Red, White and Blue Pinwheel Icebox Cookies are the perfect 4th of July dessert! Best of all, these slice-and-bake cookies are made with one dough and basic pantry ingredients (think butter, sugar, eggs and flour).
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Whether you’re hosting a 4th of July party, Memorial Day picnic or simply want to impress your family and friends, these pinwheel cookies are sure to be a hit. Not only are they totally Instagram-worthy, but they’re surprisingly easy to make (with all of my tips and tricks for success!).
Best of all, you can personalize these icebox cookies to match any party by experimenting with different color combinations and/or adding your favorite sprinkles. For inspiration, check out my recipes for Christmas Pinwheel Cookies, Monster Eye Halloween Cookies and Pink Pinwheel Sugar Cookies. And for a really unique twist, try these Cinnamon Roll Cookies.
So, preheat your oven and get ready to celebrate the red, white and blue with every tasty bite of these patriotic treats!
Why You’ll Love these Cookies
If soft and chewy cookies set off flavor fireworks in your world, then consider your taste buds dazzled.
- Made with ingredients you likely already have in your fridge and pantry.
- Unlike some pinwheel cookie recipes that call for two separate cookie doughs, this recipe simplifies the process by using only a single dough.
- Bakery-worthy yet easy to whip up.
- These cookies not only taste fantastic but also serve as a beautiful centerpiece, adding a touch of patriotic flair to your dessert table.
- The dough can be prepared in advance and stashed in the fridge, so all that’s left to do is slice and bake them as your guests arrive.
Kelly’s Note: Plan ahead! These cookies require a significant amount of chilling time.
- All-purpose flour: Flour serves as the base ingredient in these cookies, providing structure and texture.
- Baking powder: Helps the cookies rise and become light and fluffy. It reacts with the other ingredients, particularly the eggs, to create carbon dioxide bubbles that expand during baking.
- Salt: Enhances the overall flavor profile by balancing sweetness.
- Unsalted butter: Butter adds richness and flavor to the cookies. Using unsalted butter allows better control over the salt content in the recipe. Just like my go-to no-chill chocolate chip cookies, make sure the butter is cold, straight from the fridge!
- Sugar: Granulated sugar provides sweetness and aids in tenderizing the cookies. It also contributes to browning during baking.
- Eggs: Act as binders and provide moisture to the dough.
- Vanilla extract: It complements the buttery and sweet flavors of the dough. Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor. Almond extract can be substituted for a nutty twist. Because it has a stronger flavor, start by substituting half of the vanilla extract called for in the recipe with almond extract, and adjust according to your taste preference.
- Food coloring: I highly recommend using gel-based food coloring because unlike water-based, gel food coloring delivers exceptionally vibrant colors with just a few drops.
Crank up your favorite music, preheat your oven, and slice and bake your way to the ultimate Independence Day dessert.
- Prepare the dough. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Set this dry mixture aside. In a separate large bowl or n the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla.
- Incorporate the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until a cohesive dough forms. Ensure all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, but be careful not to overmix.
- Divide and color the dough. Remove the dough and divide it into three equal portions. Leave one portion plain and color one portion red and the other portion blue. Add a few drops of food coloring at a time, mixing well after each addition, until you achieve the desired color intensity.
- Shape the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Shape each of the three doughs into 4- by 4-inch squares, wrap them securely in plastic wrap and place them in the fridge. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut each square in half to form two rectangles. Wrap half of each color of dough in plastic wrap and return it to the fridge (you’ll roll out those portions after the first log is formed). Place each portion of dough between two pieces of wax paper and roll each into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Make sure the rectangles are as close to the same size as possible for even pinwheel cookies.
- Assemble the pinwheels. Peel the top layer of wax paper off of the red dough and then peel the wax paper off one side of the white dough and use the other side to transfer the white dough on top of the red dough. Peel off the wax paper from one side of the blue dough and use the other side to transfer it atop the white dough. Gently press the layers together to create a stack. Starting from one of the shorter edges, tightly roll the stack into a log. Ensure the roll is firm and compact. Repeat the rolling and stacking process with the remaining dough in the fridge. Wrap each log in wax paper and then plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 1 hour.
