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Holiday Icebox Cookies

Icebox cookies are really just extra-pretty sugar cookies. Before baking, the dough is flattened, rolled into logs, chilled, and sliced-steps kids can have fun doing themselves with your supervision.

Holiday Icebox Cookies

Source: Martha Stewart Kids, Holiday


  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, plus an extra egg white for "glue"
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 5 cups flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Food coloring, in various colors


  1. Using the electric mixer, mix the butter and the sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and the salt, and mix well. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add flour a little at a time, mixing it in until all of it has been incorporated.

  2. Divide the dough into balls, one for each color. For chocolate dough, add cocoa (1/4 cup is enough to flavor half a batch). Mix well with electric mixer. For colored dough, start with 1/4 teaspoon food coloring, and mix well. Add more in tiny amounts for darker colors. Gel-paste coloring can be intense, so add it gradually.

  3. Wrap each ball of dough in its own sheet of plastic wrap; pat flat into a rectangle. Refrigerate at least one hour or until ready to use.

  4. Parchment or waxed paper makes a good work surface. Sprinkle generously with flour, then roll out each piece of dough 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick to make the swirls; you can use thicker layers for the bull's-eyes.

  5. The bench scraper is a good tool for trimming dough's edges to make them even. The egg white, brushed on with a pastry brush, will act as a glue, making the layers stick together.

  6. For center, with your hands, roll chocolate dough into a 1/2- to 1 1/2- inch-thick rod; chill 20 minutes. Place rod on edge of rolled-out dough that's been brushed with egg white.

  7. Roll rod inside sheet of dough. Cut the dough where it meets up. Seal by pinching and pressing gently. Chill 20 minutes, then repeat to add other layers. To decorate, go to step 7, or jump to step 8 for plain.

  8. For spirals, measure and trim two or more colors of dough to same size. Brush on egg white, then stack layers. Brush top with egg white. Starting at one end, roll up the dough.

  9. Smooth and straighten the layers as you roll them so there are no gaps, then gently pinch and press the edge of the roll to seal it. Now the dough is ready to decorate. If you want plain cookies, skip to step 18.

  10. Add your favorite toppings (try coconut, colored sanding sugar, chopped nuts, or chocolate sprinkles): Spread topping in baking sheet, brush dough with egg white, and roll the log in topping.

  11. Roll each log in parchment or waxed paper; twist the ends of the paper closed. To help the logs keep their round shape, set each in a cardboard paper-towel roll that you have sliced open lengthwise.

  12. To remember what colors you have already used, with crayons, draw the designs onto key tags; tie the tags onto the paper covering the logs. Chill logs until they are solid, about 1 1/2 hours.

  13. Cut 15 inches of dental floss (or double thickness of thread). Let log soften for about 10 minutes. Remove parchment. Wrap floss around log and pull through. Make the slices thin: 1/4 inch or less.

  14. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place slices on an ungreased baking sheet (lined with parchment paper). A grown-up should bake the cookies 12 to 15 minutes, until firm but not browned. Let cool on baking sheet for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Reviews (22)

  • JulieRoseLola 8 Dec, 2013

    These turned out beautifully but they were a whole day worth of work. I made them with my 4 1/2 year old , not as kid friendly as that. Perhaps if you were making it with 8 or 10 year olds it would be great. Love the flavor and the aesthetic. Will make them again another year but now know what type of labor of love I am getting into. Just a little labor intensive but OH SO Lovely!

  • Alizarin8 23 Dec, 2010

    I LOVE this cookie recipe! We make it every year. I think that if you prefer a super sweet cookie, then you may be disappointed, but we love these. We make half vanilla (and use a very good vanilla extract) and half dark chocolate. These are a bit like a cakey shortbread. They are a Christmas tradition in our house! Just be sure to chill the dough for several hours (not the minimum 1 hour stated) before rolling. Yum!!

  • jessferrigno 21 Dec, 2010

    This is the single WORST cookie recipe I have ever tried. The dough is way to sticky, has no flavor, and there is absolutely no way to roll these into pinwheels. Plus if you do bake them as drop cookies (if you can call them that) the cookie turns out harder than dry playdough. :-( BOO!

