A simple and delicious recipe for classic Gingerbread Men! These Gingerbread Cookies are made with all butter (no shortening!) for the best flavor. Perfectly spiced with molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and decorated with a sweet and simple (not royal icing!) frosting.
Anyone else feeling incredibly overwhelmed this holiday season? Zach reminded me this morning that there are less than 12 days until Christmas, and there’s so much left to do!
Not helping at all: the fact that I spent last night playing Super Mario Bros. with Zach on the throwback console my mom gave me for my birthday (I turned 29 on Sunday) instead of internet shopping. Helping a little bit: the fact that I at least have the Christmas cookie tray locked down this year with these Gingerbread Men Cookies.
So at least if I can’t find Christmas gifts for my siblings and husband, they’ll be consoled by the fact that there are Gingerbread Cookies to eat. Right? Right.
This gingerbread cookie recipe came about after a lot of trial and error. I started by working with a recipe that my Mom used to make when I was a kid, but quickly decided that despite the rich molasses and plentiful spices, the recipe just wasn’t cutting it in terms of flavor. Personally, I blamed the shortening.
A ton of testing ensued. A lot of butter made its way through my KitchenAid.
I went through batch after batch of gingerbread cookies that were too dry, too hard, and too bland (those were the worst!). Finally I landed on this perfectly soft gingerbread cookie recipe that I’m sharing with you today. Below, I want to cover some of what I think are the most helpful tips that I learned along the way.
How do you Decorate Gingerbread Men?
With a simple icing and colorful candy, of course! Gumdrop buttons are always optional, as well. 😉 I applied just a small amount of icing to each of my gingerbread men, and before it could set I pressed candy pieces onto their “buttons”.
The icing recipe that I provided is essentially the same as the one that I used for my Sugar Cookie Recipe. It’s simple to make, and hard to mess up. It also makes a lot of frosting, more than you’ll need to decorate your cookies the way that I have here. You can cut the recipe in half if you’d like, but I wanted to provide enough that you could fully decorate to your heart’s content.
I kept my frosting white and used colored candies to add some color to the gingerbread men. You can easily add food coloring if you’d like to pipe on colorful bow-ties or bright red and green buttons, though!
Tips for No-fail Gingerbread Men
Add flour when you’re rolling out your Gingerbread Cookies
Don’t be afraid to generously dust both the surface that you are working on and the gingerbread cookie dough with flour. This will keep the dough from sticking, and any excess flour will bake off in the oven. There are few things as frustrating as a perfectly cut out gingerbread man that’s stuck to your counter!
When cutting out your gingerbread men cookies
Keep your cuts as close together to get as many gingerbread men out of your dough as possible. Once you’ve cut out as many cookies as you can, gather the scraps together and re-roll them out again. You want to get as many cookies as possible out of this dough!
Watch the edges
I provided a baking time in the recipe below, but it can vary depending on a lot of things. Take into account how large your cookie cutters are (mine are about 3.5″) and how thick you actually roll out your dough.
A good way to know that your cookies are done is to look for the edges to just be beginning to turn a darker shade of brown. This will yield cookies that have slightly crisped exteriors and soft, chewy interiors. Be sure to let them cool a bit on their baking sheets before trying to move them, otherwise they may break!
When making the frosting
As I mentioned above, it’s hard to mess this one up. If you make the frosting too thin, just add more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, just add more milk! Play with the consistency until it is easily manageable for you.
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How to Make the Best Gingerbread Cookies
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (113g)
- ½ cup light or dark brown sugar, tightly packed (100g)
- ½ cup unsulphured molasses (120ml) (I use "Grandma's" brand)
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (315g)
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 cups powdered sugar sifted (375g)
- 2-4 Tablespoons milk
- 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Decorative candies and sprinkles as desired
For Gingerbread Men:
- Using a stand mixer or electric mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat until well-creamed.
- Ad molasses and beat until combined (mixture may look piecey, this is OK).
- Stir in egg and vanilla extract.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients to wet until completely combined.
- Scrape dough roughly into a ball (it will be sticky, use a spatula), wrap completely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Once dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375F (175C).
- Generously flour a clean surface and lightly flour the dough as well (see note).
- Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to ¼” thickness, and use a cookie cutter (my cookie cutter for these was about 3.5” long) to cut out shapes. Transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (or an ungreased cookie sheet), transfer to 375F oven, and bake for 8-10 minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for at least 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.
- Once cookies have cooled, prepare frosting and decorate.
Gingerbread Men Icing
- Combine sugar, 2 Tablespoons of milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl and stir until combined. If frosting is too thick, add more milk, about a teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is thick but pipeable. If you accidentally add too much milk, add powdered sugar until desired texture is reached.
- Transfer to a piping bag with a piping tip (I used Wilton #5), or place in a Ziploc bag and snip a small piece of the corner off (not as neat, but this will still work, just take care that the frosting isn’t so thick that it breaks open the seam of the bag when you are squeezing).
- Pipe frosting on cookies and decorate with decorative candies, if desired.
- Allow frosting to harden before enjoying (this took only about 30 minutes for me, but may take longer if your frosting is wetter)
- Keep uneaten cookies sealed in an airtight container at room temperature.
FlourDon't be afraid to add flour as needed. Generously dust your surface so the cookies don't stick, and if the dough still seems sticky while rolling dust the dough and rolling pin with additional flour as needed. This is a softer dough by nature but it should not be so sticky that it isn't manageable. VIDEO NOTE:
On my YouTube channel there is a mistake in my Gingerbread Cookie video 🙈 I say to use 1 cup (2 sticks of butter) but really you should only use 1/2 cup (1 stick/113g). Working on getting this video re-shot, it's a very old one!
This Gingerbread Cookie recipe was originally published 12/06/2017, text updated to include more notes 12/13/2018.