checkerboard cookies

Because I excel at timing, I decided long after most normal people had long wrapped up their holiday cookie baking last December to make the checkerboard cookies, Sara, who works with me behind the scenes, has been steadily requesting for about a decade. It’s just… I was a skeptic. I imagined checkerboard cookies would be a hideous amount of work for something that looked cute but probably didn’t taste like much, the dark portions chocolate in color, not flavor.

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I tried a few formulas, first more of a sugar cookie, but the pattern wasn’t as clear as I’d hoped. A classic shortbread with powdered sugar looked pretty but had a blah texture. I found what I was looking for in an egg yolk-enriched sable — great flavor and a gentle snap — which as a bonus, left me with an egg white I could use to roll the cookies in pretty, festive colors. A solid percentage of cocoa in the chocolate half ensured a rich flavor. I used my favorite cookie methods outlined in my Unfussy Sugar Cookies for ease: starting with cold butter and rolling out the dough right away with no floured counter to clean up. A couple quick trips to the freezer firms up the dough, and from there you stack and slice to make the cutest checkerboards I’ve ever or tasted with no sweat or stress.

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I was shocked, and then hooked and couldn’t stop, using the same doughs for spirals and marbled cookies and while it’s clear the checkerboards are the stars, I’ll include directions for all three below should you wish to cancel your entire cookie agenda just to commit to these dazzlers.

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checkerboard cookies-18

Checkerboard Cookies

  • Servings: 30 to 36 cookies
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

If you’re using a stand mixer or food processor, you can begin with cold butter, cut into cubes. If you’re using a handmixer, room temperature/slightly softened butter is best.

  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, see Note
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1/4 cup (20 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, any variety
  • Colored sanding sugar, to finish

    Make dough in a food processor: Combine the sugars, salt, and 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) of the flour in the work bowl. Add cold, diced butter and mix or pulse until it disappears, then keep running the machine until it just begins to clump. Add egg yolk (save the egg white for later) and vanilla and pulse until combined, then keep running the machine until one large or a few smaller smooth masses form.

    Make dough in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer: Combine butter, sugars, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat until creamy. If you began with cold butter in a stand mixer, this will take a couple minutes and require you to scrape down the bowl a few times. Once mixture is thoroughly combined, add egg yolk (save the egg white for later) and vanilla and beat until combined. Add 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) of the flour and beat until it disappears into a smooth dough.

    Both methods: Divide dough in half. [Each half will weigh 270 to 275 grams.] Leave one half in the mixing bowl or food processor. Add 1/4 cup (35 grams) remaining flour to it and pulse/mix until just combined. Scrape out the mixing bowl or food processor and scoop out this vanilla dough, setting it aside. Add the second half of the dough to the mixing bowl or food process and add the cocoa powder. Mix until evenly combined. This is now your chocolate dough.

    Heat oven: To 350°F (176°C)

    To checkerboard the doughs:

  • Place each dough half between two pieces of parchment paper and roll each into (approximately) 4 to 5×10-inch (10 to 13×25-cm) rectangles that are 1/4-inch (6mm) thick. Slide both slabs of dough onto a cutting board or tray and freeze for 10 to 15 minutes, until firm like cold butter but not quite frozen solid.
  • Remove the top piece of parchment from each slab (you can use these to line your baking sheet) and stack the chocolate and vanilla dough layers, pressing them gently together. Cut the slab in half the long way (i.e. forming two approximately 2×10-inch rectangles) and stack the halves, forming one long, striped slab. Press the layers gently, to adhere them, and return this to the freezer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it’s very firm but not fully frozen.
  • Remove this long slab from the freezer and, using your sharpest knife and steadiest hand, cut it the long way into eight 1/4-inch-wide slices. Arrange the first four into a checkerboarded log, flipping two of the slices over so the opposite flavor is on top. Repeat with second four into a second checkerboarded log. Wrap each in a piece of parchment paper and press it firmly into a long, squared-off log, adhering the layers. Return to the freezer for one last 10-minute stint, until solid to the touch.
  • To finish cookies: Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, or discarded parchment from your cookie slabs. Beat reserved egg white until just loosened. Gather your sanding sugar(s).

    Unwrap first checkerboarded log. Brush log with a thin coat of egg white and roll or sprinkle in sanding sugar. [Normal people choose one color per log. I cut each log into quarters and did each quarter in a different color.] Slice sugar-coated log into 1/4-inch-thick cookies, and arrange on prepared baking sheet with 1-inch space between them (they expand slightly). Repeat with second log, creating more cookies.

