Gingerbread Cookies: the soft recipe for traditional Christmas gingerbread men cookies

Total time: 90 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 6 people
By Cookist
for the gingerbread dough
All-purpose flour
350 g
packed brown sugar
150 g
Large egg
unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
125 g
Baking soda
1 tsp
unsulphured Molasses
90 g
Ground cinnamon
1 tsp
Ground ginger
1 tsp
a pinch
Ground cloves
1 tsp
ground allspice
1/2 tsp
Ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp
Vanilla Extract
1 tsp
for the royal icing
Confectioner’s sugar
2 cups
meringue powder
1 1/2 tbsp
Warm water
2 1/2 tbsp

The gingerbread cookies are one of the most popular cookie recipe everyone enjoy during Christmas holidays. They're super soft on the inside and slightly crisp on the edges, that means they're compact and not at all crumbly. Perfectly cut in the shape of small men, these gingerbread cookies have a sweet flavor derived from molasses that balances well with the spiced, intense flavor due to warming spices, especially ginger and cinnamon. Don't worry, they will not taste too gingery.

The typical shape is that of the famous animated movie Shrek's gingerbread man, but it is also possible to use other shapes, for example that of a reindeer, a tree, a star or any other traditional festive shape. You can even play with spices to customize gingerbread cookies in flavor.

It's an easy recipe to make even for beginners, you just need patience and a pinch of dexterity when decorating. You need to work the mixture briefly, form a homogeneous dough and then let it rest in the refrigerator. This step is essential to easily roll out the dough, preventing it from crumbling.

Once the gingerbread men have been formed with the special pastry molds, they are baked in the oven at 350°F for about 10 minutes. Finally, they're decorated with royal icing, a mixture made with confectioner's sugar, meringue powder and warm water. You can leave it white, as proposed in the recipe, or color it with food coloring in powder or gel.

At this point your cookies are ready to be dipped in a hot cup of tea, used as a holiday gift for family and friends or as a Christmas decoration for centerpieces, Christmas trees and much more.

Gingerbread Men Cookie Ingredients

There are some key ingredients you can't leave out to make perfectly baked gingerbread cookies.

Pantry ingredients are perfect to whip up the dough.

Molasses and spices add the right amount of flavor and dark color.

Brown sugar balances the spiced flavor with sweetness.

Softened butter make cookies soft. Melted butter will give a denser texture to cookies. If you don't feel like waiting for your stick of butter to soften on its own, put it in the microwave on a very low setting, checking to see if it's ready every 10 seconds and making sure it doesn't melt.

Eggs, baking soda, salt and vanilla make gingerbread cookies structured and rich.

Confectioner's sugar, water and meringue powder are the classic ingredients to make a smooth royal icing that you need to decorate your gingerbread cookies.

Gingerbread Cookie Variations

You can make gingerbread cookies without molasses if you don't have it on hand. Replace it with dark brown sugar – it already has molasses in it – or honey. Just keep in mind that your cookies will have a milder flavor than the traditional ones.

Feel free to add also other spices to the dough such as nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom.

You can add orange zest to the dough if you want.

You can decorate gingerbread cookies as you want. Add your favorite color to royal icing or enrich your cookies with frosting, candies or sprinkles.

Tips for the Best Soft Gingerbread Cookies

We suggest you use ground spices.

Don't skip the chill time. The dough should be rest in the refrigerator, otherwise gingerbread cookies won't keep their shape in the oven.

You can also make the dough up to 2 days in advance, wrap it in cling film and store it in the refrigerator. If it's too stiff, let it rest on your counter.

How to store Gingerbread Men Cookies

The gingerbread men biscuits can be stored in a biscuit tin at room temperature for at least 1 week.

Can you freeze Gingerbread Cookies?

You can also freeze gingerbread dough for at least 3 weeks, closed in an airtight container.

How to make Gingerbread Cookies

To make the gingerbread men cookies, start from the dough. Equip yourself with a rolling pin, parchment paper and the special pastry mold to shape your biscuits, before baking them. Then dedicate yourself to the preparation of the royal icing that you will need to decorate the biscuits.

How to make Gingerbread Dough


In a large bowl pour the flour and baking soda.


Flavor with cinnamon.


And then the ginger.


Stir in allspice, cloves, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.


In another bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and molasses for 2 minutes on medium speed until creamy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla until combined, reducing the mixer speed to low.


Gradually add in the dry ingredients. Beat on medium low-speed until combined. The dough will be quite sticky and thick. Divide it into two equal parts and form two balls.


Gently flatten each ball into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it refrigerate for about 1 hour or until firm yet pliable.


Unwrap the dough. Roll it out the between two sheets of parchment paper with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4  cm thick.


With the special cookie cutter, make your gingerbread men. Re-roll the dough as needed to cut out more. Preheat your oven at 350°F.


Arrange the biscuits on a baking tray, lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven at 350° F for about 10 minutes.


Once golden brown, take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.

How to make Royal Icing


In a small bowl, place powdered sugar, water and meringue powder. Stir it quickly with a stand mixer. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar.


Stir vigorously until you get a smooth and shiny mixture.

How to decorate Gingerbread Cookies


Pour the royal icing into a sauce tube.


Decorate your gingerbread men biscuits by making the eyes, mouth and buttons.


Let the royal icing set completely.


Bring to the table and serve.

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