An easy recipe for classic Gingerbread Man cookies. These cookies are equally delicious and adorable, especially when frosted with royal icing.
The first instance of documented Gingerbread Man cookies happened in the court of Elizabeth I of England. I’m a historical fiction fan in general and completely obsessed with the Tudors in particular, so this is like an early Christmas present for me.
I like Gingerbread Man cookies to be soft and chewy, maybe even slightly under-baked. This recipe delivers that and so much more!
How do you make Gingerbread Cookies from scratch?
Like most cookie doughs, you beat butter and sugar together. Along with an egg, you add some molasses. Then add your dry ingredients in batches which includes a few warm, fragrant spices.
Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days in advance.
How do you make soft Gingerbread Cookies?
For the softest Gingerbread Man cookies, start by rolling the dough out to the proper thickness: about 1/4-inch. If you roll the dough too thin, the cookies could end up crispy and brittle.
Next, nearly under-bake the cookies. My recipe calls for a bake time of 6 to 8 minutes. I like to pull my cookies at 6 minutes and they will stay soft until the last man is consumed.
How do you decorate a Gingerbread Man?
I like to frost my Gingerbread Man cookies with royal icing. It takes more effort than just opening a squeeze bottle of store-bought frosting (you are welcome to do that, too!), but it tastes fantastic and looks perfect.
I have two methods for royal icing: with meringue powder or with egg whites. If you’re squeamish about raw eggs, definitely pick up a container of meringue powder!
Colored sugar and candies also make excellent decorations!
Gingerbread Man Cookies
For the cookies:
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (2 sticks)
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light molasses
- 1 large egg
For royal icing made without egg:
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 6 tablespoons warm water plus more as needed
- 4 cups powdered sugar sifted
For royal icing made with egg:
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4 cups powdered sugar sifted
To make the cookies:
- In a large bowl, sift or vigorously whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
- In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on high speed, or in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter until pale and fluffy. Add brown and white sugars and beat until smooth.
- Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in molasses. Add egg and continue beating on low until combined.
- Gradually add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir a few strokes by hand to ensure all flour is incorporated.
- Turn out dough on to a floured surface and, using floured hands, form into a large smooth mound. Divide the mound into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper or parchment paper to ¼ inch thick. Using gingerbread cookie cutters 3 to 5 inches tall, cut out cookies.
- Carefully transfer to prepared baking sheets using an offset spatula. Repeat with remaining disks of dough. Gather all scraps, re-roll, and cut out additional cookies. If the dough becomes sticky, refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Bake until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Frost with royal icing (recipe follows).
To make royal icing without egg:
- In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed, or in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat the meringue powder and 6 tablespoons warm water.
- Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in powdered sugar until blended, then beat on high speed until very thick and smooth, about 5 minutes.
- If the icing is too thick to spread or pipe, add more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Frost Gingerbread Man Cookies as desired.
To make royal icing with egg:
- In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed, or in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
- Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in powdered sugar until blended, then beat on high speed until thick and glossy, about 2 minutes. Frost Gingerbread Man Cookies as desired.