Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels

Many years ago while flipping through one of the few cookbooks I owned at the time, I came across this recipe and decided on a whim to give it a try. What turned out to be just playing around in the kitchen turned into a yearly Christmas cookie tradition. It’s the Mr’s favorite cookie, so it’s a must. I change up a lot of recipes each year but a few select ones are traditions for one reason or another. This is one of them. It has to be made because it’s special. It’s light while offering the nicest fruity flavor, not over powering at all.

As you might recall, I recently shared a recipe for cranberry swirl cookies. These two cookies have a lot of similarities, very obviously ones even. They both are pinwheel cookies and both have a cranberry filling. The big difference is the overall flavor. The cranberry swirl cookie has a cinnamon cookie with a very tart sweetened fruit filling. The cran-orange cookies are airy, have just the right amount of orange flavor and are then filled with a barely sweetened cranberry nut mixture. With these, you don’t get the strong cranberry punch. Even though I loved the cranberry swirl cookies, because I’m obsessed with cranberries … juice, fruit, craisins and in all kinds of different recipes… this recipe would be perfect for anyone who maybe isn’t quite as obsessed with cranberries as I am. They’re well loved and I promise, as with many other recipes I’ve shared – it will be a crowd favorite. It’s almost a nice palate cleanser.

Don’t be scared away by the design of the cookie. It’s really quite simple. The dough is extremely easy to work with as is the filling. Perhaps you have some leftover pecans from Thanksgiving or a bag of cranberries you’re wondering what to do with… this would be a perfect ingredient to use up both.

These are great for gifting, bringing to the office or a holiday party. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels

Soft and chewy homemade cranberry-orange pinwheel cookies. A fun seasonal treat perfect for gifting!
Prep Time1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time1 hour 25 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cookie
Servings: 4 dozen


  • 1 C cranberries fresh
  • 1 C pecans
  • 1/4 C light brown sugar
  • 1 C unsalted butter softened
  • 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp orange zest slightly less than one orange
  • 3 C all purpose flour


  • In a food processor, add cranberries, pecans and brown sugar. Blend until evenly chopped. If you don't have a food process you can try using a blender or simply chop the cranberries and pecans by hand, then mix well in medium bowl. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, set aside.
  • In a large bowl or stand mixer cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix just until combined. Scrape sides of bowl as needed.
  • Add orange zest and eggs to wet mixture. Beat just until combined. Scrape sides of bowl. Begin slowly adding in the flour, one large spoonful at a time. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated well into the dough. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
  • When the hour is up and you're ready to continue: you'll need a rolling pin, dough, filling, a spoon or rubber spatula, wax paper and tape. Bring all supplies to your work station. Cut two equal pieces of wax paper at least a foot wide.
  • Add dough to one sheet of wax paper. Form dough into a disc, then place the second sheet of wax paper on top. Begin rolling dough into a large rectangle, roughly 10" wide. Spoon filling onto the center of the rolled out dough. Gently spread cranberry pecan mixture over entire dough, just up to about a half of an inch from the edges.
  • Cut an additional sheet of wax paper, set aside. Begin rolling your dough starting at one of the shorter ends. I like to use the wax paper to help roll the dough, gently pull up and gravity will help to some degree. When you get closer to the other end, place your new sheet of wax paper underneath where it will roll.
  • Wrap dough and secure with tape. Place dough within two large cups or wrap inside of empty paper towel rolls (sliced lengthwise) or something similar. This will help keep it's shape and prevent a flat edge. Transfer dough to the fridge to chill for at least 24 hours.
  • At this point if you wish to freeze one log, do so while wrapped. Transfer wrapped log to a large sealable plastic bag labeled with the type of dough, and any further instructions such as cook temp and time.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Prep baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat. Remove dough log, slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Place 1-2 inches apart. I was easily able to fit 12 pieces onto one sheet without any issues. Bake for 8-10 minutes or just until the very bottom edges are showing the slightest golden color.
  • Let cookies sit on tray for 2-4 minutes before carefully transfering to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

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29 Responses to “Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels”

  1. #
    Julia — December 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Cranberry orange combo is one of my faves, and with pecans, yum! Good tip on putting the dough in 2 cups to keep from getting flat sides, I HATE thatt oo!

  2. #
    foodwanderings — December 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Love these pinwheels. I can make them with clementines and cranberries since I don’t have oranges. Close enough though:) Great job Rach!! Shulie

  3. #
    Quay Po Cooks — December 3, 2010 at 10:27 am

    These pinwheels looks so pretty. I have no doubt it will taste as good as it looks.

  4. #
    crustabakes — December 5, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Thats a great tip on using the large cups. These cookies look and sound amazing. I love the combination of the filling!

  5. #
    fooddreamer — December 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Seriously thought I had commented on these. I either had one of those moments where I thought I had done what I intended to do, or the comment didn’t save properly. Most likely the former, because that’s how my brain works (or doesn’t work) these days.
    Anyhoo, point is, these are at the top of my must-bake list for the holidays, to give away.
    Do you think these would freeze well or should I wait until closer to Christmas?

