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Santa will be extra jolly after just one bite of these playful Christmas cookies!
Kids and adults alike swoon over these charming Christmas Pinwheel Cookies with swirls of chocolate and peppermint rolled in colorful nonpareil sprinkles! Make multiple batches with red and green dough for a fun and colorful Christmas cookie tray!
What makes these chocolate Christmas pinwheel cookies even more special? Cream cheese in the cookie dough! The cream cheese gives these homemade cookies an extra smooth texture and adds a hint of tanginess.
I’ve wanted to make pinwheel cookies for years, but thought they’d be too complicated. Guess what, I was wrong! This dough is really easy to work with and rolled out easily. If I can do it, so can you!
Key ingredients & substitutions for Christmas Pinwheel Cookies
- Unsalted butter — Don’t be tempted to use margarine as you will not get the same taste or baking results. The exception would be plant-based baking sticks for a dairy-free version since these are designed to mimic butter.
- All-purpose flour — Since you do not want these pinwheel cookies to rise or spread too much, avoid self-rising flour. Instead, add in small amounts of baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Cream cheese — The secret to the wonderful texture of these cookies!
- Extracts — Use both pure vanilla and peppermint extracts in this cookie recipe. Also, you may replace the peppermint with an equal amount of vanilla if you prefer sugar cookies.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder — Unsweetened cocoa powder is natural cocoa and has a very concentrated chocolate flavor. I use either Hershey’s (regular, not Special Dark) or Ghirardelli.
- Decor — You don’t technically have to decorate these cookies — they make pretty black and white pinwheels if left alone — but for a festive flair, add a few drops of green food coloring (or red food coloring for red dough) to the non-chocolate dough. And, if you roll the dough in sprinkles, make sure to use nonpareils and not sugar sprinkles (which melt in the oven).
How to make Christmas pinwheel cookies?
STEP 1 | Make the dough
Cream together softened butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until smooth with no lumps remaining. Then, add and mix in the sugar followed by the egg and extracts.
Add sifted flour and the leavening agents to the dough and mix on low speed just until the flour is incorporated, then evenly divide the dough in half.
To one half, add the cocoa powder for the chocolate layer. For the other half, stir in more flour and, if you like, add a few drops of red or green food coloring until the desired color is reached.
STEP 2 | Shape into a jelly-roll and chill
One at a time, empty the dough onto a separate piece parchment paper and roll dough into 9-inch squares. With the chocolate square on the bottom, carefully flip the second square of dough on top and peel off the parchment paper.
Use the parchment paper on the bottom of the chocolate layer to gently lift and tightly roll the dough jelly-roll style. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- If the dough is too soft to roll out, letting it chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes will help.
- Here’s my trick for rolling the dough the exact size. For each half of dough, cut a piece of parchment paper larger than you need, then draw a 9-inch square with a marker on one side. Flip the parchment over, and roll out the dough on the clean side, using the drawing as a guide.
- Also, I can never get a perfect square shape, so I use my bench scraper to trim the dough with straight edges. Press the scraps of dough back onto the square and roll until smooth.
STEP 3 | Slice and bake
When ready to bake, cut the dough into 1/4 inch thick slices and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees, until lightly browned around the edges. Transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Save those sprinkles! Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap or a piece of wax paper before adding the nonpareil sprinkles. Roll the dough in the sprinkles until completely covered, then use the paper to pour the remaining sprinkles back into the jar!
Christmas pinwheel cookies make a really pretty cookie gift. Package them in clear cellophane food-grade bags and tie them up with curling ribbon. Use different colors of dough or sprinkles for different holidays and special occasions!
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Christmas pinwheel cookies may be frozen before or after baking. To freeze the cookie dough, prepare the dough and roll it up jelly-roll style, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and seal in a freezer bag for up to 2 months. When ready to bake, thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator, then slice and bake as directed.
To freeze baked cookies, cool completely first. Store in a sealed freezer bag for up 2 – 3 weeks.
Pinwheel cookies will stay fresh for up to a week when stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.
Gel food coloring is my first choice because the colors are so vibrant. If using gel, remember a little goes a long way so add a little at a time. That being said, for this batch of cookies I used regular liquid food coloring because I was out of green gel and I thought the results were still very pleasing.
YOU can help fight Kids’ Cancer!
The National Cancer Institute’s budget for childhood cancer is less than 4%. It’s such a small number and that’s why I got involved. And with the ongoing pandemic, children are still being diagnosed with cancer.
I’m proud to join fellow food bloggers in the Sweetest Season Cookies for Kids’ Cancer event, a joint effort to raise money and awareness about pediatric cancer, by sharing today’s recipe for these fun Chocolate Christmas Pinwheel Cookies.
We are doing this because we want to make a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer. Cancer is the #1 cause of death of children by disease in the U.S. There are 40,000 U.S. children actively battling cancer right now.
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is in a match window with their friends at OXO, who will be matching every dollar raised through the end of the year, up to $100,000. So whatever money we raise will automatically double!
Will you help us with a donation today? Every little bit helps! Donate here.
Chocolate Christmas Pinwheel Cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3 oz. cream cheese softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- nonpareil sprinkles for decorating
- In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix well, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Next, add the egg and vanilla and peppermint extracts; mix until incorporated.
- Sift 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and baking soda into the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated into the dough, then evenly divide the dough in half.
- To one half, add the cocoa powder and mix until incorporated.
- Sift the remaining 3/4 cup flour into the bowl with the other half and mix. If desired, add a few drops of red or green food coloring to this batch.
- One at a time, empty the dough onto a separate piece parchment paper and roll into 9-inch squares. If the dough is too soft, pop it into the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- With the chocolate square on the bottom, carefully flip the second square of dough on top and peel off the parchment paper. Use the parchment paper on the bottom of the chocolate layer to gently lift and roll the dough jelly-roll style.
- If desired, roll the cookie dough into nonpareil sprinkles, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight before baking.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (do not grease).
- Slice the dough 1/4-inch thick and place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- Pinwheel cookies will stay fresh for up to a week when stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.
- To freeze the cookie dough, prepare the dough and roll it up jelly-roll style, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and seal in a freezer bag for up to 2 months. When ready to bake, thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator, then slice and bake as directed.
- To freeze baked cookies, cool completely first. Store in a sealed freezer bag for up 2 – 3 weeks.
About Sheila Thigpen
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.