Icebox Pinwheel Cookies

A few years ago I had a food blog and I posted this recipe. It is by far my most viewed recipe, and the one that still gets requested. Someone even contacted me and asked me if they could use my original post and recipe in a cookbook they wrote last year, which was pretty cool. This time of year is the time when people most look for this recipe as they are planning out their Christmas cookies, so I thought I would repost it today in case you want to try it! I wrote the original post in 2009, which seems like a lifetime ago, but I still make these and I hope you will give them a try. Here is the original post from 2009. Enjoy!

I was born in Illinois, in a town called Des Plaines that is close enough to Chicago that when someone asks where I was born, I say, “Chicago”. I moved to Tulsa when I was 4, but both of my parents grew up in Illinois, and most of my extended family still lives there. When I was younger we used to drive the 11 hour drive from Tulsa to Chicago about once a year to visit family. I remember being excited about playing with my cousins and eating at Portillo’s, but the thing that I was most excited about was getting a box of Pinwheel cookies.

Maurice Lenell Pinwheels were my favorite thing in the whole world. They were perfect little cookies that looked like the start of the yellow brick road, and you couldn’t buy them in Oklahoma or anywhere close. When we would go and visit Illinois we would buy about several boxes. We would eat a whole box on the way home, then freeze the rest of the boxes and eat them with tea throughout the year. They were incredible. Sadly, Maurice Lenell closed December 2008, so this is the first Christmas that those wonderful pinwheel cookies are unavailable.

Thank God for Gale Gand.

When you are a child and you grow up with something, change is always bad. It doesn’t matter if the change is better or worse than what you grew up with, the change in itself is a bad thing, simply because it isn’t what you remembered. Your stubborn brain continues to believe that the thing you grew up loving must be the best, because you’ve believed it for so long, and nothing is going to change your mind. Nothing, except maybe Gale Gand.

I can honestly say that these cookies look the same, smell the same, and taste better than the Maurice Lenell cookies I ate as a kid. My mom made these this year and I couldn’t believe how wonderful they were. They had the same wonderful taste but were softer than the hard and crispy store-bought version. I love soft, so I loved that change.  If you are one of those people who is now in mourning over the loss of Maurice Lenell’s pinwheels, I suggest you make these cookies and try them. Be careful, the shock may be similar to that of a friend returning from the dead. Tears of joy, hugging, and jumping up and down might immediately ensue. Please, warn your family of this possibility before you take a bite.

Gale Gand’s Icebox Pinwheel Cookies

Makes about 80 cookies


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate,  melted


Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter well; then add the sugar and continue creaming until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and then the vanilla.

On the low setting, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Divide the dough in half and return half the dough to the mixer. Add the warm melted chocolate and mix to combine. Shape both pieces of dough into 4 by 4-inch square, and wrap them in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Cut each square into 4 strips then place them on a sheet pan and keep chilled while you roll out the dough. Between pieces of parchment paper, roll out a piece of chocolate dough into a rectangle 6 by 7 inches (have a ruler nearby). Roll a piece of vanilla dough out into a 6 by 6-inch square. Peel off the top pieces of parchment from both doughs and flip the vanilla dough onto the chocolate, allowing 1/2-inch border of chocolate dough around the top and bottom. Press the 2 doughs together lightly with a cake pan or other flat pan. Peel off the top piece of parchment and fold the 1/2-inch of over hanging chocolate dough up and over the vanilla dough. Use the parchment to roll up the dough into a tight pinwheel. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 4 to 5 hours (roll the dough a couple times the first hour so it doesn’t develop a flat side). Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a sheet pan. Unwrap the roll and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place them 1 1/2 inches apart on the sheet pan and bake for 9 to 11 minutes

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