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Is there anything better than the smell of gingerbread cookies baking around the holidays? Yes. Eating them. This soft, classic gingerbread man cookies recipe, full of molasses and spice, is easy to make — and even easier to devour.
Meet The Best Gingerbread Man Cookie Recipe
Is there anything better than the smell of gingerbread cookies baking around the holidays? Yes. Eating them! This soft, easy gingerbread man cookie recipe, full of molasses and spice, is easy to make — and even easier to devour.
Wonderful right out of the oven, gingerbread man cookies taste even better after a few days, making these a perfect make-ahead cookie with both great taste and that special holiday style.
Are These Gingerbread Man Cookies Easy? Hard to Make?
My cookie baking cookbook Bible is Nancy Baggett’s International Cookie Cookbook. Though now out of print (used copies still circulate online), I have closely adapted this gingerbread cookie recipe from hers. The ingredients are the same; I just halved the recipe and simplified the method.
What are the ingredients for gingerbread man cookies?
Here are the ingredients and quantities for this soft gingerbread cookie recipe. Please note: This gingerbread recipe calls for light brown sugar, but you can substitute dark brown sugar. The difference will be a slightly darker cookie.
- Unsalted butter, softened
- Light brown sugar
- Molasses (I like Grandmom’s brand)
- 1 egg
- Pinch of salt
- Powdered ginger
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground cloves
- Zest of one medium-sized orange (optional)
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- All-purpose flour
How to make these gingerbread man cookies: Recipe Steps
This gingerbread cookie recipe is easy to follow. The mixing method uses a standard creaming method:
- Beat the butter and sugar until smooth.
- Add the egg, molasses, spices, and zest. (I always include the spices as part of the liquid ingredients instead of the dry so the flavors can bloom.)
- Stir in the baking soda, baking powder, and flour. Roll, chill, bake.
How to Roll Out and Cut These Soft Gingerbread Man Cookies
Any cutout cookie requires chilling. So make sure you have a little refrigerator space, and work in batches. Then re-roll the dough, and chill again while you work with another batch.
This spiced gingerbread cookie dough is fairly forgiving, though, so even if it warms a bit, it will still be very workable. Just keep your countertop lightly dusted with flour so nothing sticks.
How to Decorate Gingerbread Man Cookies
To decorate, there are several good options.
- Dip the cookies face-down in a thin confectioner’s sugar glaze and dust with sprinkles. You’ll find a confectioner’s sugar glaze recipe in this apple cake recipe.
- Use royal icing (more on that below) and a piping bag fitted with a small round tip to add faces, outfits, or various designs. The key is to have fun.
Royal Icing to Decorate Your Gingerbread Cookies
Royal icing is a sweet powdered sugar icing made from egg whites, confectioner’s sugar, and a touch acid. It sets up very hard, making it ideal for piping and gingerbread houses alike. Royal icing can be made thick for piping, or thinned for glaze or flood work. (Non sequitur: If you really want to see what royal icing can do, geek out on Patti Page’s Baked Ideas website.)
- Royal icing for piping: Stir together 1 egg white with 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar. Add a squirt of lemon juice to thin to proper piping consistency. It should be perfectly smooth and hold a medium peak in the bowl. I like to add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time. Use a spatula, not a whisk, when it starts to thicken or it will all get stuck in the whisk.
- For glazing or flood work: Combine 1 egg white with 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar. Thin with lemon juice until you have a thick, slowly runny glaze.
- Pro Tip: Keep your royal icing covered with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap placed directly over the surface so it does not harden or form a skin.
Love gingerbread and holiday baking? You’ll also love:
- Mary Washington’s Gingerbread Layer Cake
- Apple Rye Spice Cake
- Slice and Bake Butter Cookies
- Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Classic Soft Gingerbread Man Cookies
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses (I like Grandmom's brand)
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons powdered ginger
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- zest of one medium-sized orange (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or by hand in a large mixing bowl if you're feeling brawny, beat together the butter and light brown sugar until lightened and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add the egg, molasses, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and zest. Beat on medium until smooth and emulsified, about 1 or 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl.
- Add the baking soda, baking powder, and flour and stir on low just until combined. The dough will look shaggy.
- Lightly dust the surface of a clean countertop. Turn the dough out onto the counter top and knead it a few times until smooth. Do not over-mix. Divide the dough into two flattened discs. Dust the top and bottom of each disc with a little flour. Use a rolling pin, further flatten each round into a 1/2" thick disc. Cover each and chill on a flat surface or sheet pan for at least 45 minutes. TIP: Do not stack the dough in the fridge. Keep them separate so they chill faster.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease or line two half-sheet pans.
- Remove one disc from the refrigerator. Lightly dust the counter and the top of the gingerbread and finish rolling the dough to about 1/4" thick. Use your cookie cutters to cut shapes and place them on a lined cookie sheet, giving at least 1/2" of space between each.
- Gather the scraps of dough into a ball. Re-roll the dough and chill. Remove the other disc of gingerbread cookie dough and repeat.
- Bake the gingerbread cookies for about 12 to 14 minutes, until the edges are just brown. Let cool for several minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired.