I can't remember the last time that I made gingerbread cookies OR the last time that I decorated cutout cookies. This year was the year that I decided that I wanted to create my own recipe from what I love about gingerbread cookies. I love gingerbread cookies that are chewy, soft, spicy, sweet, and delicious frosting.
These gingerbread cookies are exactly that.
I'm not into royal frosting, although that is the number one frosting that most people use for cookie decorating. Since these gingerbread cookies are for our family, I can get away with using frosting that isn't made for decorating as much as eating. For this recipe, I created a buttercream cream cheese frosting. I have made this kind of frosting many times, but I made it up on the spot. I started with the royal frosting and hated it, so this recipe is a combined try at royal mixed with my go-to cream cheese buttercream. As soon as I added the cream cheese and butter, it was perfection.
Tips For Soft Gingerbread Cookies:
- Don't skip on refrigeration times. When you place your dough ball and cookie cutouts in the fridge or freezer before working with them or baking, you allow the dough to firm up and hold the shape. This is an important step, so don't skimp on the time!
- Don't roll your dough too thin. Your dough should be no less than 1/4 inch thin, but rolling it too thick won't produce the best results either. You can find just the right thickness within 1/4 inch.
- Bake your gingerbread cookies on a baking stone. You can thank my neighbor Kari for this tip. The baking stone will bake your cookies more evenly than a metal pan. This is an important step to not having crunchy cookies.
I took an in-person cake decorating class, and I still can't say that I am confident with decorating food of any kind. However, these cookies are so simple, and decorating is very easy. I made sure that I had the right tools to make the job easier since I am not a pro at decorating.
- Use this video tutorial for a visual on putting your icing bags together. Trust me it helps!
- Get inspiration! I put together this Pinterest board of ideas to get inspiration for how to decorate my gingerbread cookies.
- Take your time getting the consistency of the icing just right. Do a practice squeeze with your pipe and bag before putting the icing on the cookie. If it's too thick, you can add a little bit of warm water working with 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Use both hands to hold the icing bag. Use your dominant hand to hold the piping bag while using the other hand to hold your dominant hand steady.
- Take a deep breath, then hold it slightly. No, I don't want you to hold your breath the entire time while you are decorating. However, when you are making clean lines, your breathing can make your hand less steady. I was in a rush on a few of these cookies because my baby was waking up from a nap, but holding a steady breath helped when I wasn't in a rush.
- Go with the flow. Literally. Go with the flow of your cookie cutout. You can see on cutouts such as a snowflake where the cookie designs are shaped into the cookout. Follow those design lines with your icing!
- When in doubt, fill it out. You can fill your cookie out and cover it in icing for a full look. You do those by outlining the edges of the cookie with icing all the way around. Then use a small amount of icing to fill in the cookie and use a toothpick to fill it in. You don't want to use too much icing here. Top your cookie with sprinkles for a designed look or leave it minimal as I did.
Putting Cookies Into Treat Bags - If you're planning on gifting these gingerbread cookies where you need to transport them, I would allow the icing to dry overnight. The buttercream frosting is tacky and sticky, but it does slightly harden. I wouldn't stack the cookies, but it will be okay to put them gently into individual treat bags.
When you make your gingerbread cookie cutouts, you will cut and roll the dough a few times. On my third roll out, I decided to make these cookie rounds instead of cutting and they are delicious! I rolled them in white sugar before baking and everyone loved these just as much if not more than the gingerbread men cookies.
- Dough -
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dark molasses
- 1 egg room temp
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted European butter at room temp
- Icing -
- 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons of warm water
- 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract - use clear if you want a pure white icing look
- 1 oz softened cream cheese
- 4 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter, white sugar, and brown sugar.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add molasses followed by your egg and vanilla extract.
- Mix together until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined on low speed about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the second half of the flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined where there are no longer white streaks, but do not over mix. The dough will be sticky. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and scoop your dough out of the bowl onto the plastic wrap.
- Place another piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough and use your hands to form it into a ball. Wrap it using the plastic wrap surrounding the dough ball and place it in the fridge for 1 hour to allow it to firm up.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator, removing the plastic wrap, and place it onto a floured surface for rolling.
- Flour your rolling pin and begin rolling your dough to about 1/4 of an inch thin. You don't want it any thinner than that.
- Cut your shapes using cookie cutters.
- Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
- Use a spatula or icing knife to gently transfer your cookies to the baking sheet.
- Freeze the cutout cookies for 5 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- After the 5 minutes are up, remove your dough from the fridge.
- Transfer the cookie dough shapes to a baking stone and bake for 8-10 minutes. You don't want to over bake them as they will get too crispy and lose the soft chewy texture.
- Remove from oven and remove immediately to a cooling rack for another 8-10 minutes.
- Prepare your icing by creaming the butter and cream cheese using the stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand beater.
- Add the remaining ingredients and transfer to an icing bag with the prepared pipe. See blog post for piping notes if unfamiliar with how to use an icing bag to decorate.
- Decorate your cookies once they have cooled and either serve right away or store in an air-tight container.