- Prevent flat-sided cookies. Remove the dough logs and roll them on the counter several times so they don’t develop a flat side. Alternately, stand the rolls up in glasses in the fridge. Refrigerate the dough for 4 more hours.
- Slice and bake. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Remove the dough logs from the fridge, unwrap and slice each log into rounds, about ¼ inch thick. Place the sliced cookies onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving some space between them to allow for spreading. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden.
- Cool and serve. Once baked, remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Once cooled, serve and enjoy these beautiful 4th of July cookies!
- Chilled Dough is Key: To achieve well-defined swirls, it’s crucial to chill the dough thoroughly before slicing and baking. The colder the dough, the easier it is to handle and shape. Aim for at least five hours of chilling time or even overnight in the refrigerator.
- Roll Tightly and Evenly: When rolling the dough into a log, ensure it is compact and evenly shaped. This will help create consistent swirls and prevent air pockets between the layers.
- Wax Paper for Easy Rolling: Place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on your work surface before rolling out the dough. This will prevent sticking and make it easier to lift and roll the dough into a tight log.
- Freeze for Later: If you’re planning ahead, you can freeze the dough log for up to 3 months. Simply wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe bag. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before slicing and baking.
You can store baked pinwheel cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
You can prep the dough (until right before the slice step) 48 hours in advance, seal in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Absolutely! The cookie dough logs can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap securely with two layers of plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe bag. Thaw in the refrigerator before slicing and baking. Baked pinwheel cookies can also be frozen for up to 1 month. Cool them completely, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until firm, and then transfer to a freezer-safe container or bag. Thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour before enjoying.
Yes! Other extracts such as almond, peppermint or orange can all be substituted for the vanilla extract in this recipe. Just be mindful of the strength of the extract you’re using, as some flavors might be more potent than others.
Yes, the dough must be refrigerated after it’s mixed in order for the butter to solidify. Otherwise the dough will be too soft to roll.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Red food coloring
- Blue food coloring
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition, then add the vanilla.
- Turn the mixer off. Add the flour and then beat just until combined. Remove the dough and separate it into three equal pieces. Shape one piece of the dough into a 4- by 4-inch square, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. (This will be the white portion of the cookies.)
- Return one of the remaining pieces of dough to the stand mixer bowl, and with the mixer on “low,” add in the red food coloring until it reaches your desired color. Remove the red dough, shape it into a 4- by 4-inch square, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. (This will be the red portion of the cookies). Clean out the bowl to remove any red food coloring residue.
- Add the final piece of dough to the stand mixer bowl, and with the mixer on “low,” add in the blue food coloring until it reaches your desired color. Remove the blue dough, shape it into a 4- by 4-inch square, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. (This will be the blue portion of the cookies.)
- Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and cut each square in half to form two rectangles. Wrap half of each color of dough in plastic wrap and return it to the fridge. Place the red dough in between two pieces of wax paper and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Roll out the white dough between two separate pieces of wax paper until it is a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Roll out the blue dough between two separate pieces of wax paper until it is a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick.
- Peel the top layer of wax paper off of the red dough and then peel the wax paper off one side of the white dough and use the other side to transfer the white dough on top of the red dough. Peel off the wax paper from one side of the blue dough and use the other side to transfer it atop the white dough. Very lightly roll the three layers together.
- Starting at the shorter end of the rectangle, roll the dough as tightly as possible into a log. Repeat the rolling and stacking process with the remaining dough in the fridge. Wrap the logs in wax paper and then plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 1 hour.
- Remove the dough logs and roll them on the counter several times so they don’t develop a flat side. Alternately, stand the rolls up in glasses in the fridge. Refrigerate the dough for 4 more hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and slice each log into 1/4-inch rounds. Place the rounds about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, as the cookies will expand when baked.
- Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes until pale golden, and then transfer them to a wrack to cool completely.
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Cookie dough recipe adapted from Gale Gand.