These Gingerbread Men are the ultimate Christmas cookies! My recipe yields soft, yet firm gingerbread cookies that are perfectly spiced, buttery, and hold their shape beautifully. Top them off with a foolproof icing that makes plenty for decorating, and you've got yourself a fun holiday activity for the whole family. Recipe includes a how-to video!
Combine butter, sugar, and molasses and use an electric mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment to beat until ingredients are creamy and well-combined.
Stir in egg and vanilla extract until well-combined. The mixture may look piecey/like it's separating, this is fine and it will come together when you add the dry ingredients.
In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg).
With mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until the dough is smooth, cohesive, and completely combined.
Divide the dough into two parts (it will be quite sticky, use a spatula) and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Rolling and Cutting Cookies
Once dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375F (190C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (alternatively bake cookies directly on ungreased baking sheet)
Generously flour a clean surface and lightly flour the dough as well (see note).
Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to be approximately ¼” (.6cm) thick, and use a cookie cutter (my cookie cutter for these was about 3.5” long) to cut out shapes.
Use a spatula to place cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing at least 2" apart and then transfer to 375F (190C) oven, and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Allow cookies to cool completely on baking sheet before decorating.
Gingerbread Cookie Icing
Combine sugar, 2 Tablespoons of milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl and stir until combined. Look for a consistency where the icing that drizzles off the spoon and back into the bowl holds its shape for several seconds before dissolving back into the rest of the icing. If frosting is too thick, add more milk, about a teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is thick but pipeable. If too thin, add additional 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. 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.
Either light or dark brown sugar will work just fine in this recipe, I typically use whichever I have on hand. Dark brown sugar will yield darker, slightly sweeter cookies with a slightly stronger molasses taste.
Notes for When Rolling
When rolling cookies, generously dust your surface with flour 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.If the dough is difficult to roll (too stiff) or is cracking, let it sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before continuing.
Making in Advance
The cookie dough may be made and chilled in the refrigerator up to 5 days in advance of rolling, cutting, and baking. The icing may be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in either the refrigerator or at room temperature. To store, place in a small airtight container and cover the surface of the icing tightly with plastic wrap before replacing the lid. Icing will likely need to be stirred again before using.
These cookies can be stored (before or after decorating) in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks (but are freshest when enjoyed within one week).