  • fossee 23 Oct, 2010

    I didn't have trouble with this recipe. I don't keep whole milk around so I split half 1% with half and half and that worked. Here's the problem with the recipe - it is WAY TOO BLAND - it's suggested for kids and they would pick this up and then put it down after one bite. I am going to try it again either sprinkling the whole thing in clear sugar crystals or adjusting the sugar in the cookies and adding a half teaspoon of almond flavoring.

  • scmacri 4 Jul, 2010

    I had a terrible time with these cookies. Something in the ingredients just wasn't meshing... not sure if I over measured or WHAT, but they did not turn out well... couldn't get them to roll well without adding a TON of flour and chilling for forever. I finally gave up and just made colored drop cookies out of it. And even then... didn't quite taste right. I won't rule out that it was the cook's error, though. :)

  • mbarnes13 25 Mar, 2009

    If you make Bull's-Eyes - about 34 cookies.
    If you make Spirals - about 28 cookies.
    This is according to Martha's Cookies Cookbook.

  • carlaird 16 Dec, 2008


  • mommakimbo 4 Dec, 2008

    how many does this yield? I cant find it in the instructions anywhere...and I need to make 8 dozen for a bake exchange!

  • bonnoslobbo 1 Dec, 2008

    YES, the dough freezes well! I got all my cookies made, rolled, wrapped, and frozen in November. I do it that way every year. They always taste great, better than anything you can buy in a store! Actually, I always have chocolate chip cookies in the freezer (mixed, dropped, frozen, bagged) ready to bake. That way you can bake a few or a bunch! Very popular with the men in my family! Just be sure to use quality wrappings and wrap very well to avoid that yukky freezer taste.

  • bonnoslobbo 1 Dec, 2008

    These are a lot of trouble to make, but are worth it! They taste better than you might think. I made them for the first time in 2004 and my notes say to add more flour. If you live in a dry climate, though, that might not be necessary. Anyone have any suggestions for color combinations?

  • bwaybabe802 11 Nov, 2008

    We did these five years ago, and I had a blast making them! And they were so good! I was younger at the time, and I still had a blast, and afterwards they tasted great! Ever since then we hadn't made them, so I was looking for the recipe! I'm glad I finally found it!

  • chefbb317 11 Feb, 2008

    This was a good cookie recipe. They were really pretty, but make sure you make the diffrerent layers the same length and cut it out nicely it looks better. I didn't use the egg in the middle either and it worked fine also.

  • calientemama 23 Dec, 2007

    this looks like a LOT of work for "just" icebox cookies, does anyone know if drying regular cookie dough (Pillsbury) would work?

  • imnthgarden 23 Dec, 2007

    These cookies are fun! Everyone enjoyed them at the special party we took them... I goofed with one batch (interruptions-interruptions!) and did not add milk, resulting in a shortbread version -- really yummy (little stiffer to roll, but doable); liquid food color adds moisture. Didn't add egg white between layers, turned out fine. Depending upon how you roll these, you can also create a paisley design. 2 batches in 3 color combos provided a nice cookie tray to take with some left to enjoy!

  • TinLizzie 14 Dec, 2007

    To rachcolorado - Dancing Deer baking company out of the Boston area makes natural food dyes. They are more muted than the artificial ones, for example the green is more of a sage color. They have worked well for me for frostings.I would think they would work well for the cookie dough. Their web site is

  • rebeccastebens 14 Dec, 2007

    about how many cookies does this recipe make

  • Brit 14 Dec, 2007

    I don't know about the US but here in the UK, health food shops sell natural colourings for cooking. They work just as well, but use only natural dyes. And most importantly...they don't have any strong taste.

  • rachcolorado 13 Dec, 2007

    I don't like to eat anything with food dye. Any natural way to add coloring to the cookies without changing it's flavor?

  • LuckyStash 10 Dec, 2007

    This is a very easy cookie recipe. Easy to follow. And it's good too. Kids love this colorful cookie.

  • lilyloreh 6 Dec, 2007

    About how many cookies will this recipe make?

  • yellowstonekitty 29 Nov, 2007

    Will this dough freeze well? I need to make a few hundred cookies and am looking for some beautiful and tasty additions that are easy or can be prepped ahead of time and frozen.

  • josalvin 28 Nov, 2007

    I will add flavored extracts to the colored dough as well, that way, brown and pink cookies can be chocolate/peppermint. or brown with white can be chocolate almond. I might also try orange, lemon, rum or coconut extracts. Several different looking, different flavored cookies from one batch of cookie dough!

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