These soft gingerbread cookies are a must for the holidays. They’re perfectly spiced with soft centers and the perfect gingerbread taste. The best gingerbread men I’ve ever tried!
Every Christmas I always make gingerbread cookies – so I was surprised when I realized a lot of people don’t really like them. But after some sleuthing & cooking investigating – the common complaint I heard was that gingerbread cookies are too hard.
So, I today I’m fixing the age-old problem with gingerbread and sharing you my absolute favorite recipe for soft gingerbread cookies. They’re deliciously chewy with a brown sugar gingerbread flavor that’s absolutely delicious. Plus – I’m sharing 2 different types of icing for decorating your cookies with.
Soft Gingerbread Cookies
Ok – let’s talk specifics. (If you want to get straight to the recipe you can scroll down past all these details… but if you like cookie science and want to ensure your gingerbread turns out perfectly – keep reading).
For this recipe, we start by whisking together the dry ingredients: flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda & salt. You need the right ratio of spices for the perfect gingerbread flavor, and juuuuust the right amount of flour. Too much flour = dry cookies. Not enough flour and your dough will be sticky and won’t roll properly. To measure the flour:
- Whisk it first.
- Spoon it into a dry measuring up.
- Level off the top
- Or use a scale – 3 cups will weigh 390g
Then in a separate bowl beat together the butter and sugar. We’re using 100% brown sugar because it adds a delicious caramel flavor. It also creates more chewiness because it has more moisture than white sugar. Then mix in the egg, vanilla extract and molasses. I use unsulfured molasses for baking because sulfured molasses is too strong.
Then gently mix the dry ingredients into the molasses mixture about ½ at a time.
After making the dough, chill it for at least 4 hours before rolling it out and cutting into shapes. It will be way too sticky if you don’t chill the dough. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Form each into a round, flat disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and pop it in the fridge.
Then when you’re ready to bake the cookies, work with one piece of dough at a time. Always make sure to flour:
- The counter that you’re rolling the dough out on
- Your rolling pin. You may need to re-flour it as you go.
- The dough. Give the bottom and top of the dough disc a sprinkling of flour first before rolling it out.
- Your cookie cutters. Give them a little dip in flour.
The cookies will bake on a lined cookie sheet for about 7-9 minutes. For soft cookies, you want the tops to be just set when you take them out of the oven.
Gingerbread Cookie Icing
Typically gingerbread cookies are decorated with royal icing. Royal icing is great for decorating because it has a beautiful shine to it and can be used for really intricate designs. You end up with cookies that have that perfectly glossy top, and it works very well for detailed icing.
Traditionally, it’s made with egg whites – but if you feel uncomfortable with raw eggs you can use meringue powder instead which you can often find at craft stores that sell baking equipment or in a specialty baking store.
However, royal icing is very sweet and it isn’t creamy. So – I’m also including a recipe for icing that starts with butter. If you’re all about creaminess and less about perfect cooking decorating – then I’d definitely go with this option. Or if you just don’t want to deal with egg whites or meringue powder. 🙂
FYI – for these photos I used royal icing.
These soft gingerbread cookies are perfect for Santa and seriously delicious. They have such a delicious gingerbread flavor, brown sugar molasses flavor, and warm spices that definitely make it feel like Christmas.
For more classic Christmas cookies, try these other favorites:
Soft Gingerbread Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup molasses
- 2 large egg whites or 3 tablespoons meringue powder & ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda & salt.
- In a large bowl beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes).
- Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, followed by the molasses.
- With the mixer on low speed, mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture about ½ at a time.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Form each into a round, flat disc shape, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Take one disc out of the fridge at a time to work with. Let it warm up for 10 minutes at room temperature before rolling.
- Flour your kitchen counter & rolling pin. Then unwrap the disc of dough and sprinkle flour on both sides of it. Roll out to about ⅛-1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes.
- Transfer cookies to the lined baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops look just set.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough, being careful not to re-roll the dough too many times.
- Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy (if using egg whites).
- Add the lemon juice and 3 cups of powdered sugar to the bowl (plus the water & meringue powder if using).
- Beat for a full 5 minutes, adding in a little more powdered sugar or water if needed.
- Transfer to a piping bag and decorate the cookies.
- Beat the butter until smooth and creamy.
- Add in the vanilla extract, then beat in the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time until the desired sweetness is reached.
- Mix in the milk/cream 1 tablespoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached, adding a little more powdered sugar as necessary.
- Transfer to a piping bag to decorate, or frost with a knife.