These are truly the BEST gingerbread cookies! This recipe makes soft and chewy gingerbread cookies full of festive holiday flavor. My simple icing recipe makes it easy to decorate these cookies as snowflakes, Christmas trees, gingerbread men, and more!
We never made gingerbread cookies when I was a kid.
We always made butter (sprtiz) cookies (so tasty and cute) and molasses cookies (so chewy and delicious). Most years we made peanut butter cookies, too. So in my mind, these are the Christmas cookie classics. But we never made gingerbread cookies.
We did always make a homemade gingerbread house, though. The house is constructed from rock hard (but technically edible) gingerbread so that it's sturdy enough to last the whole month of December. This is probably why I've always assumed that gingerbread cookies are hard and crunchy. As a lover of soft, chewy cookies, I've never had much of an interest in gingerbread.
But this year I was in the mood to decorate some Christmas cookies, so I set off to bake a batch of gingerbread in the hopes that I could bake a cookie that was both enjoyable to eat and adorable when decorated. Could it be done?
Why This Recipe Works
Oh my gosh these gingerbread cookies! They are perfect!
The flavor is incredible and full of holiday spice. The perfect blend of warming spices and molasses creates a robust flavor that's just delicious.
I was most concerned about the texture, but these cookies are soft and slightly chewy (just the way I like my cookies!). And though they're soft, they're still sturdy enough that they're perfect for decorating.
And last but not least, the icing is super simple to make. We're skipping the fuss of royal icing (make with whipped egg whites) and instead going with a super simple vanilla icing that actually tastes good! All you need to do is pipe some straight lines and dots to create these fancy snowflake cookies!
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
Spices - A blend of warming spices is what gives gingerbread its signature spiced flavor. Here we're using a mix of ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg (plus salt and black pepper).
Unsalted Butter - I always prefer to bake with unsalted butter so that I can control the amount of salt in the recipe. If you choose to substitute salted butter, skip adding salt to the flour with the spices.
Molasses - There are different types of molasses (more on this below), so be sure to choose the best type for baking gingerbread. I recommend an unsulphured dark molasses, such as Brer Rabbit Full Flavor Molasses or Grandma's Molasses Robust.
Brown Sugar - Brown sugar complements the flavors of the spices and molasses. Plus it adds extra softness and chewiness to the cookies.
See recipe card at the bottom of this post for full ingredient list and measurements.
In addition to essential baking equipment (like a whisk and spatula), I recommend some special tools for making this recipe.
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer, to mix the dough.
- Rolling pin, to roll out the dough.
- Snowflake cookie cutters (or any shape you choose), to cut the the cookie shapes.
- Pastry bag, to pipe the icing onto the cookies.
Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions
Step 1: Make the cookie dough. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and spices.
Step 2: Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until combined.
Step 3: Gradually add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined. The dough will be quite thick.
Step 4: Form the dough into three discs and chill for at least one hour.
Step 5: Roll out one disc of dough until it’s ⅛ inch thick.
Step 6: Cut the dough using snowflake cookie cutters (or any cookie cutters you like) and transfer the cookie cut outs to a baking sheet.
Step 7: Bake the cookies at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 8: Make the icing. Whisk together sugar, milk, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.
Step 9: Decorate the cookies. Spoon the icing into a piping bag and pipe the icing onto the cookies.
See recipe card at the bottom of this post for detailed recipe instructions.
The consistency of the icing is really important, and it should slowly drip (but not run) when poured from a spoon. Icing that's too thin will run. If this happens, add a bit more sugar. Icing that's too stiff will be difficult to pipe. If this happens, add a little bit more milk.
For the most control when piping the icing I like to use a piping bag fitted with a tiny round piping tip. However you can also use a plastic squeeze bottle with a pointed tip or a thick plastic bag with one corner of the bag cut off.
What Kind of Molasses Is Best for Gingerbread Cookies?
There are several varieties of molasses, so here's a brief breakdown to help ensure you're choosing the best molasses for baking gingerbread cookies.
First, you want to be sure to use sugar cane molasses that's unsulphured. This is what's most widely available in grocery stores, so it will be easy to find!
Second, know that there are three grades of molasses: light, dark, and blackstrap. I recommend dark molasses for baking gingerbread cookies because of its rich flavor, though light molasses will also work if that's your preference. Here's a breakdown of the three grades to help you choose which you prefer.
- Light molasses (often called "mild") has the most mild flavor, lightest color, and is the sweetest, which makes it great for baking. Grandma's Molasses Original and Brer Rabbit Mild Molasses are both light molasses.
- Dark molasses (often called "robust" or "full flavor") has a deeper flavor, darker color, and thicker texture than light molasses, and it is less sweet. This is the molasses that I recommend for baking gingerbread cookies. Grandma's Molasses Robust and Brer Rabbit Full Flavor Molasses are both dark molasses.
- Blackstrap molasses is the darkest in color and thickest of the three types of molasses and has a bitter flavor. I do not recommend using blackstrap molasses to bake gingerbread cookies; it should only be used in recipes that specifically call for this type of molasses.
Can I Make These Cookies in Advance?
Yes, you can definitely make gingerbread cookies in advance and freeze them. While you can freeze decorated cookies, I recommend freezing the cookies before decorating them. Cookies should be completed cooled and packed in an airtight container before freezing for up to 3 months.
You can also make the gingerbread cookie dough in advance and freeze the unrolled dough, wrapped in plastic and sealed in an airtight container, for up to 3 months. Let the dough thaw overnight in the fridge before rolling out and cutting the cookies.
For more information, check out my post about freezing cookie dough and cookies.
Room Temperature: Baked and decorated cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Be careful when stacking decorated cookies; the icing is firm but not rock-solid and may become slightly squished when cookies are stacked.
Freezing: Baked cookies can be frozen, sealed in an airtight container, for up to 2 months. It's best to freeze cookies undecorated, adding the icing after defrosting, though the icing can be frozen if necessary.
More Christmas Cookie Recipes
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Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
- Rolling Pin
- Cookie cutters
- Pastry bag
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg room temperature
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 ½ Tablespoons milk
- ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the gingerbread cookies.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat on medium speed until combined.
- Gradually add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined. The dough will be quite thick.
- Divide the dough in thirds, form each third into a ball, flatten, and wrap with plastic. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before you’re ready to begin rolling out the dough.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Place one of the thirds of dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s ⅛ inch thick.
- Cut the dough using snowflake cookie cutters (or any cookie cutters you like) and transfer the cookie cut outs to a baking sheet.
- Bake the cookies 8 to 10 minutes. They should become slightly crisp but not darker in color. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the icing.
- Whisk the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl until the mixture is smooth. The mixture should slowly drip, but not run, when poured from a spoon. If the mixture is too runny, add a little bit more sugar. If it’s too thick, add a little bit more milk.
Decorate the cookies.
- When your cookies are completely cool, spoon the icing into a piping bag or a plastic squeeze bottle and pipe the icing onto the cookies. (You can also use a thick plastic bag with one corner of the bag cut off in a pinch.)