    • #
      Rachel — December 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

      I have yet to attempt freezing baked cookies. I like to make the dough and then freeze for later, in this case all the way to being covered w/filling and then rolled. Wrap it well with wax paper, secure with tape and do an additional method of protection such as foil or put in a plastic bag (or both). You may even want to do the full 24hrs in the fridge to get a nice round shape with the glasses and then freeze. Label it well. Thaw, slice and bake as directed. I have probably three of four different kinds of dough in the freezer right now since I like to split my batches and save some for later, especially around this time of year. Good luck and be sure to let me know how they turn out for you! :)

  6. #
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — December 6, 2010 at 10:11 am

    These looks amazing! Love your site!

  7. #
    marla — December 11, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I must, MUST try these beautiful pinwheel cookies. They truly do look amazing!

  8. #
    Jenny — December 14, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I made this recipe but I could not get the batter to “roll” so I folded the cranberry mixture into the batter. Then I made a 1″ ball and just baked them. I checked with the cookbook afterwards and found that the flour should be 3 and 1/4 cups, not 3 cups. The cookies were delicious even though they were not as pretty as the swirl cookies.

    • #
      Rachel — December 14, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      I’m sorry you had trouble with the recipe. I’ve made this for easily 6 years without ever having a single problem. I double checked my recipe (the 12th edition) as well as the online version, both call for 3 cups of flour. All ingredient amounts I listed are accurate. The key is making sure the dough is chilled for a minimum of an hour prior to rolling and spreading the filling on. You need to work semi quickly so the dough does not soften too much but even so, it should roll okay with the help of wax paper. Chill for 4-24hrs before slicing and baking. Let me know if I can be of any help in the future.

  9. #
    Winnie — November 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    These cookies look absolutely wonderful!
    I love the idea of cranberries and orange :)

  10. #
    Trisa — December 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Looks great!! Do you think Walnuts would work?

    • #
      Rachel — December 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      I’ve never tried them with walnuts but I don’t see why they wouldn’t work for this. Just be sure to still chop them down in size by hand or in the food processor.

  11. #
    Trisa — December 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks for your quick response! I bent all kinda rules, with frozen berries, and walnuts, and quickly freezing a bit. ( I sorta forgot I needed cookies tomorrow) In spite of all that these are delicious!!! Thanks for all the handy tips. I’m glad I discovered your site!

    • #
      Rachel — December 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      Not a problem! I’m glad they still turned out for you with the adjustments made. :)

  12. #
    Linz — February 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Would dried cranberries work? I have a hard time finding even frozen cranberries.

    • #
      Rachel — February 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      You could certainly try it. I don’t think it will give the same results or chunkiness with the filling though. Cranberries are more readily available in the Fall but depending on the store, you might be able to find some frozen.

  13. #
    Linz — February 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    These cookies taste amazing! I halved the recipe, except for the orange zest and the filling. I have to say using the original amount of orange zest seems to be a perfect amount. When you take a bite and start chewing, your mouth is filled with the aroma of orange. Since I had to use dried cranberries I first rehydrated them by pouring boing water over them and letting them soak for 10-20 minutes before putting them in the food processor to puree. The only downside to using dried cranberries is that they don’t have that beautiful bright cranberry color. The filling ended up the color of dried meat and when rolled, the cookie ended up looking like a dried meat and cheese roll. To fix that I first cut the log into the desired cookie size then I rolled the dough in my hands to mix the filling and sugar cookie together. This gave the cookies a beautiful marbled affect!

  14. #
    Paul — August 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    What is the diameter of the log? Could they be slipped into a paper towel tube, or are they larger in diameter than that?

    • #
      Rachel — August 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      The cookie logs were much thicker than paper towel tubes. I would also be concerned using paper towel rolls and allowing it to sit for so long as I’d imagine it would still flatten out to a degree. If you have straight sided cups, I’d definitely recommend using those instead.

  15. #
    Renata — November 24, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Could you use sugar cookie dough with this recipe? Premade dough?


    • #
      Rachel — November 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      I personally wouldn’t recommend it as that would change the flavor of the cookie entirely. It doesn’t require much extra work to whip up this dough.

  16. #
    Martha — December 15, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I am a bit technically challenged! How do I just simply print this recipe? I tried it, but the font is so small that I have a very difficult time reading it.

  17. #
    Nikki — January 31, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    I made these last night and absolutely love them! Soo easy to make, pretty and delicious. What more can you look for in a cookie? Thanks so much for all the amazing recipes!

  18. #
    Christine — December 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    These look delicious, but I’m curious as to the texture. Are they a softer, chewy cookie or are they more solid and crunchy? I prefer a chewier cookie so am contemplating adding a bit of cornstarch, but don’t want to affect the appearance at all in the event that they bake up. Thank you!

    • #
      Rachel — December 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      They’re a nice medium texture – not too soft and not crisp.

  19. #
    Myra — November 10, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Just wondering what the approximate dimensions of the rectangle of rolled out dough should be. Always have a problem determining if dough is 1/4 inch thick, or 1/2 inch thick or thinner than 1/4 inch. Thanks

    • #
      Rachel — November 17, 2019 at 1:11 pm

      The dough should be 1/4-inch thick and roughly 9×16 when rolled out. Good luck! :)

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