    Bake cookies: For 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown underneath. Let cookies rest on tray for 5 minutes, so they firm up a little, before transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling and crisping up.

    Do ahead: Baked, cooled cookies keep for 3 weeks in a tin at room temperature.

    spiral cookiesspiral cookies

    To spiral the doughs: Roll your chocolate and vanilla dough slabs each to 1/8-inch thick and stack them, patting them gently together. Chill in the freezer for just 5 to 10 minutes, until cold but not hard. Divide dough into two long, equal widths. With the vanilla dough underneath/forming the outer ring, roll each half of dough into a tight spiral. [I forgot and did the opposite, but always think it looks better with vanilla on the outside.] Wrap each spiral in parchment, pressing the dough into a firm log. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes, until solid but not frozen hard. Continue from “To finish cookies:” instructions above.

    marbled cookiesmarbled cookies

    To marble the doughs: Roll your chocolate and vanilla dough slabs each to 1/8-inch thick and stack them, patting them gently together. Cut into two stacked sections and squeeze each into a rough log, fold it over, and mash the log, kneading it once or twice. Press kneaded mounds together and form them back into a long log shape. Wrap tightly with parchment, pressing the dough into a firm log. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes, until solid but not frozen hard. Continue from “To finish cookies:” instructions above.

Note: I am always inspired by Susan Spungen’s expert cookie styling, and was here too in both the colorful edges she uses in these Zebra Stripes and the marbling technique she uses in her Marbled Tahini Shortbread.

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159 comments on checkerboard cookies

  1. Sara

    Every recipe that pops up on my subscription from you is literally a recipe that I say, “well I need to stop everything and make that now”
    Seriously, I don’t have time to keep up so if you could throw some duds out into the world here that would help. I’m thinking some sort of can cream of something soup casserole recipe. Knowing you, that would still knock it out of the ballpark and I would love it. Thanks for always inspiring us home cooks!

  2. Michelle

    Thank you, this version is much easier than the one I used to use… I want to make them !
    Also have to agree with Sara who just posted, please stop posting wonderful recipes that I need to make asap!
    Maybe throw in a liver and onions once in a while 😀

  3. Anna

    So excited to make these! I wonder if you can make them with other colors or flavors for Christmas?
    Peppermint? Have you tried others? Cinnamon?
    Or is this just a perfect recipe and why mess with it?

  4. Meredith Mulhern

    These look beautiful Deb! Quick question- did you use sanding sugars or coarse sugar crystals? They look big to me……I think of sanding sugars are more the siZe and texture of granulated sugar (if not finer) and coarse sugar crystals more like turbinado sugar. Thank you!

    1. deb

      I always thought sanding sugars were more coarse, but it would make sense if “sand” was more fine. These are on the bigger side. I’ve had them for eons (I cannot tell you how long) so I can’t link them but any colored sanding sugar will work here.

    2. Marie

      I can’t believe these cookies have inspired me to reply 3 times! As a good grandma I keep numerous colors of sugar and sprinkles on hand for decorating numerous foods like whipped cream in ice cream cones. I hope the stuff I buy at the grocery store is the same.

      1. Jane Jolis

        Has anyone figured out how to adjust this recipe to make the wonderful ❤️ versions Deb posted on her Instagram story the other day?! Desperate for some guidance!! Thanks in advance.

        1. Jesica Barnes

          I also came here to ask this about the heart shape in the middle! When I asked on Instagram, she said she would try to write it up, but I would love to bake these with my kids tomorrow (oops, today! lol)

  5. Adrienne

    I’m also wondering about adding peppermint to the dough! I had found a similar refrigerator log cookie recipe w/ marbled chocolate-mint and vanilla. Have you tried that or can imagine it would work well? I might try this weekend w/ your cookie base :)

      1. Nan

        I’m thinking rolling it in crushed candy canes instead of sanding sugar would be nice for an peppermint version. What does anybody think?

        1. Anu

          If you use candy canes, roll them after baking, not before! I had the same idea and ended up with a sticky, melted mess because the candy canes melted easily – luckily I only did half of them in candy canes and left the rest plain. The plain ones turned out picture perfect!

    1. deb

      I link to this recipe as inspiring the styling; it’s not the cookie recipe I use. I started with a classic sable (2 cups flour, 1 cup butter, 1 egg yolk) and divide and flavor from there.

    1. deb

      This post brought me SO MUCH joy. (I also cannot stop watching candy cane videos on TikTok so the stretching component delights me.) This dough might be a touch more crumbly than the one shown, but if kept softer, it might still work. A powdered sugar + flour shortbread would work well here.

