Soft and chewy Gingerbread Cookie Cutouts. A traditional molasses cookie dough spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Rolled out and cut into seasonal Christmas holiday shapes, baked and glazed with a quick homemade icing recipe and cookie decorations. Gingerbread Cookies are the MOST popular flavored cookies for the holiday season.
Gingerbread Cookies are known to be distinctively different in flavor than other holiday cookies. That’s because the basic eggless dough is made with molasses and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. The combination of these classic spices and molasses add a lot of warm flavors that give it it’s memorable taste and smell.
My favorite gingerbread cookie recipe is soft and chewy in texture and incredibly moist. I like to ice and decorate my cookies just like mom and grandma do but I like the cookie flavors to shine through the glaze.
How to Make Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies are the most popular Christmas cookie. These cookies are a family tradition and nothing says Christmas baking like freshly made Gingerbread Cookies and Christmas Sugar Cookie Cutout shapes baking in the oven. Holiday baking brings me so much joy. In fact, I start my baking just after Thanksgiving Day. It has been a family tradition since I was a child. Mom would seat us at the craft table and we’d spend many weeks together making different decorations for our holiday parties.
Here’s what you’ll need to make homemade gingerbread cookies:
- ROLLING PIN
- PARCHMENT PAPER OR WAX PAPER
- COOKIE CUTTERS
- ICING RECIPE (PLUS BOTTLE OR PIPING BAG FOR TRACING)
- SPRINKLES, JIMMIES, CANDY DECORATIONS
Frosting and Decorating Techniques
Cookie Decorations: Possibly my favorite part of making Christmas cookies for our holiday parties has always been decorating. You don’t need to buy a special cookie decorating kit to create beautifully decorated cookies. If you’re making these cookies with kids, let them be creative and make a mess! After all, this is where holiday memories are made. If you’re looking to create professional-looking cookie designs, stock up on a variety of sprinkles.
- Creating any design with kids: Use a spoon to drizzle icing on top of the cookies.
- Shapes and tracing: Buy an icing bottle. They are usually less than $.99 at any craft or big box store. Spoon the icing into the bottle and gently squeeze the icing into shapes. Use a spoon or toothpick to fill in the lines. Then, apply sprinkles to icing. A toothpick helps to brush and fill the sprinkles into the icing.
I like to use a variety of jimmy colors, sprinkle shapes, sanding sugar, nonpareils round sprinkles, candy decorations such as cinnamon red hots, mini jawbreakers, and mini M&M’s to texture the cookie surface.
How to Decorate Gingerbread Men Cookies
When I was little, mom would sit us kids up at the kitchen table to roll, cut, ice, and decorate Christmas cookies. She’d make a big batch of cookie icing using powdered sugar, water, corn starch, and extract. We always had so much fun frosting the cookies and licking the icing off our hands. Of course, gingerbread cookies don’t need to be decorated, but Christmas cookies are known to be “extra extravagant” with holiday spirit.
Icing Techniques and Flavors
Icing Flavors: My basic cookie icing is flavored with almond extract. Other delicious extract and flavorings that pair best with gingerbread men include vanilla, anise, maple, cinnamon, lemon, orange, cream cheese, hazelnut, cherry, butter flavor, banana flavoring, cake batter, pumpkin pie spice, coffee extract, chocolate cocoa, and peppermint. Frosting may be used. Pick up a few premade canned frosting flavors and mix portions with food coloring.
Glaze Colors: To make a variety of glaze colors, use my icing recipe. This icing will dry hard and shiny because of the use of corn syrup. The icing batch is large enough to divide the glaze into several different bowls. Use food coloring or gel to color the icing if desired. NOTE: Sugar cookie icing that is sold in grocery stores will work for this recipe. I did buy some and test it on the cookies. While the flavors are great, the icing is white and will dry white. The stark white color is a huge contrast to these cookies so be aware of this before using.
Gingerbread Men Cookies Tips and Questions
Can I make the dough in advance? Yes, simply roll the dough into a long log shape. Cover it with plastic wrap (not foil as it will stick) and place it in a freezer bag. Store in the freezer up to 6-8 months. The dough will need to come to room temperature before rolling it out.
How long do I bake the cookies for mini shapes? Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes for mini shapes.
How long should I bake the cookies to make them crispy? Crunchy texture cookies like gingersnap cookies should bake an additional 5-8 minutes.
The dough is sticky, what gives? It’s possible the measuring cup overfilled slightly. To prevent this, be sure to use a liquid measuring cup and don’t fill it past the line. In fact, fill it just under the line to be safe. If the dough is still too sticky to work with, place it back in the mixer and mix in 1/4 cup flour.
DOUGH TIP: This dough requires the use of parchment paper or wax paper and extra flour to prevent sticking. Roll the chilled dough out onto parchment paper dusted with plenty of flour on both sides. Pop the rolled dough into the freezer no more than 10 minutes. Take it out, peel back both sides of parchment paper by flipping it over and replacing the papers, then cut out shapes. Use a flat cookie spatula to lift the dough with the cutter off the parchment paper and on to the cookie sheet.
Gingerbread Cookies are known for their cute cookie cutter shapes. If you prefer to skip rolling out the dough and making shapes, you may use this recipe as a drop cookies. If you still want to take gingerbread cookies to the next level without all the hassle, try my Gingerbread Thumbprint Cookies. They are classic gingerbread drop cookies filled with a spiced white chocolate center.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1½ tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1½ cups powdered confectioners' sugar
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp water
- ¼ tsp almond extract (or any flavoring)
- Mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in a bowl fit with the mixer.
- With the mixer on low, cut butter into chunks and add to mixture and mix until it resembles sand.
- Slowly add in molasses and milk and mix to completely combine. TIP: Spray a liquid measuring cup with cooking spray or oil to prevent molasses from sticking.
- Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Roll into balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1-4 hours or until the dough is easier to work with and not so sticky.
- Prepare a work surface with parchment paper. Remove one ball of dough and place on floured parchment paper. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and another piece of parchment paper.
- Roll dough out into ¼-inch thickness. NOTE: Cookies that are any thinner than ¼" will bake crispy.
- Place prepared dough on a cookie sheet or cutting board and place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take out of the freezer. Peel back the top of the parchment paper and replace it with a clean sheet. Flip over and repeat.
- Using cookie cutters press the shapes into the dough. TIP: Use a cookie spatula to fit under the cookie cutter after pressing into the dough to help pick it up if needed.
- The dough can be gathered and rerolled as many times as needed.
- Transfer cookie dough shapes to prepared baking sheet 1-inch apart.
- Bake in oven for 9-12 minutes or until the centers of the cookies are set. I baked mine for 10-11 minutes. NOTE: I used regular size cookie cutters. Mini cookie cutters will vary slightly and will need a little less baking time, but not much.