These fun and festive holiday cookies are inspired and adapted from Finnish Joulutorttu, a puff pastry mini-tart made with jam in the middle.
I have a slight obsession with Nordic baked goods. This is clearly evident by the recipes I’ve shared for Swedish blueberry coffee cake otherwise known as a blueberry tosca cake, semla, cardamom buns, and Swedish tea ring. But last year I came across a Finnish Christmas treat called Joulutorttu that looked so pretty I knew I had to make it. Similar to pinwheel cookies (not the swirled kind but the ones that look like the children’s toy that spin when you blow into them) these Finnish jam cookies are easier to make than they look and are super impressive to serve. Plus, they’re so fun to make! I’ve included two different ways to shape them in this post, because why limit it to just one shape?
What are Joulutorttu?
Joulutorttu are a Finnish pastry that translates to “Yule Tart” and is often eaten during the Christmas and winter holiday season. In Sweden they are called jultårta or tähtitorttu. They are traditionally made with puff pastry and filled with prune jam. They are shaped in a pinwheel, but they can also be shaped in other forms, like the square flower.
Though you can use store-bought puff pastry, or homemade puff pastry, to make a more traditional joulutorttu, I’ve made this versions with an easy cream cheese cookie dough, which holds the shape of the pastry better and is easy to roll out.
Though traditionally the cookies are filled with prune jam or sometimes apple jam, I’ve adapted these to pastries into cookies, using different preserves in the center. I’ve also added a touch of cardamom to the cookie dough, because it lends a dimension and flavor to the dough and because cardamom is a popular spice used in Nordic baked goods.
How do make Finnish joulutorttu
These cookies look super difficult to make but they’re not as hard as they look. First make the cookie dough by mixing together butter, cream cheese, sugar, cardamom (optional but recommended), baking powder, kosher salt, and vanilla into a paste. Add an egg and beat to incorporate. Add flour and mix until a smooth dough forms.
Gather the dough together and pat it out into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Once thoroughly chilled (about 1 to 2 hours) divide the dough into quarters (this makes it easier to roll out) and roll into a flat 10-inch square. Cut off the edges and make 9 3-inch squares.
Place a small 1/2 teaspoon of jam or preserve in the center of the square. Then pick the style of cookie you want to make!
To make a pinwheel shape, use a sharp knife and cut from where the jam is, in the center, out to one of the corners, making four cuts. Then fold in one of each corner to the center, over the jam, to form the pinwheel. Brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with a little extra sugar and bake.
To make a square flower, make a cut on the corner of the square, like a picture frame or bracket about 1/2-inch from the edge, cutting the corner, but stopping and leaving a 1/2 inch of untouched cookie dough in the center of each edge. Then pull the corners into the center of the cookie. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and bake.
Why is there cream cheese in the cookie dough?
Though it’s not traditional to the classic Finnish Christmas cookie, I use cream cheese in this cookie dough. The cream cheese gives a smoothness and slight elasticity to this dough that makes them easy to roll out. It also helps improve the texture of the cookie, giving it a bit of a bite that I adore. Use a full fat cream cheese in this recipe and avoid using whipped cream cheese. You need the kind that comes in a brick.
What sort of jam or preserve can you use in them?
Traditional Joulutorttu use prunes preserve or apple jam in the middle but you can use whatever jam or preserves you have on hand or that you like. I used homemade blood orange marmalade, Meyer lemon marmalade, and blueberry mint preserves in my cookie. But feel free to use raspberry, strawberry, mixed fruit jam if you’d like.
Avoid using jelly like grape jelly. The jelly will melt in the heat and make a mess. You want a preserve that has full fruit in it to help hold its shape after baking.
How do you store them?
These cookies keep for about 3 days in an airtight container or under a cake dome at room temperature. You can also freeze them. Freeze them flat, on a baking sheet, until frozen solid, about 2 hours. Then store them in a resealable freezer Ziploc bag for up to 2 months.
If you like these Christmas cookies, check out these other holiday cookie recipes:
- Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies
- Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies
- Hermit Cookies
- Secret Ingredient Peanut Butter Blossoms
- Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
- Striped Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Red Velvet Crackle Cookies
- Chocolate Crackle Cookies
- Hot Chocolate Cookies
Finnish Christmas Christmas Cookie aka Joulutorttu
- 1/2 cup room temperature butter 1 stick or 115 g
- 6 ounces room temperature full-fat cream cheese 3/4 brick of cream cheese or 170 g
- 1 cup white sugar 200 g
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom optional but recommended
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 315 g
- 3/4 cup jam or preserve of your choice
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Extra white sugar
- Make the dough by placing the butter, cream cheese, sugar, cardamom (if using), baking powder, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on slow speed, until the butter and cream cheese starts to break down a bit, and then increase the speed to medium low and continue to mix until the mixture looks creamy and clings to the side of the bowl.
- Add the egg and mix to incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the flour. Mix slowly to incorporate, scraping down the sides and bottom periodically to make sure all the ingredients are properly mixed in.Gather the dough and pat into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours (or overnight) to chill thoroughly.Once chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
- Divide the dough in half. Then roll out one half into a sheet of dough, roughly 10 x 10 inches. Cut the edges off, and then cut the dough into 3-inch squares, creating a grid of 9. Gather the scraps and set aside.Take the cookie squares and place them on the cookie sheet, evenly spacing them out from each other. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the jam, preserve or marmalade of your choice, in the center of one of the square.
- To make a pinwheel shape, use a sharp knife and make a diagonal cut from where the jam is, to one of the corners of the square. Repeat 3 more times, making cuts from the center to the corner. Then fold one of the cut corners into the center of the cookie, over the jam. Repeat with the remaining three corners, making a pinwheel pattern. Repeat with the remaining 8 squares.
- To make a square flower, make a cut on the corner of the square, like a picture frame about 1/2-inch from the edge, but stopping and leaving a 1/2 inch of untouched cookie dough in the center of each edge. Pull the corners into the center of the cookie, over the jam. Repeat with the remaining 8 squares.Repeat with the second half of the dough, gathering the scraps. Re-roll out the scraps and form more cookies.Beat the egg with milk. Then brush the top of each cookie with the egg wash and sprinkle with a touch of sugar. Bake cookies in the oven 12 to 14 minutes, or until the edges of the cookie are starting to get golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.