      1. Kate

        I made these with Earth Balance sticks instead of butter for a dairy allergy in the house and they turned out great. I found the 4-5” x 10” guide for the initial roll out to be incredibly helpful as I am very amateur and I have a hard time rolling to a certain thickness. I drew a 5” x 10” rectangle on my parchment and rolled til it was full. They are the most beautiful cookie I’ve ever made and they are delicious. Thank you for this recipe!!!

  6. Erica

    These look great! There are also some fun variations of chocolate and vanilla cookies in a book called Wacky Cakes and Kooky Cookies by Gerhard Jenne.

  7. Cherry

    Wow I can’t wait to make the spiral version and hopefully it fulfills my cravings for my favorite Maurice Lenell (out of business) pinwheel cookies!

    1. k

      Oh my god, memories – didn’t Maurice Lenell also make some almond crescent cookies? I haven’t thought of those in so long, but the strong flavor stays with me!

  8. Kelsey Lane

    These are gorgeous! Of course, I don’t have colored sanding sugar now, but I now where I can get some. When it is a little warmer and dryer. I plan to go to Seattle to buy sanding sugar and sprinkles so that I can make three of your cookies that I’ve not yet made. This month, it will be easy for me to make your vegetable lasagna so that will occur.

  9. Irene

    Holy crumble! Perhaps I misunderstood until smooth in the mixing, but they are a big crumbly mess. I’m not sure where I went wrong, but the dough tastes great.

      1. Irene

        Deb, 100% my fault not yours, also you are my hero. Read through again, I used the food processor directions for my mixer. It all ended great though- baked them as one big cookie vanilla bottom chocolate top, cut them while hot and after they cooled threw them in the freezer where they are to die for.

      2. Tammy

        Made with nonpareils instead of sprinkling sugar and should’ve known the egg whites would make them bleed, but the cookies baked nicely! Will work on getting my squares more precise. A great addition to any Christmas cookie collection.

  10. Soni Obinger

    I’ve been making your recipes since 2007 and love them, thank you for all the inspiration over the years!

    Today is the first time I’ve ever commented. Thank you so much for putting weight measurements for the salt and extract! I took an online baking class with Christina Tosi and she converted me on the small measurements haha.

    Can’t wait to make these, planning on adding peppermint extract and rolling in crushed candy canes.

  11. Pam

    Hi Deb, I love your recipes! These cookies look adorable and fun to make. Question: Would these be OK without the sugar on the edges? Or do they need the extra sweetness? Thanks!

  12. Marisa

    I couldn’t resist the challenge. Nice and chocolate-y! I did have a hard time getting the size and shape for the initial roll out- next time I will try the cookie strips Deb recommended on her sugar cookie list to help with getting an even and correctly sized rectangle. That said, these were very easy to make in the food processor and less fussy than I expected. (Also, I ended up with way more than 36, but mine appear to be smaller, so YMMV.) Thanks, Deb!

  13. Karla

    Just made these in Canada! Not hard! So cute! And delicious! The colored sugar on the sides bled out a bit in the oven, so perhaps not quite as cute as Deb’s but still SO CUTE!!! Going to gift them to music friends tomorrow. Thank you so much!

  14. NdeyeLaura

    I am using my phone (iphone7) and cannot find the print/email links. Next to “do more:” there is only blank space. I’m excited to make these cookies!

  15. Terri Edersheim

    Have you ever tried coloring sanding sugar? there are many links to this online? seems like there must be a catch? have you ever tried this?

      1. Kim

        You CAN color sugar! I used to own a bakery and we did it all the time. Use the paste or gel color, not liquid, and after it’s mixed in (yes, it does get all over your fingers if you use your fingers to mix, which I do), you need to let the sugar “dry out” for a bit.

        1. Tracey Culver

          I just used McCormick liquid food color. Put sugar in a small plastic bag, add a few drops of food coloring and knead and toss and it comes out perfectly. I even mixed blue and green to make turquoise sugar, and red and yellow to get orange. Mixing red with blue to get lavender did not work (gray). I spread out the colored sugar to dry overnight, crumbled it up and it’s perfectly lovely. I started with three drops per about 1/3 cup sugar. I used plain old cane sugar.

  16. Heather

    There are instructions for food processor, stand mixer, and hand mixer, but no instructions for mixing them by hand. I know sablés can be tricky; is it a fool’s errand to attempt making them without any special equipment?

  17. Flo

    Oh dear. It says ‘roll each into two 4-5 x 10 inch rectangles. So I split each bit of dough into two and did this — though I couldn’t get any of them to be 10 inches long, only 8-9. I have put four slabs in the freezer and now I’m realising it says to put both slabs in the freezer. Should I not have rolled each half of the dough into two rectangles?

