Soft and chewy gingerbread cookies are the best classic Christmas cookies. Top them with buttercream frosting or royal icing.

12 gingerbread cut out cookies decorated and arranged in grid pattern on baking sheet

Topics Covered

  • How thick to roll cut out gingerbread cookie dough
  • How to freeze baked gingerbread cookies
  • How to freeze gingerbread cookie dough
  • How to properly measure flour for cut out cookies
  • Gluten free gingerbread cookies

How to make gingerbread cookies that keep their shape

The key to cut out gingerbread cookies that keep their shape is COLD cookie dough! There are a few methods to getting cold cookie dough..

  • Mix the dough together and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling out the dough.
  • Make the dough, cut out your shapes, then freeze the shapes for 10 minutes before baking.
close up of gingerbread star cookie with blue and white icing

How thick to roll cut out dough

This really depends on preference. 1/4 inch thick is a pretty good standard, but you can roll them thicker or thinner. Be aware that the baking time will change depending on how thick the dough is.

What you’ll need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

COOKIES

  • Unsalted butter – Let this soften to room temperature.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt
  • Egg – Use one large egg at room temperature.
  • Unsulphured molasses – Do not use blackstrap molasses. 
  • White vinegar – reacts with the baking soda to aid the cookies in rising. I promise the cookies do not taste like vinegar!
  • All-purpose flour – measured properly, either by using the spoon and level method or measuring by weight.
  • Baking soda
  • Cinnamon, cloves and ginger – the quintessential gingerbread spices! 
ingredients to make gingerbread cookies with overlay text

Frosting options for gingerbread cookies

I had the hardest time trying to decide what kind of frosting to use on my gingerbread cookies! People are very split on their frosting preference between buttercream or royal icing.

Here’s the good news, I’ve included the recipe for both buttercream AND royal icing, that way you can choose!

Royal icing is traditional made with egg whites or meringue powder, but I wanted to provide a super easy royal icing-like recipe that doesn’t call for either of those ingredients. Unless you are a baker, I’m guessing you don’t have meringue powder in your pantry.

hand holding gingerbread cookie man with M&M buttons

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

  • Unsalted butter – This butter should also be softened so it can be whipped into a creamy frosting.
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract
  • Milk – Heavy cream is fine, too.
  • Gel food coloring – Gel food coloring will help you achieve vivid hues without introducing a lot of extra liquid into the frosting.

ROYAL ICING

  • Powdered sugar – Sift this to keep lumps out of the icing.
  • Milk or warm water
  • Corn syrup – Use light corn syrup for this recipe.
  • Vanilla or almond extract
  • Gel food coloring
gingerbread cookie dough in metal bowl

How to Make Gingerbread Cookies

MAKE THE COOKIES:

Mix the wet ingredients. In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter, sugar, and salt for 90 seconds. Add the egg, molasses, and white vinegar then beat for 1 minute more. 

Mix the dry ingredients. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. 

Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until it’s incorporated. 

Chill. Divide the dough into two portions and pat them into discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to two days.

Roll out the dough. Preheat your oven to 375ºF and take one disc of dough out of the refrigerator. On a silicone baking mat or lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thick.

Cut out the cookies. Cut the cookies with cookie cutters, then pull away the scraps and use a spatula to transfer the cut cookies to a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. (You can pat together the scraps and roll them out to cut again, but if they feel warm, you should refrigerate them first or the cookies you cut from it will spread.)

Bake. Bake the cookies for 5 to 6 minutes. 

Cool. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack. They should be completely cool before you frost them.

Repeat. Repeat the process with the remaining dough, using either a second baking sheet or letting the first baking sheet cool.

TO MAKE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

Beat the butter. Place the softened butter in a mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it for 90 seconds, or until its fluffy.

Add the remaining ingredients. Slowly beat in 2 cups of powdered sugar, then the extracts. Taste and add more powdered sugar a cup at a time. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk or heavy cream.

Color the frosting. Decide how many colors you want and divide the frosting into bowls accordingly. Color each bowl of frosting with a small amount of gel food coloring.

Decorate the sugar cookies. Scoop the frosting into piping bags fitted with small round tips or spread the frosting onto the cookies. Add sprinkles immediately after frosting so they stick, then let the frosting harden for several hours or overnight.

TO MAKE ROYAL ICING:

Mix the icing. Combine all of the icing ingredients except the gel coloring in a mixing bowl and mix with a spatula or mixer until the icing is smooth, adding milk or water a teaspoon at a time if it’s too thick. 

Color the icing. Divide the icing into bowls and color each with gel food coloring. Transfer the icing to piping bags or squeeze bottles and decorate the cookies.

12 gingerbread cut out cookies arranged in grid pattern on baking sheet

How to freeze baked gingerbread cookies

Say you already baked the cookies and now you want to freeze them. I found that the best way to freeze already baked gingerbread cookies is to…

Make sure they are completely cool and unfrosted. 

Stack like shapes together (for example stack the candy canes together or stack the gingerbread men together) and place a small piece of parchment paper between each cookie. I like to stack mine about 4-5 cookies high.

Wrap the stacks in plastic wrap.

Place the bundles inside a ziplock freezer bag or inside a freezer container.

