Classic Gingerbread Cookies

By Ann Fulton

Perfectly-spiced and crisp with a hint of cakiness, these classic gingerbread cookies hold their shape and are a blank canvas for decorating!
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The only gingerbread recipe you will ever need, these perfectly-spiced cookies have stood the test of time and are as fun to make as they are to eat!

 

As a kid, gingerbread cookies were all about the creative endeavor. After bringing the cut-out boys and girls to life with eyes, nose, striped skirts, polka dotted shirts, suspenders (you get the point!), I never wanted to eat them. They looked too good. (Or so I thought!)

As an adult, I appreciate how the perfect balance of ginger, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon creates a warmly spiced cookie that tastes as fabulous as it looks. When baking, the aroma wafting throughout the kitchen smells like the holidays, too. 

Proper credit for this recipe goes to Grandmother Hannum. Grandmother Hannum was actually the grandma of a good friend who, many years ago, kindly shared her family favorite recipe with my family. It’s safe to say that the cookies have delighted generations of kids and adults.

Dare I say this is the only gingerbread cookie recipe you will ever need?

Perfectly-spiced and crisp with a hint of cakiness, these classic gingerbread cookies hold their shape and are a blank canvas for decorating!

A holiday hit for kids and adults alike, the helpful hints below will ensure these warmly spiced cookies look and taste their best.  

Perfectly-spiced and crisp with a hint of cakiness, these classic gingerbread cookies hold their shape and are a blank canvas for decorating!

What does a gingerbread cookie taste like?

These cookies should be sweet but notably spicy, yet the spices should be balanced and not overwhelm. 

What is the texture of a gingerbread cookie?

The texture should be fairly crisp on the outside with a hint of softness and cake-like texture on the inside. These cookies will puff up slightly but retain their shape when baked. 

Tips for making the best gingerbread cookies:

  • Chill the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight. You want the dough to be firm so the cookies hold their shape. Additionally, firm dough will be more manageable when rolling. 
  • It’s easier to roll the chilled dough when it’s already somewhat flattened (in a disc shape as opposed to a ball). The dough will also chill more quickly this way, and I find that the smaller portions are easier to work with. 
  • Place your cookie cutters as close as possible. You may re-roll the scraps of dough, but efficient cutting will reduce the number of times you need to do so. When the dough is overworked, the texture will not be as light. 

Tips for decorating:

  • FIrst, I must say that people who appreciate the simplicity of a good spice cookie may enjoy these cookies with no icing at all. 
  • Cool the baked gingerbread cookies completely before decorating them.
  • When icing, you may frost the entire surface or pipe with Royal Icing. The baking aisle of the grocery store offers a variety of easy icing and decorating options. As mentioned, bow ties, smiles, buttons, squiggles, etc. are all fair game. 

Storage: 

  • Undecorated gingerbread cookies will maintain freshness for 3 to 4 weeks when stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Iced cookies will stay fresh for approximately 2 weeks.
  • For longer storage, these cookies freeze well. The unbaked dough may also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Troubleshooting: 

  • Why is my dough sticking to the rolling pin or rolling surface? This can happen if the dough becomes too warm. Lightly flouring the pin and surface will help, too. 
  • Why did my gingerbread cookies crack? Cracks usually occur when the flour has been over-scooped (resulting in a drier dough) or the dough was rolled too thickly. If the dough is too soft, you can get cracking. If you roll too thickly, you can get cracking.
  • Why did my cookies spread? These cookies will puff up slightly but hold their shape when baked. If they spread, it is likely because not enough flour was used. 
  • Why were the cookies lumpy? Lumps or bumps can occur if you place the unbaked cookies on a warm baking sheet; the warmth activates the baking soda prior to going in the oven. Try to rotate among multiple sheets, making it easier to use a cooled sheet for a fresh batch.  
  • Why did the edges of the cookie become too dark? If the cookies were not rolled to a consistent thickness and were baked on the same cookie sheet, some will inevitably cook more quickly than others.

  Perfectly-spiced and crisp with a hint of cakiness, these classic gingerbread cookies hold their shape and are a blank canvas for decorating!

Classic Gingerbread Cookies
Prep Time: 75 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Total Time: 4-5 hours including time to chill dough
Yield: About 3 dozen medium-sized cookies
These tried-and-true, perfectly-spiced cookies can be cut into your favorite shapes and decorated for a fun project with a delicious payoff!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup (150g) light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup (144g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon (20g) corn syrup (like Karo)
  • 3¼ cup (412g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon each ground ginger, cloves, and allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Optional: Royal Icing, decorator icing, or frosting of choice; sprinkles and/or sanding sugar
Instructions
  1. In a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.
  2. In a small bowl, stir the baking soda into the boiling water. Add the corn syrup.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, spices, and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the water/syrup mixture.
  5. Chill the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight. (Tip: I like to divide the dough in half, form into two discs, and then wrap separately in plastic wrap. The discs will chill more efficiently and be easier to roll later.)
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375℉.
  7. Roll the dough (about ¼-inch thick) on a lightly-floured surface and cut with your favorite cookie cutters. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. If desired, decorate the cooled cookies with icing, sprinkles and/or sanding sugar.
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Comments

  1. Lily
    (5/5)

    as a novice to gingerbread cookie making, I was a bit intimidated. But this recipe was easy and fun to do with the kids. I forgot cloves by accident and left them out – perhaps the flavor was more subtle because of it? A+ on taste and texture regardless

    Reply
  2. Mary Lou

    I’ve never made gingerbread cookies! I’d love to try this recipe. Have you ever found a gluten free recipe for these? I want to make some for friends who need gluten free.
    Getting my holiday frame of mind going here Ann!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Mary Lou, These would be a very good place to start! To me, the flavor and texture are perfect. It’s one of the few recipes that I have not made with a gluten-free adaptation – at least not yet! My instinct is that they would turn out well with a cup-for-cup substitution. When using a store-bought blend, I have preferred King Arthur Flour’s mix lately. Just make sure you purchase their “measure for measure” bag and not their “all-purpose” option, usually sold in a box. The choices can make it confusing, and the former is what you want to ensure the texture and rise afforded by a flour with gluten. If you have any questions, let me know…and happy baking!

      Reply