    1. Florence Miller

      Updated to say these were delicious but I definitely wasn’t supposed to divide the two kinds of dough into two to start with, so ignore the word ‘two’ in the first part of the instructions where you roll them out!

      1. Annie

        Wowza you are correct, Flo. I made these today and the error was apparent as I headed into shaping. Thank you for catching it and posting in the comments. You saved my cookies, which are delicious and so darn cute. They should be called the Mackenzie Childs cookie (a local artist near me)!

        1. Marie

          Love Mackenzie Childs things but they are on the spendy side! I don’t know where she is from but I saw many of her plates, etc in Naples FL years ago.

      1. Flo

        Neha!!! How amazing to hear from you here in the cheerful depths of a Smitten Kitchen comments section. I was thinking of you just recently and wondering if you were still in the same place. I am so happy to think of you making these cookies. Only roll out each type of dough once!

      1. Flo

        I’ve often told people that my very weird form of stress relief/mindless scrolling is to read all the comments under a Smitten Kitchen post, so you can imagine how much I have loved this series of comments. Totally worth rolling out the dough twice and the cookies were delicious and beautiful anyway. Going to make them again, in fact. They’re really surprisingly flavourful for something so pretty.

        1. deb

          That’s so sweet. I am very proud (not that I have much to do with it) that SK comments are such a civil place. I’d say 99% but it’s actually higher, which is an astounding number for the web.

  18. Rebekah

    Deb, this looks like such a fun recipe, I can’t wait to try it out! Do you think the dough could be made and frozen ahead of baking (similarly to the world peace cookies)? If so, how would would suggest adjust ing the baking time and temperature to account for frozen dough?

  19. Rachel

    I’m making these now because they are beautiful and quick, but accidentally put all the flour in at once. Anyone else out there do that? Do I need to bump up any other ingredients to get them to work, or just leave out the extra 1/4 c later in the recipe?
    **I’m also in the boat of needing to make every recipe that comes across your Instagram. Hoping to make braised chickpeas this week, and have plans to try that hazelnut torte very soon!

  20. Lori Bee

    Hey you beautiful bakers out there…may salted butter be used? The recipe says ‘unsalted butter, see note’ (I can’t find any note regarding butter!) I must make these, NOW… lol! Stormy here today and I would rather not leave the house if not necessary, TY!

    1. Sarah

      I think the “note” may be re the temperature of the butter? “If you’re using a stand mixer or food processor, you can begin with cold butter, cut into cubes. If you’re using a handmixer, room temperature/slightly softened butter is best.”

  21. Linda

    Well, Like Flo in the comments, I also cut my dough in half. It didn’t work and I got lovely thin striped cookies. A huge disappointment.

  22. Donna

    I made these this afternoon and wow are they delicious! Tender and just sweet enough, and very buttery. I didn’t have any colored sugar, but I did have white sparkling sugar and that worked well. I was a little surprised at how small they turned out, although if I had bothered to do the math I would have known. As it happens, though, that’s a good thing because they’re pretty rich. Some of my checkerboards are a little wonky so we’re eating those first. :)

    1. Liz Frerich

      They are so small!! The pictures makes them look big! I agree- I should have done the math and wouldn’t have been so surprised!!

      Deb- if you double the recipe
      Do you think you could cut like 1/2” slices instead of 1/4?

  23. Katrina

    I usually try your recipes years later, but happened to see this post this morning and felt inspired to make them. Accidentally added a little too much flour (because I grabbed the wrong measuring cup…) but these still came out great. I found it easier to do the second cut-and-assemble by first cutting the long rectangle in half, it just made it easier to get those long 1/4” slices. Also used turbinado sugar instead of colored sugar, it worked well but I think I prefer the ones that didn’t get the sugar coating. Very impressive cookies that were pretty easy to make!

  24. Sarah

    I love the ease of icebox cookies, keeping various logs in the freezer and baking a few at a time to suit whatever flavor whims I have at the moment (I live alone, so baking an entire batch at once is dangerous). Do you think it would be possible to take a rolled cookie recipe (say, for example, your pretzel linzers from SK Every Day) and icebox it instead of rolling and cutting?

  25. Janelle

    I did checkered squares and marbled rounds with the scraps! I did a rainbow of sugar colors but the best by far was a coarse gold deco sugar with the marbled rounds. I wish I could post a picture! They’re tiny and adorable!

