Gorgeous and easy to make, these cut-out cookies are full of that particular spiced molasses flavor we love and are perfect to decorate with a simple icing, either with a piping bag or, as I do when I'm short on time, just a drizzle. Whether you bake them thinner and crisper or thicker and softer, the dough can be frozen or kept in the fridge for a few days.
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Originally posted in December 2016, this post has been updated with images and text to serve you better. The recipe has been tweaked and is much better.
The time to cut out gingerbread people is here, and this is a phenomenal recipe I make every year.
After years of using the same recipe, I finally streamlined it, and it's better than ever!
It's easy enough to make and decorate with kids or in a hurry (just a drizzle of icing and you're done) if that's what you want.
The final flavor is outstanding, with that characteristic spicy tingling.
All the reasons we love gingerbread (those who don't, I don't get it lol) are contained in this easy recipe.
Why this recipe works
- Easy to make: you can make this cookie dough with a hand whisk and a spatula if you want to. So it's very easy.
- Soft or crisp: roll them thicker for softer cookies or thinner for crisper ones.
- Make ahead: as with most doughs, this one can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen for a month.
- Icing: you can make a simple drizzling like I do, or go all in with a piping bag and elaborated designs.
We all know by now that the traditional and characteristic flavor of gingerbread needs a few key ingredients.
- Molasses: it's a thick syrup made from crushed sugarcane, sweet and bitter at the same time. I recommend light molasses, but dark can also be used. Don't use blackstrap.
- White granulated sugar.
- Unsalted butter.
- Egg: fresh, large.
- Vanilla: I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works and is infinitely cheaper.
- All-purpose flour.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
- Baking powder and baking soda: make sure they aren't expired.
- Spices: I mix cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves. The first two are must-haves for the traditional gingerbread flavor. After that, adjust to your own personal touch, that's my recommendation. You might want nutmeg or mace, maybe not use allspice. There's no right or wrong spice combination.
You don't even need an electric beater to make these cookies if that's your choice. You can use a wire whisk and a spatula. That's how easy the cookie dough is.
Resting time: the dough needs to relax and firm up to be rolled more easily. Don't avoid it.
Watch the video tutorial
Powdered sugar icing
You can pipe decorations with a piping bag and royal icing, but I like to make things simpler and drizzle this simple glaze over the cookies, similar to what I do with the strawberry jam cookies.
- Cooled cookies: it's essential before drizzling the glaze. Otherwise, it will thin out due to the heat.
- Make it ahead: keep it refrigerated in an airtight container or tightly covered bowl. A thin shell will probably form on the top. Simply beat it again before using it. If needed, add another teaspoon or two of liquid.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, the dough needs to be cold to roll it and cut out the cookies.
The butter and leavening agents in the cookie dough will want to spread, so the best way I found for this to not happen is using matte parchment paper.
Always decorate cookies after they're baked and are completely cool. Otherwise, the icing or frosting will melt and you will have a mess.
The top will be dry and they will still be soft to the touch in the center. If you're going for crisper cookies they will also be darker on the edges.
Not exactly, but they don't differ much. Ginger snaps are crisper, snappier, and rolled in sugar before baking which creates a distinctive crackly top. The ingredients are pretty similar though my gingersnap cookie recipe has a bit of honey and a different mix of spices.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Molasses: if you find it to be too strong, you can sweeten it down with a tablespoon or two of honey. Subtract it from the molasses amount given in the recipe. The balance is magic, strong yet sweet, all those spices exploding with every bite.
- Cookie shapes: this is a good, solid dough that can be cut out with almost any shape. The larger ones with less intricate angles usually give the best results, but I've made them with numerous different ones and they all turned out very well.
- Soft or crisp? If you roll them thicker and skimp a bit on the cooking time, you get softer, chewier cookies. If you roll them thin and bake them crisp, you can use them as ornaments for the tree or holiday table. Don't forget to make the hole needed to hang them right after you take them out of the oven.
- Make ahead: I recommend freezing the cut-out cookie shapes unbaked because freshly baked cookies are always the best; you pop them frozen into the oven. But if you will not have enough time to bake and ice close to the day you have to serve them, freeze the baked cookies while still barely warm because, as is my experience, they will retain moisture better.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the cookies
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup packed granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the icing:
- ⅔ cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons milk
For the cookies:
- Beat butter in a large bowl and sugar, beating until creamy.
- Add egg and mix until well integrated. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add molasses, all the spices (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves) and mix well.
- Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and add to the butter (it's important to sift the baking soda as it might have clumps).
- Mix everything well with a spatula. After the flour is added you don't want to beat anymore as it will make cookies tougher.
- Integrate everything well until there are no dry spots.
- Wrap in plastic, pressing to make a disc, or press a piece of plastic directly to the bowl, and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm enough to roll. At this point, you can leave it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or in the freezer for a month, always well wrapped.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
- Line cookie trays with parchment paper.
- Roll half of the dough at a time and keep the rest refrigerated.
- Lightly flour the surface and the rolling pin, and roll the cookie dough making sure it's not sticking. To ensure this, make quarter turns frequently and flip over several times while rolling.
- Cut cookies with the cookie cutter of choice, and place on the prepared sheets.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until dry and slightly soft to the touch.
- Cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.
For the icing:
- Mix the powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon of the milk in a small bowl until creamy.
- Test it and if it's too thick to drizzle add ½ teaspoon more of liquid, and eventually half more again until it's of the desired consistency.
- Drizzle with a fork over the cookies and let them dry before eating.
Molasses: depending on the type you buy, sometimes it can be too strong. So I sweeten it down with some corn syrup or honey and use half molasses and half honey/syrup. The balance is magic, strong yet sweet, all those spices exploding with every bite.
Cookie shapes: this is a good, solid dough that can be cut out with almost any shape. The larger ones with less intricate angles usually give the best results, but I've made them with numerous different ones and they all turned out very well.
Soft or crisp? If you roll them thicker and skimp a bit on the cooking time, you get softer, chewier cookies. If you roll them thin and bake them crisp, you can use them as ornaments for the tree or holiday table. Don't forget to make the hole needed to hang them right after you take them out of the oven.
Make ahead: I recommend freezing the cut-out cookie shapes unbaked because freshly baked cookies are always the best; you just pop them frozen into the oven. But if you will not have enough time to bake and ice close to the day you have to serve them, freeze the baked cookies while still barely warm because, as is my experience, they will retain moisture better.
Icing: I love to drizzle a simple powdered sugar glaze as shown in the pictures here. But you can also use this cream cheese frosting recipe and a piping bag.
- Prep Time: 70
- Cook Time: 12
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/40
- Calories: 73
- Sugar: 5.7 g
- Sodium: 34.4 mg
- Fat: 2.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 11.8 g
- Protein: 1 g
- Cholesterol: 10.8 mg
Keywords: gingerbread cookies