. I’ve even included tips for how little ones can keep the sprinkles on the cookies not on the countertops!
- A unique gift – A homemade gift just hits differently, and when a homemade gift tastes as good as this pinwheel Christmas cookie recipe, you’ll be getting requests for them all year round not just the holidays! Pop some no bake Christmas treats or stained glass cookies alongside, and your recipient will be forever indebted!
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- unsalted butter
- large egg
- almond extract, optional
- vanilla extract
- Red food coloring
- Green food coloring, I prefer gel food coloring
SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS
- Seasonal swaps – Make this your go to recipe all year round by switching up the color for different occasions. You could go with your team colors for Superbowl, pastel colors for Easter or a spooky black and orange theme for Halloween.
- Extracts – I find the almond and vanilla extracts go hand in hand for optimum flavor, but feel free to switch things up. Citrus extracts such as lemon or orange or peppermint extract would also work.
- Chocolate and vanilla – A heavenly combination that would work wonderfully well as pinwheel Christmas cookies. Divide your dough in two, add cacao powder and a little espresso to one half and keep the other half vanilla. Continue the recipe as per directions. The contrast with the brown cacao and white vanilla cookie will create a satisfying swirl.
- Store bought cookie dough – For a sneaky time saver, you could use store-bought cookie dough. Divide the dough and color different colors it as per the directions then layer and roll it ready to slice and bake for that signature swirl.
- Sprinkles – Instead of the red, white and green nonpareils, experiment with crushed candy cane or red sanding sugar for added Christmas spirit. Just make sure the sprinkles you use are not too big otherwise they won’t stick.
RECOMMENDED TOOLS TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
- Measuring cups/spoons
- Stand mixer (can also mix using a spoon hand)
- Mixing bowls
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin (with thickness rings)
- Baking sheets
- Plastic wrap
- Sharp knife
- Cooling rack
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST PINWHEEL CHRISTMAS COOKIES
This recipe begins as straight forward sugar cookie dough, that even beginner bakers can master first time. The dough is then colored, layered and rolled into a log for that signature swirl. A quick roll around in some sprinkles before an hour in the refrigerator, your pinwheel log is then ready to slice and bake. Once cooled, you’ll realize why these perfectly soft, sweet treats cookies make the best pinwheel Christmas cookies.
- Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract.
- In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients.
- Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
- Divide dough into 3 equal balls. PRO TIP – Use a kitchen scale to measure the dough pieces. This will make them as even as possible.
- Add red gel to the first ball and green gel to the second ball. Mix in the coloring until the pieces of dough are completely red and green.
- Place one dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper.
- Roll dough out into a ¼ inch thick piece. Repeat with other colors. PRO TIP: It is easier to use a rolling pin with thickness rings.
- Remove the parchment paper as you place each layer of cookie dough on top of one another. Use the rolling pin to gently sandwich the dough together. PRO TIP: Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife, to trim the left and right edges of the cookie dough into straight lines.
- Beginning with the long side, roll the dough into a tight log. PRO TIP: The tighter you roll the log, the more spirals you’ll have inside your cookie. If it’s loose your pinwheel cookies will lack definition and look more striped than swirled.
- Pour sprinkles onto a rimmed baking sheet, then roll the pinwheel log until the outside is fully coated in sprinkles. PRO TIP: You will likely need to apply gently pressure as you roll so the sprinkles stick, but remain careful not to flatten your log.
- Wrap the sprinkle covered cookie dough log tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with a piece of parchment paper.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the log into ½ inch thick slices and place on a prepared cookie sheet about an 1 inch apart. PRO TIP: Use a large sharp kitchen knife to ensure you slice the cookies in one smooth cut. A serrated knife or sawing action will tear the dough.
- Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned.
- Cool cookies on a baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Don't roll your dough too thin – If your rolling was a little too enthusiastic and your dough is too thin, you risk your log cracking and tearing. Similarly if you slice the cookies too thin, they may burn. For thick and irresistibly soft cookies, I recommended to use a rolling pin with thickness rings. Here is the rolling pin I use.
- Tim to chill – While these pinwheel Christmas cookies are simple to make, it’s essential the dough is chilled well which means allowing yourself adequate time. By maximizing the chill time (at least one hour) your dough will be firmer and easier to handle. It will also be easier to slice and prevent your cookies spreading in the oven.