  26. Sarah

    I was so happy to see this. My heart leaps down seeing spreads of holiday cookies that are just variations on big, splodgy drop cookies. I like a more refined, small cookie. Thanks!

  27. Nancy Gardiner

    I definitely agree with Flo’s comment that this direction seems incorrect: “Place each dough half between two pieces of parchment paper and roll each into two (approximately) 4 to 5×10-inch (10 to 13×25-cm) rectangles that are 1/4-inch (6mm) thick.” It should not be roll EACH into two rectangles. It should be roll each(dough ball) into a rectangle. Then you end up with the two slabs called for in the next step, rather than four as it currently instructs. Thanks to Flo I was able to rescue the recipe before going crazy:)

  28. Rosemary Leicht

    Maida Heatter taught a class at Hurrah in Cincinnati in 1980 promoting her new Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. Checkerboard cookies were one of the recipes she demonstrated. I fell in love with them and have been making them for over 40 years. Although Maida Heatter did not weigh the two doughs (she divided it in cups,) it is an important step to have the chocolate and vanilla come out evenly. Ask me how I know! Brilliant to have it in your recipe. From Maida Heatter, I learned the importance of keeping a ruler in the kitchen. She was precise in her baking.

  29. Jennifer S.

    Delicious. I intended to spiral mine, but the dough chilled too firmly to roll up. Sliced it into strips and stacked it, instead, for checkerboards, then, squished the scraps into a cylinder for marbled slice and bakes. Use a VERY light hand with the egg white – otherwise the sugar liquefies and cements the cookie to the parchment.

  30. Jenn

    I made these and, well, I guess I can’t follow instructions, because I wound up with striped cookies. Arbiter of all Baked Goods (husband) says they are cute and melt in his mouth, which is good, but I wish I’d made little checkerboards. Do not skip the second chilling step (i.e., after you’ve compiled the vanilla and chocolate pieces). I did for the first batch and they started to burn. This recipe may be a bit above my pay grade!

  31. Stacey

    I just made these. First, they are delish!

    I may have misunderstood instructions, but I ended up with 4 logs that were roughly 1 X 10, They are super tiny, but cute! Also, probably took me more like 2 hours. Though at least part of that was 10 minutes lost to inattentive freezing time (I blame Christmas in Connecticut on TCM). As a result, I have about 80 1 x 1 elfin cookies. But they are adorbs!

      1. HoS

        Hoping to make these and have a similar question. Is the checkerboard log supposed to be 1 inch square in cross section? This would be the case if the doughs were rolled out to 1/4 inch thickness. So the cookie would still be pretty tiny after baking — a little more than 1 inch perhaps. Which would probably give you around 80 cookies, as Stacey says, rather than the 30-36 that the recipe states. (Btw, since you can measure the length of the serving dish in the top photo, you can probably estimate the dimension of the baked cookie.)

        1. deb

          Mine seemed to grow! I used my 1/4-inch thick pastry ruler to roll them out and then mark where the slices should be and yet somehow mine were more like 1.5-inch square going in, and a bit closer to 2-inch square (they expand just a little) coming out.

          1. HoS

            Interesting. But if you roll it to 10 inches long and slice with 1/4 inch thickness, you should still get 80 cookies from two logs, not 30-36, isn’t it?!

    1. Stacey

      Hi Deb-

      The logs were 1 X 10, so the sliced cookies were roughly 1 X 1 X 1/4″. They just looked much tinier than I was expecting.

  32. Melinda Lewis

    Deb, this is just a gratuitous appreciation comment, to make sure you know–especially at Christmas–that this was a recipe that helped my 13-year-old daughter make cookies for her friend who she doesn’t have class with next semester and is therefore worried about the tenuous nature of their bond, that she felt looked like a baking show challenge, all by herself (her brother has a trig final, so it’s busy around here). It was a confidence booster, an unmitigated success, and a joy to behold. You don’t just craft recipes; you make us better versions of ourselves, and we thank you.

  33. Cait

    Fantastic shortbread cookies. Definitely a bit more of a project to do the checkerboard but Deb’s instructions are great and it was a lot of fun! You can taste the difference between the cocoa and vanilla bits and they have a beautiful texture. Not overly sweet, they’re perfect with your morning cup of coffee!

  34. Jacinta

    This is great! I was considering making checker-board cookies and now you’ve provided the impetus – encouragement and a recipe I know will be good! Cheers!

  35. Sue

    I’m hoping you post some more notes on this. My slabs were very crumbling when I took them out of the freezer . There was no way to stack them into neat squares. Did I leave them in the freezer too long. I salvaged the dough as messed up cookies.

