My gingerbread cookie recipe with royal icing makes the best cut out cookies ~ it’s easy to work with, freezes well, and is so delicious!
I start off every holiday season with a new copper cookie cutter for my collection. One year it was a vintage tree shape, another year it was a large star, and this year’s acquisition is this cute lumbering polar bear. I love him because he gives me an excuse to make big, fat, two handed cookies! The shapes are different every year, but my gingerbread cookie recipe is a constant. It’s an easy dough that’s a dream to work with.
Related: What to Bake Now: Gingerbread!
This year’s cookie cutter comes from The Fussy Pup, I love their sturdy copper cutters, they come in lots of fun shapes, including my polar bear, and all sorts of dog and cat breeds, of course. One of my favorite gifts to give fur parents during the holidays is a batch of cookies (along with the cookie cutter) matched to the recipient’s pet ~ made with my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe, of course.
gingerbread cookie ingredients
I’m in love with this easy gingerbread cookie recipe ~ the dough mixes up easily, and most importantly it rolls out effortlessly.
- baking soda and salt
- ginger and cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
- cocoa powder
- brown sugar
for the icing
- meringue powder
- confectioner’s sugar
why we adore this dough
The dough has just the right amount of spice and molasses to make for a nice dark color and a soft chewy texture. The spices and molasses are the key to gingerbread, so don’t skimp, and if you’re out of something, get to the store! (Yes, you really do need the cloves.)
I’m always amazed at how, even after reforming the dough multiple times to cut out my bears, the dough stays supple ~ I can’t tell my first bear from my last, and that’s pretty amazing.
The minute my dry ingredients hit the wet, I was enveloped in the aura of Christmas. Those scent memories can’t be beat.
Even after chilling overnight the dough was still pliable and rolled out easily. I love this dough!
how thick to cut gingerbread cookies
I like to cut my cookies on the thick side, at least 1/4 inch, for a couple of reasons ~ when they have a little heft they’re sturdier and easier to remove from the cookie cutter to the baking sheet without any accidental amputations. And they cook up firm on the outside but soft and chewy inside. Yum.
If you plan to wrap your cookies individually as gifts, thicker is better.
How to make the best royal icing
- I use egg white powder (sometimes called meringue powder) which eliminates any worry about raw eggs. You should be able to find it in your supermarket’s baking aisle.
- You can adjust the thickness of the icing by adding more powdered sugar or more water as necessary to get it just right. If the icing dribbles off the cookie, it’s too thin. If it doesn’t spread out flat and even, it’s too thick.
- It tastes great as is, but you can add flavoring if you like, vanilla, almond, or peppermint work well.
- I spoon it into squeeze bottles for easy outlining, but you can use a plastic baggie with a hole snipped in the corner, or just a small spreading knife.
Icing these bears took a little practice, and let’s just say I have endless respect for Martha Stewart and all the other fancy cookie decorators out there, but in the end we had a herd of respectable polar bears without too much struggle…
But of course you can always eat, or give, these cookies sans decoration, they are delicious as is.
tips for using royal icing
It helps to outline your gingerbread cookie just inside the outer edge, so that the shape of the gingerbread is clear. Otherwise a polar bear can easily morph into an anteater, weasel, or worse, trust me.
For outlining, use a thicker icing, and for flooding (filling in larger areas), use a thinner icing. Adjust the consistency by adding water or confectioners’ sugar as needed.
Add gel or paste food coloring to achieve vibrant and consistent colors. Liquid food coloring can affect the icing consistency, so it’s often best to use gels or pastes.
Keep the royal icing covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth when not in use to prevent it from drying out. If you’re not using a particular color, cover the bowl with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the icing to prevent crusting.
Freezing and storage
Gingerbread cookies tend to last a long time. The spices commonly used in gingerbread such as ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, along with molasses have natural preservative properties. Once baked and frosted the cookies will last up to 10 days.
to store: store the cookies in an airtight container. If you need to stack the cookies place a sheet of parchment paper between each layer to prevent them from sticking together.
to freeze: place the cookies in a single layer in an airtight container or zip-top bag, separating layers with parchment paper. Thaw frozen cookies at room temperature. the cookies can be frozen either frosted or plain.
Related: All Cookie Recipes
Easy Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing
- baking sheets
- stand mixer or electric beaters
- 1/4 cup meringue powder
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl to combine well, and set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Beat in egg and molasses and mix until smooth.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients while mixing on low, and blend until the dough comes together.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times times until it becomes smooth. Divide in half and form into two flat disks. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F
- Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch. (Cold dough may need a few minutes at room temperature to become pliable.) Cut out your cookies and place on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool completely before decorating.
make the royal icing
- To make the royal icing, put the egg white powder and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sifted sugar and beat until the frosting is spreadable and glossy. If the frosting gets too thick you can add a bit of cream, milk, or water to thin it down.
- Spoon some of the frosting into a squeeze bottle, pastry bag, or baggie if you would like to pipe it around the outline of each cookie. Otherwise you can spread the frosting with a spreading knife. You will have more frosting than you need with this recipe, but it will come in handy if you are decorating with a group. Note: you can make the frosting up to an hour or so ahead, just keep covered with plastic.
- Decorate your cookies with sprinkles, etc, while the icing is still wet. Let the icing set up before serving or storing.
more gingerbread recipes please!
- Gingerbread Cake
- Embossed Gingerbread Cookies
- Soft Glazed Gingerbread Cookies
- Glazed Gingerbread Bundt Cake
- Glazed Gingerbread Spritz Cookies