Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

With perfect spirals of chocolate and vanilla, my melt-in-the-mouth Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies are as good to look at as they are to eat. Made from crumbly, buttery shortbread they make a perfect and beautiful Christmas gift, though they are delicious any time of year!

My favourite German Christmas cookies are too good to save just for December! I love baking these buttery, chocolatey, melt-in-the-mouth Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies all year round.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Christmas Cookies are serious business here in Germany. It’s typical here to bake several different cookie varieties but everyone has a favourite and these are mine!

Chocolate Pinwheel Christmas Cookies on a cooling rack.

About this recipe

Here in Germany, this type of cookie is actually known as Schwarz-Weiß Gebäck or Black and White Cookies. Usually made in spirals or chequerboard squares, these buttery and crumbly cookies are super tasty and always disappear fast!

Uncooked chocolate Pinwheel Cookies on a baking sheet.
Ready to go in the oven…

Ingredients

To make these cookies you’ll need the following main ingredients:

  • Flour: In Germany we use a soft cake flour for cookie baking called ‘405’. This is similar to Italian type ’00’. However, plain, or all-purpose flour is suitable too.
  • Butter: I always use good quality unsalted butter for baking, that way I can control the amount of salt in the final product.
  • Powdered Sugar: Also known as icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar. Be sure to sift it well if it has lumps.
  • Vanilla Sugar: Vanilla sugar is an excellent way to introduce vanilla flavour into cookies without adding moisture which will make them spread.
  • Egg: Classic German baking recipes usually call for medium eggs. Egg sizes are different all over the world, but here that means they way around 60g /2.15 oz in the shell.
  • Cocoa: The ingredient that makes all the difference! For the deepest colour and best, chocolatey flavour, use unsweetened Dutch-Processed Cocoa powder. I discuss why this is in the FAQ’s if you are interested!

The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

PRO TIP: Make this recipe in stages.

The great thing with cookies or pastry making is that you can break up the process to make life a bit easier on yourself.

I often make up the dough in the evening and then roll and shape the cookies in the morning when I am feeling fresh.

I’ve also put lots of photos in this recipe so you can see how to get the best results.

It is VITAL to let the dough rest between rolling, shaping and baking to ensure all the details stay crisp and beautiful.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The pattern on my Chocolate Pinwheel cookies was squashed or misshapen. What happened?

It’s vitally important to keep this cookie dough cold so that you get crisp lines and patterns. Ensure that the dough has completely chilled before cutting for the best results.

Can I freeze Chocolate Pinwheel Cookie dough?

Yes, absolutely! Cookie dough always freezes well.

Can I make these Pinwheel cookies with butter substitutes?

Baking is a science and when you change ingredients you will have a different result. I always use butter in my baking, but if you try a butter substitute let me know the results in the comments below! (Important! DO NOT USE MARGARINE!)

Do I have to use vanilla sugar in these cookies?

I use vanilla sugar in these cookies as I don’t want to add any more liquid to the dough than necessary. This helps to prevent spreading. If you want to use vanilla extract add a teaspoon or two more flour to the dough to balance out the liquid.

What cocoa should i use to make the chocolate swirls dark?

I use European style unsweetened cocoa powderu (actually the only type available here in Germany) which is sold in the US as ‘Dutch Processed’ or alkalized cocoa. It’s very dark which gives the cookies their colour. You can use ‘non-Dutched’ cocoa powder but the colour will be lighter.

Baked Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

If you’re keen on trying more delicious German Christmas cookie recipes, why not give Spitzbuben, Speculaas, Zimtsterne or Vanillekipferl a go? (Try saying that ten times fast!)

Or try a seriously tasty Chocolate Hazelnut Babka instead!