    1. deb

      If they were crumbling, yes. But it’s not ruined or anything. They’ll warm up in 5-10 at room temperature, and even if they crack as they land on the next layer, they’re still in the right place as they adhere.

      1. Sue

        Good to know for the next time. They taste delicious, they just look funny. Some better than others.
        I probably need a little more patience the next time.

    2. Molly

      I would also wonder if the dough was mixed enough when first made, or if too much flour was added. But then it would have been crumbly at before going into the freezer, too. Hope you can figure it out for the next round!!

  36. Sarah

    I made these with my daughter and they were very delicious (chocolaty) and impressive. My checkerboard pattern wasn’t as perfectly symmetrical as Deb’s, but pretty darn close. Definitely a classy upgrade to the usual Christmas cookie swap.

  37. Lori

    I made these yesterday for a cookie exchange and they were a huge hit! The kids especially were wildly impressed and so excited when they saw the checkerboard patterns. I had expected that they’d lose interest after a few bites and go for a sweeter cookie, but no, they all came back for seconds!

    The adults were big fans too and a few commented that this was the first checkerboard cookie recipe they’d had that didn’t taste like cardboard. Will definitely be making these again! I love the texture and visual and especially that they were flavorful and not too sweet.

  38. Molly

    Spontaneously added this to my holiday cookie list and they came out perfectly and so so tastey. I think that egg yolk in the dough is really the key. Doesn’t look like I can add a photo here, but they looked just like Deb’s! I still have a baby marbled log I made out of the scraps and I can’t wait to see how those look to.

  39. Ndeye Laura

    Beautiful, delicious, and an easy to work with dough. Please be smarter than me and pay attention and follow the directions carefully, using a ruler! I wasn’t as careful as I could have been and mis-stacked some and also had some slices ended up different enough sizes that some of my checkerboards were wonky. I did have some beautiful ones though, and all were delicious, including the ones I had to marble. Perfect timing too as I had already planned to bake cookies that day.

  40. mtl

    I just made this! They are probably the fussiest / hardest recipe I’ve made in a long time. Maybe it’s because this was my first time making something this complicated (I normally bake much easier cookies, no slicing, thrice freezing etc). I found the dividing of the dough and beating it separately with flour / cocoa fussy, and also found the rolling of the dough into a rectangle quite tricky. Since my rectangles were not perfect, my cookie logs had a tough time looking nice like Deb’s. I also found the cutting tricky! That said, it was a very fun project, and if I wasn’t running out on time in the day I probably would have enjoyed it more! And they do look like stunners.

  41. Aliza Bartfield

    Very excited to make these! Will the sugar stick to the outside of the logs right out of the freezer or do you recommend thawing the dough a bit before rolling them? Or can they be frozen with the the sugar already on the outside?

  42. Sue C

    Even though I am geometrically challenged (round pie dough rolls out rectangular, rectangles roll out round), I decided to make these cookies. At first glance, it looked like it was going to be complicated; but it wasn’t. After reading through the comments I was obsessing about reserving the 1/4cp. of flour for the vanilla dough, only to discover that I was following the instructions for the “food processor” as I added all my ingredients into my stand mixer! I wasn’t about to dirty another appliance, so I forged on mixing all the ingredients at once. Eureka! perfect cookie dough. They are soooo cute & festive (red & green sugar coating). I can’t wait to share them with my BFFs at our Holiday luncheon.

  43. James

    You mean… you didn’t give them your potato chip treatment? You just went for color instead? (I still hear about the time I dated to make potato chip cookies…)


    (Insert lame wanna-be amateur internet trash talk here.)

  44. Diana

    Hi! The do ahead tip indicates that cookies will keep for 3 weeks in a tin. I’ve got an old recycled tin from TJ. How would they keep in a plastic lock-tite container?

  45. Holly

    I made these to bring to a cookie exchange last weekend, and they were a huge hit. They’re perfect for when you want something showier, and the flavors and texture were lovely. You really taste the chocolate and vanilla here, which is what I hoped for!

    These cookies, as Deb outlines, do require several bouts in the freezer, and some careful measuring and slicing. I was glad I made these on a lazy Saturday when I had lots of time — and an empty kitchen — on my hands. I found the step-by-step instructions and the photos to be immensely helpful! I will say that, following the checkerboard instructions as carefully as I could, the cookies turned out much smaller than I expected. Again, not an issue with the recipe, but personal preference! Next time I will plan to double the recipe or adjust the slicing to make larger cookies.