To thaw, remove the cookies from the bag (keep them inside their plastic wrap) and thaw on the counter. If you store the cookies inside a container, you can simply place the whole container on the counter to thaw.

How to freeze gingerbread cookie dough

Let’s talk about 2 different methods you can use to freeze gingerbread cookie dough. 

1. FLATTEN DOUGH INTO DISC

You can freeze this cookie dough by dividing it in half and flattening each half into a disc. Wrap each disc well with plastic wrap and place inside a freezer bag or container. To thaw, place the dough in the fridge overnight.

2. PRE-CUT THE SHAPES

You can also freeze pre-cut shapes to bake later. To do this..

  • Roll out the dough after making it and cut into your desired shapes
  • Place the shapes on a silicone or wax paper lined baking sheet and freezer for 1-2 hours, or until frozen.
  • Once frozen, remove the shapes from the pan, wrap like shapes together in plastic wrap and store inside a freezer bag or container.
  • To thaw, unwrap from the plastic, place the shapes on a silicone lined baking sheet on the counter and allow them to thaw for 15-25 minutes before baking. You want the shapes to still be cold, but not frozen.
soft gingerbread cookies on white plate

How to properly measure flour

Fluff the flour with a fork

  • Use a spoon to scoop the flour into your measuring cup
  • Use a butter knife to level the measuring cup

Sticking the measuring cup straight into the bag of flour will result in too much flour to be packed into the cup, which can result in dry cookies.

Gluten free cut out gingerbread cookies

As someone who is gluten free myself, having a good gingerbread cookie recipe that can be made gluten free is a must! This recipe turned out awesome using a high quality gluten free flour, I used King Arthur’s All Purpose Gluten Free Flour. There are no other changes you need to make, simply substitute the gluten free flour as a one for one replacement with regular flour.

Tips for Success

Here are some of my most important tips:

  • Measure the flour properly. Don’t scoop it into the measuring cup or you’ll end up with dry, crumbly cookies. Instead, spoon the flour into the cup and use a butter knife to sweep off any excess.
  • Keep the dough cold. This is how you’ll get your cookies to hold their shape when they bake.
  • Let the icing or frosting harden. If you pack up your cookies before these set, your cookies will be ruined. I usually place my cookies on baking sheets and cover them with lids or tent them with foil.

Gingerbread Cookies

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Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Chilling Time: 2 hrs
Yield: 16 cookies
Soft and chewy gingerbread cookies are the best classic Christmas cookies. Top them with buttercream frosting or royal icing. 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 stick
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tbsp ground ginger

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature, 3 sticks
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp milk, heavy cream works great too
  • Gel food coloring

Royal Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp milk or warm water
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • Gel food coloring

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of a hand or stand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add in the egg, molasses, and white vinegar; beat well.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger.
  • Add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. The dough will be thick and slightly sticky.

Chill the dough

  • Divide the dough into 2 flat discs, cover each with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill. The dough can be left in the fridge to chill for up to 2 days.
  • After chilling, remove one disc and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  • On a lightly floured surface use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Add more flour as needed to the dough and rolling pin. Use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes. Remove the dough scraps and use a spatula to transfer the shapes to a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for at least 20 minutes. Then move to a cooling rack. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. However, because the dough has been out of the fridge and has been warmed by your hands, place your next set of cut out cookies in the fridge for 10 minutes before baking to ensure they keep their shape.
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely before frosting them.

Buttercream Frosting

  • Place the softened butter in a mixing bowl, beat using an electric mixer for 90 seconds.
  • Gradually add the powdered sugar, I usually do 2 cups at a time, and add the vanilla and almond extracts, beat again. Taste the frosting to see if you want it sweeter. I liked the way mine turned out with 4 cups of powdered sugar. If the frosting is too thick add 1 tbsp of milk or heavy cream, beat until creamy.
  • Decide how many colors you want and divide the frosting into bowls accordingly. Add a small amount of gel food coloring to each bowl, using a spoon or spatula to mix until the color is even.
  • Use piping bags fit with small round tips to pipe the frosting on or use spreaders to spread on the frosting. Add sprinkles if desired. Allow the frosting to harden for several hours or overnight. I usually place my cookies on baking sheets and cover with lids or tent with tin foil.

Royal Icing

  • In a medium to small sized mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients (minus the gel food coloring) and mix with a spatula or mixer until smooth. Add more milk or water, 1 tsp at a time, if the frosting is too thick. Divide into bowls and add gel food coloring. Transfer to piping bags or squeeze bottles to easily decorate the cookies.

Notes

Important tips:
  • Measure the flour properly. Don’t scoop it into the measuring cup or you’ll end up with dry, crumbly cookies. Instead, spoon the flour into the cup and use a butter knife to sweep off any excess.
  • Keep the dough cold. This is how you’ll get your cookies to hold their shape when they bake.
  • Let the icing or frosting harden. If you pack up your cookies before these set, your cookies will be ruined. I usually place my cookies on baking sheets and cover them with lids or tent them with foil.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Beth
Calories: 446kcal, Carbohydrates: 61g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 119mg, Potassium: 174mg, Fiber: 0.1g, Sugar: 59g, Vitamin A: 731IU, Vitamin C: 0.004mg, Calcium: 36mg, Iron: 1mg
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