Christmas Pinwheel Cookies make a festive addition to any holiday cookie tray, and they’re easier to make than you think! These slice-and-bake cookies are infused with almond extract, giving them a delicate cherry-like flavor.
When I’m planning cookies for Christmas, I like to include a few different styles. You can never skip the Cutout Sugar Cookies, and a no-bake recipe like Christmas Oreo Ornament Cookies is always a good idea because it frees up space in the oven. I’ll make a drop cookie recipe like Andes Mint Cookies and something that takes a little more effort like Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies. Then, I’ll do a slice-and-bake recipe like these Christmas pinwheel cookies.
What I love about slice-and-bake recipes is that you can prepare the log of cookie dough in advance and freeze it until you’re ready to bake. This means I can get a head start on my holiday baking! Plus, slice-and-bake cookies look impressive—while there are ones with checkerboard patterns and even shapes in the center, these pinwheels are one of the easiest options.
Don’t be mistaken, though—these cookies aren’t just about appearances! They’re also delicious and buttery, with almond extract for flavor. Despite its name, almond extract has a floral, cherry-like aroma—it doesn’t taste nutty at all! It’s commonly used in sugar cookies and you’ll love it in these Christmas pinwheel cookies too.
Why You’ll Love Christmas Pinwheel Cookies
- Easy slice-and-bake cookies – Some holiday slice-and-bake cookies have you forming intricate patterns with different colored doughs, but pinwheels are simple—just two colors and all you do is roll them up into a log!
- Great for making ahead – Because we can all use a head start on that holiday baking! The dough will last for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
- Rich, buttery flavor – If you have a soft spot for butter cookies, you’ll appreciate these Christmas pinwheel cookies. They’re delightfully crisp and decadently buttery.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- All-purpose flour – The starting point for most holiday cookie recipes!
- Baking powder – To help the cookies rise in the oven.
- Salt – For balancing the flavor.
- Unsalted butter – Let this come to room temperature.
- Superfine sugar – You can buy this at the grocery store or make it in your blender by blending granulated sugar until the crystals are fine. Powdered sugar is not a substitute for superfine sugar.
- Egg – To bind the ingredients.
- Almond extract – You can substitute vanilla extract if you’d like.
- Nonpareils – For rolling the logs of dough.
- Red gel food color – Gel color gives the dough a bold, bright color without introducing excess liquid.
- To make gluten-free pinwheel cookies, simply substitute a measure-for-measure gluten-free all-purpose flour for the all-purpose flour.
- You can swap the nonpareils for sanding sugar if you’d like.
- For green and red pinwheels, dye one portion of the dough green.
- Electric Mixer – A stand mixer or hand mixer is more efficient (and faster!) for mixing cookie dough.
- Parchment Paper – Parchment paper keeps cookies from sticking to the pan and makes cleanup easy.
- Sifter – For sifting the dry ingredients before whisking them together.
- Wire Rack – This allows air to circulate around your cookies, cooling them faster.
How to Make
- Prepare – Preheat your oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix the Dry Ingredients – In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients, then whisk them to combine.
- Cream the Butter and Sugar – Beat the butter and sugar at medium speed in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Add the Egg and Almond Extract – Beat until everything is incorporated well.
- Finish the Dough – Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches and mix until a cohesive dough forms.
- Divide the Dough – Cut it into two equal parts. Add red gel food coloring to one part and mix well. Keep the other part as-is.
- Chill – Flatten both of the doughs to form discs. Wrap each in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Roll Out – Once chilled, roll out both of the doughs on parchment paper to around 1/4-inch thickness.
- Combine – Carefully place the red-colored rolled dough on top of the non-colored dough. Trim the edges using a sharp knife to make a uniform rectangle.
- Form a Log – Carefully lift from one side and slowly roll the dough into a log. Sprinkle some nonpareils on top and press down lightly.
- Chill – Refrigerate the log for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Slice – Take the log out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Slice the dough into rounds.
- Bake – Place the rounds 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the edges are set. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- If you want to make these cookies easier, you can skip coloring a portion of the dough or dye all of the dough. Then just pat the dough into a log and refrigerate it before slicing.
Mix the gel food coloring into the dough well, but don’t over-mix. Over-working the dough will result in tough cookies.
Don’t skip chilling the rolled up dough log. It will be much easier to slice once it’s cold!
As you’re slicing the dough log, turn the log with each cut. This will keep the bottom from flattening.
How to Store
Refrigerate – Refrigerate Christmas pinwheel cookies in an airtight container for 5 to 6 days.
Freeze – You can freeze the prepared dough log for around 2 months. Thaw the logs overnight in the refrigerator and bake as instructed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pinwheel cookies are made using the slice-and-bake method. Dough is formed into a log, refrigerated, and then sliced with a knife to form rounds.
Once the log of dough is properly chilled, place it on a clean work surface and use a sharp knife to cut rounds. If you’re working with multi-colored cookies, it can help to wipe the knife clean after each cut.
Starting with very cold dough helps! If needed, you can pop it in the freezer for a little bit. Use a sharp knife and make quick cuts, then turn the dough log a quarter-turn after each cut to keep it from getting flat on one side.
Christmas Pinwheel Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, 240 grams
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, 113 grams (room temperature)
- ¾ cups superfine sugar, 150 grams
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp almond extract
- Red gel food color
- Preheat your oven to 350 F / 180 C and line your baking tray with parchment paper and keep aside.
- In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, and salt together, mix and keep aside.
- In a stand mixer (you can also use the hand mixer for this) add in the butter and sugar and beat it at medium speed, scraping down the sides for at least 2-3 min or until the mixture is creamy.
- Add in the egg and almond extract and beat until everything is incorporated well.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches and mix till the dough is formed.
- Divide the dough into two equal parts, add 5-6 drops (or more if required) of red gel food color to one part and mix well. Keep the other part as it is (white).
- Flatten both the dough to form discs, wrap them with a cling wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Once chilled, roll out both the dough on parchment paper to around 1/4th inch of thickness.
- Now, carefully lift and place the red-colored rolled dough on top of the non-colored dough. Trim the edges using a sharp knife to make it uniform a uniform rectangle.
- Carefully lift from one side and slowly roll them down into a log.
- Sprinkle some nonpareils on top and press down lightly. Refrigerate the log again for 2 hours or overnight.
- Once chilled, take the log out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temp for 5-10 minutes to loosen it up (This makes it easier to slice them).
- Slice the dough into thick slices (just a little bit thicker than 1/4th inch; just eyeball it, no need to be exact).
- Place them 2- inches apart on a prepared baking tray and bake in a preheated oven for 11-12 minutes or just until the edges are set. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Severe and Enjoy!