  46. DV

    These are delicious, but a bit tricky; my logs ended up shaped more like a pork tenderloin than a log (I did the marbled version cause that seemed more doable for my skill level than the checkerboard).
    My question: the recipe doesn’t make enough cookies(!) so was wondering if I could double everything? Or is it better to make the recipe twice? Thanks!

  47. Bobbi Pentland

    These cookies turned out beautifully! My grandson said “these are the best Nana”…high praise from an 8 yr old who rarely says anything remotely like that!
    Mine almost looked exactly like your pictures. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

  48. JAL

    OK so these are pretty amazing once you figure out the process. Definitely need lots of freezer time in between. The hardest part for me was rolling the dough into a rectangle even if I started with a square block it didn’t end up in a rectangle… Any tips?

    1. deb

      If you’re doing it between two parchment sheets, you can just lift off the top one, cut away any chunk that’s extending outside the rectangle you want to use, and drop it into the area where your rectangle isn’t filling out. Put the top parchment back on and roll like nothing happened. Basically like moving puzzle pieces around.

  49. Clippyz

    Just finished my first batch and on to second. A tad fussy but so adorable! Mine are a bit wonky but still cute.

    I did half with a more coarse sugar trim and half with more fine sugar and the latter def came out better- adhered easier, more color saturation. Only note I’d add to an otherwise beautifully written recipe.

  50. Amy

    Hi Deb,
    Thank you! I have made pinwheels and checkerboards for so many gatherings that they are now know as “Grammy cookies”. I will try your dough recipe next–until now I’ve relied on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. For even more fun with shapes (like butterflies), I use ideas from an out-of-print-but-still-available British cookbook: Wacky Cakes and Kooky Cookies by Gerhard Jenne. His delightful decorating is easy and casual, which suits me perfectly.

  51. Aimee

    I made this this weekend and was pleasantly surprised how quickly and easily the dough came together in the food processor. Assembling the cookies was fairly easy following the instructions, but next time I will make sure to press the final logs “firmly into a long, squared-off log, adhering the layers.” I don’t think I pressed mine quite enough as some of the layers delaminated a little while slicing and baking. But overall these were so cute and tasty, and will definitely become a Christmas tradition.

  52. Colette

    I do not bake cookies, but I made these over the weekend and they are so fun. I’ll make them again just to see if I can make them neater now that I know what I’m doing. I am really proud of myself. Thanks so much for the excellent instructions.

  53. Amy Guild

    Can I bake these a few days in advance and store in the freezer? I don’t want to risk the sugar melting and turning into a sticky mess when they thaw. Thank you :)

  54. Andrea S.

    My teen & tween were making cookies, and I had 2 more sticks of butter sitting on the counter looking lonely, so I thought why not. I measured & drew a rectangle on the bottom of the parchment sheet for each one, ensuring I had a 4×10″ rectangle for each of the 2 dough balls. After rolling & cooling, I flipped the parchment-dough slab over and measured & marked the 2″ cut (‘divide in half lengthwise’). Put the 2nd half on top of the first and cooled. Then I again flipped to the parchment bottom and measured & marked the 1/4″ increments on both short ends and cut the strips. Assembled, cooled, sugared, cut & baked. They look great, and the slices near the ends are modern art style checkerboard :) They have fantastic flavor! I’ve never made checkerboard cookies, so my family oohed and aaaahed over them. Thank you and Happy New Year!

  55. Eliza

    These were so much easier than I expected. I made them with a scale and yet somehow my measurements were off when I went to half the dough. I also wish I had reduced the salt a bit to adjust for my salted butter. I might like to try it again and color the vanilla dough. They are delicious!

  56. Fran

    I tried the food processor method a couple of days ago and totally failed… overmixed the dough into oblivion. Just gave it another go using my hand mixer (killed the stand mixer’s motor with almond paste yesterday) and just cut/assembled my checkerboards. They came out perfectly. I’m so happy I could cry. Thank you for this amazing recipe, I can’t wait to taste the final product.

  57. Jennifer

    I made these yesterday with my nephews (10 and 7). Great way to fill a rainy afternoon, and the cookies were festive and delicious!!! Tips: We used a pizza cutter to slice the dough. And I inadvertently followed the stand mixer directions instead of the hand mixer directions and ended up with a crumbly mess, but salvaged it by moshing the dough with my hands until it came together. Undignified but worth it.

  58. Mary

    I doubled the recipe, as I wanted to have enough to make it worth all the effort. They were very easy to make, though–just takes some time and patience.

  59. Cherry

    I’ve made these 2 times within 2 weeks because me and everyone else who tastes them loves them! I’m a beginner baker and I haven’t mastered getting a tight spiral (or much of a spiral at all) but they’re still cute and highly delicious!

