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Swirl Sugar Cookies

  • recipe photo
  • Classic sugar cookies get a festive update with this simple preparation. Two colors of dough are rolled together and then sliced to create pretty pinwheels that evoke old-fashioned hard candies.

This simple method for creating a whimsical cookie is the perfect way to involve young children.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free baking flour (such as Cup4Cup*)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon or orange zest
  • Food coloring

*Gluten-free flour works really well in this recipe, resulting in cookies that are buttery and flaky. If you choose to use the gluten-free flour, simply lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees and check for doneness a minute or two early.


  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

  • In the base of a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and citrus zest. Beat until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed until the dough becomes smooth.

  • Divide the dough in half and add a few drops of food coloring to one piece of dough. Using the mixer or your hands, knead just until the color is evenly distributed. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten the balls to form a 1-inch-thick disks, then wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

  • Before rolling, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to soften for 10 minutes. (If using gluten-free flour, you may need to let it soften a bit longer.)

  • Roll each piece into a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Lay one color of dough on top of the other and trim so they are the same size. Use your hands to roll up the dough tightly, starting from the long end to create a cylinder. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour; in the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Trim the ends of your roll and slice into about 1/4-inch-thick rounds.

  • Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until barely golden, about 8-10 minutes or 6-9 minutes for gluten-free.

Makes between 3 and 6 dozen cookies, depending on the size

Recipe adapted by Amanda Haas from Donata Maggipinto's Christmas Family Gatherings