- Use food color gels – In order to pull off the best pinwheel Christmas cookie recipe the amount of food color you use is vital. Gel food coloring offers the most concentrated, vibrant colors. Noting that the colours will fade a little once the cookies bake, so make sure your raw dough is a super strong color for best results.
- Grinch hands be gone – While you could knead the dough by hand to incorporate the color, this may result in Grinch green hands. It’s also really hard work! I recommend using a stand mixer for adding the color to your dough. Just be sure to wipe the bowl clean before repeating with the next dough to avoid contaminating the colors.
- Sprinkles – You could skip the sprinkles entirely, but I feel they add the perfect festive touch. Just make sure to use a rimmed baking sheet as this avoids your sprinkles scattering all over the work surface.
- One smooth cut – To keep your cookies neat and refined, slice your cookies in one smooth cut using a sharp kitchen knife. If your knife is blunt, it will require a little more elbow grease which will squish your swirl or tear the dough.
- Store the cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.
- You can also make it ahead and store the unbaked dough log in the refrigerator. However, I would stick to only a day or two ahead as any longer the colors may start to bleed together.
- You can also wrap the cookie dough in film or foil and freeze for up to 3 months. You can then slice and bake from frozen with no need to defrost.
EASY PINWHEEL COOKIES FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a slice and bake cookie?
This pinwheel Christmas cookie recipe follows a slice and bake method. Some recipes call for a cookie scoop (drop cookies) and others cookie cutters (cutout cookies) this recipe is just a log of cookie dough (think jelly-roll style) that is sliced into round discs that are then baked in the oven. As a little life hack, I like to keep a log or two of this dough in my freezer during the holidays so I can slice and bake up a batch at a moment’s notice.
What is the best way to layer the colored cookie dough?
For the best pinwheel Christmas cookies it’s important you layer the colored dough correctly and minimize handling as this will make your dough soft and sticky. The easiest way to achieve this is as follows:
- If using two colors (eg. red and white pinwheels) peel the top sheet of parchment paper off of each dough. Both should now be dough side up, parchment paper side down on the work surface.
- Gently slide your palm under the red dough. Flip it on top of the white, dough sides facing each other and the red dough parchment paper facing up towards you.
- Gently use the rolling pin to help seal together.
- Remove the top parchment paper and trim the sides using a pizza cutter to match up evenly.
- Starting on a long side, use the bottom parchment paper to help roll the dough tightly into a log.
- Seal the edge by rolling the log a few times on your counter. Wrap in film and refrigerate for at least one hour.
How to save crumbly cookie dough?
Crumbly cookie dough will result in dry cookies which we all know puts you on the naughty list. We’re aiming for buttery, soft cookies that melt in your mouth. To save crumbly dough, incorporate a little extra melted butter for added moisture. Also make sure you’re measuring the flour correctly – spoon it into your measuring cup then level off with a knife. If you scoop it, you risk packing in too much flour which equals dry dough.
Why is my cookie dough sticky?
If you’re having the opposite issue and you’re struggling with sticky dough you have added too much butter. Sugar cookie dough is slightly sticky but it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands or the rolling pin too much. Sprinkle extra flour on the table, roll the dough out again so it absorbs the flour, repeat until you’re satisfied with the texture.
MORE CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPES YOU MAY ENJOY
- Dark Chocolate & Cherry Shortbread Cookies
- Copycat Swig Sugar Cookies
- White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
- No Bake fudge stripe christmas cookies
Delicious sugar cookies laced with almond and vanilla are crafted into a mesmerizing swirl and dipped in sprinkles. This bright batch of baked goodies is perfect for cookie swaps or Christmas gifts!
Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
Divide dough into 3 equal balls.
Add red gel to the first ball and green gel to the second ball. Mix in the coloring until dough balls are completely red and green.
Place one dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper.
Roll out into a ¼ inch thick piece. Repeat with other colors.
Place each layer of cookie dough on top of one another and roll with a rolling pin slightly to sandwich together.
Beginning with the long side, roll dough into a tight log.
Pour sprinkles onto a rimmed baking sheet, and roll pinwheel log until the outside is fully coated in sprinkles.
Wrap log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a sharp knife, cut the log into ½ inch slices and place on a prepared cookie sheet about an 1 inch apart.
Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes or until edges are slightly browned.
Cool cookies on a baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.