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies Recipe

Chocolate Pinwheel Christmas Cookies

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Jay Wadams
With perfect spirals of chocolate and vanilla, my melt-in-the-mouth Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies are as good to look at as they are to eat.
Made from crumbly, buttery shortbread they make a perfect and beautiful Christmas gift, though they are delicious any time of year!
4.93 from 14 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Resting Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 19 minutes
Serves 30 cookies

Ingredients
 

for the dough:

  • 300 g plain or all-purpose flour
  • 250 g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 125 g powdered or icing sugar
  • 20 g vanilla sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 medium egg, ca 60g in the shell, beaten

additionally:

  • 2 Tbsp plain flour
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch Processed cocoa powder, (see notes)

Instructions
 

  • COMBINE FLOUR AND BUTTER: Place the flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment fitted. Run the food processor until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
  • MAKE THE DOUGH: Pour the flour and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla sugar and salt and mix to combine. Add the beaten egg and mix until the mixture begins to clump together.
  • FLAVOUR THE DOUGH: Divide the dough into two bowls – at this point, it should still be fairly loose and pebbly. Add two tablespoons of cocoa to one bowl and two tablespoons of flour to the other. Knead each dough briefly, just enough to bring it together. Pat each dough into a flat rectangle, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 45 minutes.
  • ROLL OUT THE DOUGH: Starting with the vanilla dough, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle ½ a centimetre thick. Set aside and repeat with the chocolate dough.
  • TRIM THE DOUGH: Place the vanilla dough rectangle on top of the chocolate dough, turn so that one of the long sides is facing toward you and trim the edges. For a tidy finish, trim the vanilla dough ½ centimetre shorter on the long side furthest away from you. Squeeze together any dough cutoffs and re-roll and cut as desired.
  • SHAPE THE COOKIES: Fold back the top dough and brush lightly with water, pressing down gently to seal. Brush the top dough with water, then starting with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough gently, but tightly into a log, brushing the edge with water and pressing gently to seal. Transfer to the fridge and chill for 1 hour.
  • SLICE AND BAKE THE COOKIES: When the dough has chilled, heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and line an oven tray with baking paper. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1cm rounds. Arrange the cookies on the oven tray allowing a little room to spread, then bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Notes

I have given the measurements for this recipe in grams and ounces as to get the best results I recommend weighing your ingredients. A simple digital scale like the one below makes this a very easy task.
A NOTE ABOUT COCOA POWDER:
I use European style unsweetened cocoa powder in this recipe (actually the only type available here in Germany) which I is sold in the US as ‘Dutch Processed’ or alkalized cocoa. It’s very dark compared to natural cocoa and this is what gives the cookies their colour. 
Dutched or alkalized cocoa will usually have ‘Potassium Carbonate’ listed as an ingredient – this is used to raise the level of alkaline in the cocoa and gives it the distinctive dark colour and softer texture.

Recommended Equipment

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Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 120kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 21mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 216IU | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Sweet Things
Cuisine | German
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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 330

6 Comments

    • Hi there! I use European style unsweetened cocoa powder (actually the only type available here in Germany) which I believe is sold in the US as ‘Dutch Processed’ or alkalized cocoa. It’s very dark which gives the cookies their colour. Which cocoa are you using? Thank you for this great question, I’ll update the recipe with this info and I hope this helps! J.

    • That’ll be it for sure. I think
      Hershey’s make a special dark cocoa which should give you the nice dark chocolate
      colour, otherwise any Dutch process or alkalized cocoa powder will work 😀 J.

  1. Hi Jay. I adore your rich, dark chocolate-forward pinwheel cookie recipe. I’m super excited to make them for a Christmas party I’m attending, but I don’t have a food processor to use for step 1 of your recipe. Is it essential to your recipe, or could I perhaps just use a light touch with my hands?
    Any help you can offer is appreciated!

    • Hi Bec, thank you so much for your kind words! I am so excited that you found this recipe, it’s one of my favourites. The answer, is yes. You can definitely combine the butter and flour by hand, the end result may be slightly more rustic, (the food processor creates a more even blend of butter and flour) but as long as you keep everything well chilled I think you’ll be fine. I’d actually be tempted to use cool, rather than cold butter when rubbing it into the flour to make your life a bit easier, and then chill it well before the next step. What a beautiful gift to bring along to a Christmas party! Please let me know how it goes 🙂 J.

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