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Posted on Jan 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Cocoa Swirl Sugar Cookies

Cocoa Swirl Sugar Cookies


I’m so excited about this recipe.

It all started with a photo in my Instagram feed of these gorgeous cookies from Martha Stewart. As soon as I saw them, I knew I was going to be making them for my annual Christmas baking.

But then I read the reviews.

They were AWFUL.

As much as I’ll take bad recipe reviews with a grain of salt (was it a matter of personal taste? user error? inexperienced baking?), each review seemed worse and worse, and most of them claimed to be experienced bakers.

So I sidelined the idea, but it’s been swirling around in my head for weeks (swirling? sorry…).


The other day I decided I wanted to give them a go. I wouldn’t be satisfied until these beautiful little things were cooling on my kitchen table (or in my tummy).

I decided to just give it a go with a tried and true recipe for the dough. I went back and forth between picking a sugar cookie or buttery shortbread cookie dough as the base. In the end, I chose the sugar cookies, since I knew they’d stay nice and soft, possibly eliminating the issue with crumbling the reviewers noted.

They were a bit of work, but not too bad. I actually prepped the dough while chatting on the phone and entertaining the man friend (who was in and out of the kitchen asking for things every 10 minutes).

The dough was easy to work with, and required little to no flour on the counter. I modified Martha’s technique a bit, but achieved the same results. I think these are some of the prettiest looking cookies ever! They’d make a great addition to a cookie platter or gift box. They’re just special enough to serve with coffee or espresso after a dinner party, but not so stuffy that they can’t be enjoyed as an afterschool snack.

The only thing I was kind of unhappy with is that the cocoa flavor did not come through in the finished cookie. So I dipped some of them in melted semisweet and bittersweet chocolate for a nice chocolatey accent.


I will definitely be making these again and probably fiddling with the filling to see if I can get that cocoa flavor to come through. Everyone who’s seen them has just been so excited to try them, and in my opinion, that’s half the fun of sharing food with others: seeing them light up at something you’ve baked, and watching them enjoy!

So, let’s make some amazing cookies!

First, cream your butter and sugar:


Add your egg and vanilla:


Add your flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar, and mix until your dough comes together:


After a brief rest in the fridge, break out your rolling pin and get rolling, starting with about 1/4 of the dough. Roll that baby into a log:


Now, rub it with some brown sugar and cocoa powder:


Really rub it on!:


Grab another hunk of dough and roll it out into a rough rectangle large enough to wrap around your log (I said “rough,” don’t laugh at me):


Wrap up your little log:


Pinch the seams tightly and roll your new (slightly bigger log) in the cocoa again:


Continue this rolling, wrapping, and cocoa-rubbing until you’ve used all 4 pieces of dough, then wrap up your log in wax paper:



Stick the whole package in the freezer for an hour or two until firm but not frozen solid:


And slice into 1/4″ slices:


Try not to squeal and jump up and down at how cute they are.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake:


Cool on racks:


And dip in chocolate if you are so inclined!!!


These cookies are a great snack with a cup o’ coffee.





Makes about 3 dozen 2″ cookies

These cookies can be made ahead. Prep recipe through step 8, then wrap well and freeze. When ready to use, thaw slightly before slicing into logs, and bake as directed. You may need to add a few minutes onto the baking time.

Also, I saved about 1/3 of the dough for other purposes. The recipe as written is for a full batch of cookies, but the photos above are 2/3 of a batch. 

  • 10 tablespoons butter (2/3 cup), softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I used Vanilla Bean Paste)
  • 2  1/4 cups flour
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For swirl filling:

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Valrhona, but feel free to use something cheaper)

For chocolate coating (optional):

  • 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate, melted in a double boiler or microwave until smooth


1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well, then add vanilla.

2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt, then add to wet ingredients. Dough may take some mixing to come together; it is ready when it is not terribly sticky but holds together when pinched (see photo above). If it is too wet/sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it seems workable.

3. Wrap dough in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

4. Prepare a work surface with parchment paper (for easier cleanup). Mix brown sugar and cocoa powder in a small bowl and set aside. Using roughly 1/4 of the dough, form a compact log around 15″ long and 1″ in diameter. Rub log all over with the cocoa mixture and set aside.

5. Take another 1/4 of the dough and roll out into a rectangle, roughly 15″ by 4″. Place cocoa-rubbed log at the bottom of dough rectangle and roll up as tight as possible (to avoid gaps/air bubbles after slicing). Pinch seam shut. If you have trouble rolling the dough around the log, use the parchment paper to help roll (see photos above).

6. Rub log all over with cocoa mixture and set aside.

7. Repeat step 5 two more times, and step 6 once, until all of the dough has been used.

8. Wrap log in wax paper and freeze for about 1 hour.

9. Preheat oven to 375 F. Unwrap dough log and, using a sharp knife, slice into approximately 1/4″ thick rounds. Lay cookies on baking sheet (no need to space them out a lot; these cookies do not spread much). Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are pale golden on the bottoms. (For crunchier cookies, extend baking 4-5 minutes).

10. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely, then dip in melted chocolate if desired. Let set before serving.


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