Gorgeous and easy to make, these cookies are full of that particular spiced molasses flavor we all 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.
Originally posted in December 2016, this post has been updated with images and text to serve you better. The recipe has been tweaked and it's so much better!
The time to cut out gingerbread people is here, and this is a phenomenal recipe that I make every year.
After years using the same recipe I finally streamlined it and it's better now! 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, really, I don't get it) 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 essential but you can use any type you like. There are lighter and darker ones, which will give these cookies different depths of bitterness.
- Sugar: I like white granulated because we need the strongest type to counterbalance with the bitterness of the molasses. But brown sugar works very well also.
- Spices: I love the ones in this recipe, but sometimes use just a pinch of cloves and add nutmeg. Adjust to your own personal taste, that's my recommendation. There's not a right or wrong spice combination, though ginger and cinnamon are must-haves.
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: it's important for the dough to relax and firm up in order to be rolled more easily. Don't avoid it.
WATCH THE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO 👇🏻
Frequently asked questions
Yes, the dough needs to be cold in order 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 be still soft to the touch in the center. If you're going for crisper cookies they will also be darker in 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.
My top tips
- Molasses: is too strong, so I water it down - or sweeten it down really - with some corn syrup or honey. 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.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the cookies
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room t°
- 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 or cake 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