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Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies
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½ c
(1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ c
granulated sugar
1 lg
½ tsp
vanilla extract
unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp
1 oz
unsweetened chocolate
The kitchen of my youth was filled with chocolate cake, pudding, and brownies, but sadly, it did not include pinwheel cookies. I had to read about these cookies that are most likely German in origin and popularized in the late 1920s. And I had to read about how clever cooks divided their sugar cookie dough in half and added melted chocolate to one half, then laid the chocolate dough on top of the other and rolled them up before slicing into pinwheels. It is this visual spiral that intrigues me about this old recipe and surely has contributed to its popularity through the years. They are especially loved in the Midwest, where author Glenn Andrews recalled her mother making these cookies that, when baked, were so pretty they “seemed downright miraculous to me.” That is the mystique of pinwheel cookies, and yet they’re easier to make than you think. Just follow the recipe below. Or use your favorite sugar cookie dough, divide in half, and add 1 ounce melted unsweetened chocolate to one half. For the best contrast of colors, lay the chocolate dough on top of the white so the white wraps around it. And be careful not to overbake so the white portion stays light. From there, the possibilities are endless—you could substitute spices or grated orange zest or molasses for the chocolate.


  1. Place the soft butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and beat just until combined, 30 to 45 seconds.
  2. Stir together the flour and salt in a small bowl. Dump the flour mixture in the bowl with the butter and sugar mixture. Beat on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until all the flour is incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Chop the chocolate and place in a small glass bowl. Heat in the microwave oven on high power for 1 minute, stirring at intervals, until melted. Let cool.
  4. Tear off 4 sheets of waxed or parchment paper, each about 15" long. Divide the dough in half. Place one half onto one sheet of waxed paper and press with your fingertips into a rectangle. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, or freeze for 1 hour. Pour the melted chocolate into the bowl with the second half of the dough. Beat with the electric mixer on medium speed to combine, 1 minute. Wrap the paper around the chocolate dough and chill 2-3 hours, or freeze for 1 hour, until firm.
  5. Remove the plain dough from the refrigerator or freezer, and with floured hands, place the dough onto a floured work surface (or roll it between the sheets of the waxed paper). Roll to 1⁄4" thickness. Carefully place the chocolate dough on top of the white, and roll the doughs up into a jelly roll, beginning with the longer side. Wrap the roll in the waxed paper, and place it in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
  6. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the dough from the freezer, and slice the dough into 1⁄4" rounds. Arrange them 1" to 2" apart on ungreased baking sheets. Place the pan in the oven.
  7. Bake the cookies until they are just firm and begin to brown around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the cookies immediately to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Store the cookies in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week.

Reprinted with permission from American Cookie by Anne Byrn, copyright © 2018. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

American Cookie

Anne Byrn

Book Cover