    1. Amy

      To fill the whole in the middle of the roll, take a bit of extra dough and roll it into a snake. Stick that very close to the edge where you are starting to roll. Then keep rolling. Your cookies might end up a bit wider, but who doesn’t like a bigger cookie?

  60. Lily

    It sounds like when people have tried to use sprinkles or non pareils instead of sanding sugar, it made the colors bleed. Does anyone have thoughts on a workaround for this?

  61. Rani

    Hi! I was wondering if I freeze the dough in advance for a few weeks – should I cut them into squares and freeze?, OR better to freeze them as logs? Can I freeze with the sugar coating or wait till before baking?
    Thank you! Super excited to try this recipe for a cookie exchange!

    1. Andrea S.

      I froze them as checkerboard logs wrapped in wax paper. This made it easy to make them ahead of time and easily pull them out, let them warm up for a few minutes, roll in sanding sugar & then slice with a sharp knife and bake. You can also cut the checkerboard logs in half, wrap each half in wax paper and then make a smaller batch whenever the cookie urge hits. Everyone loved them!

    2. Andrea S.

      I forgot to mention, I don’t recommend freezing them with sanding sugar on them. It kinda dissolves, loses it’s color, and make the log sticky.

  62. Marisa

    Was thinking about making these for an office holiday party next week then remembered my apartment has no counter space to roll them out… Anyone have a good solutions for this?

  63. Amelia

    A winning recipe and method for achieving a tricky, stunning cookie. My only quibble is that all three times I’ve made this (in two different ovens), they’ve needed quite a bit longer than 10-12 minutes at 350F to achieve a snappy sable texture–the first batch were almost gummy in the center. Something closer to 20-25 minutes works for me, to get the cookies firm to the touch on top and slightly browned underneath. They’re not a sugary cookie so they don’t brown too quickly, you can afford to bake them out fully.

  64. PMA

    Deb, dare I say I have trouble getting the dough the right size and thickness? Am I alone on this? Is it because I attempted to make them this morning, because my son and I had a two hour delay, and all he wanted to do was eat the dough? But seriously, I’d love a video of these beauties being made, and since I know you’re a busy mom too, can you help me keep the dough simple? Thank you!

  65. Sarah

    Fantastic. I couldn’t bring myself to do the full checkerboards amidst a number of other cookie projects going on simultaneously, so I took inspiration from a Chris Morocco recipe and made zebra stripes, which was so easy and fast and packed a visual punch. His shaping instructions worked perfectly with the dough listed here. The flavor of this cookie is far beyond what you would expect. Divine.

  66. Meredith K

    Just made these for my Christmas gifts. Obviously I HAD to do a tester batch which tasted amazing but the checkerboard only worked out OK. My second batch was beautiful and will match perfectly with Deb’s Irish Cream recipe that I will be giving to my extended family.

    BTW, my Christmases have become a Smitten Kitchen affair as I first made your Yule Log 2 or 3 years ago (with dark choc bark and meringue mushrooms) and now it is expected every year.

  67. Jane

    So you have your vanilla and chocolate doughs, each between 2 parchment layers, then you remove the top layer of parchment…do you flip the one slab over the other to stack? Then remove the remaining parchment on top before slicing? Stuck on a dumb detail I know, but you never mention the other 2 pieces of parchment. And is it hard to flip to stack?

  68. sheryl hussey

    I made these last night, and they turned out amazing. ! my squares might not have been quite as even as yours but I was very proud of myself

  69. Liz+Frerich

    Could this be doubled and then make each checkerboard square 1/2 in? I want a bigger cookie! Does the math work that way? Would the roll out size change?

  70. Olivia

    I’ve made these twice now. They are delicious, but each little cube does not want to stay together and I end up with cookie puzzle pieces. What am I doing wrong? I have 2 guesses: I’m letting the slabs get too cold before combining them, or I’m adding too much flour and the result is too dry to adhere. Thoughts?

    1. deb

      You want to press them gently but as firmly as you can without messing up the shape in their square log once it’s wrapped and ready to chill, and then again when you take it out, before cutting it.

  71. Shelley Lawrence

    I so badly wanted to make these and I decided to try today. Utter failure. I think it would have been better to mix in the mixer. I just do not have the ability. Could not figure out the checkerboarding and dough was a mess. Oh well

    1. Errol

      I have made this recipe many times but only the pinwheel or marbled versions. The marbled is the easiest way and they taste equally as amazing and truly look very cool, too! If you have it in you to try again, go with the marbled!