These soft gingerbread cookies look, taste and smell like Christmas! Made with dark muscovado sugar and classic combination of fiery ginger and aromatic cinnamon for that instantly recognisable, festive flavour. Crispy around edges and soft in the middle, this easy recipe is the only gingerbread recipe you will need!
The dough comes together in less than 10 minutes, and you don't even need an electric mixer to make it! The cookies can be decorated in many different ways and will also make a fantastic gift or a decoration for the Christmas tree.
With festive season slowly approaching, what a better way to welcome it than by baking some traditional gingerbread! This gingerbread cookie recipe is definitely among my all-time favourite christmas cookie recipes.
Gingerbread cookies/ biscuits are super easy to make, and decorating them is such a fun activity for kids and adults alike! The cookies are a delicious treat on their own, but can also be used as decorations for other festive bakes, like in my Gingerbread Cupcakes recipe, or as a decorations for your Christmas tree.
Here's what you will need to make these soft, easy gingerbread cookies:
- Dry ingredients - dark muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar), flour, baking soda, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.
- Wet ingredients - butter, golden syrup (you can also use black treacle/ molasses instead), and an egg.
If you are decorating these cookies, then you will also need any type of icing or frosting and a selection of your favourite sprinkles or even some edible glitter.
It's hard to tell how many cookies exactly this recipe makes, as this will depend on the size of your cutters. But you should get at least 30- 40 gingerbread men.
Start by melting the butter, golden syrup and the muscovado sugar in a small saucepan. Once melted, set it aside for few minutes to cool it down a bit.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then pour the cooled sugar and butter mixture into the dry ingredients.
Mix the ingredients using a fork, or knead them gently with your hands until you have a smooth dough, without any streaks.
Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in clingfilm, flattening it into discs. Now place the dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When the dough is ready, roll it on a dusted surface to the thickness of about 5-6 mm. Cut out the variety of shapes using your favourite cookie cutters and transfer them into the baking sheets, spacing them 1-2 cm apart.
Hint: Don't be afraid to use extra flour for dusting! The dough can get a bit sticky at times, so keep the working surface dusted with flour, as well as your rolling pin and your hands.
Bake these cookies for about 10 minutes, rotating them half way through. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely, before decorating.
Hint: Pierce a small hole on top of your biscuits (use a straw or the tip of small piping nozzle) while they are still warm. You can tie a pretty festive ribbon through the cookies and use them as Christmas tree decorations!
Best icing to decorate gingerbread
If you want to decorate your gingerbread, you have few icing options to choose from:
Royal Icing - Royal icing is made with the addition of the egg whites or the meringue powder to the sugar, and it tends to be thicker and more stable in comparison to the icing made just with the powdered/ icing sugar.
You can make your own royal icing by mixing royal icing sugar (available in larger supermarkets or online) with some room temperature water. I used about 300 grams of royal icing sugar mixed with 4 tablespoons of water and it gave me a perfect consistency.
Other way of making the royal icing is by mixing standard icing/ powdered sugar with meringue powder, like in this Royal Icing recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction. If you can't find the meringue powder, you can also use egg whites, like I did in my recipe for Birthday Cookies or my Easter Sugar Cookies recipe.
Simple icing - If royal icing is not an option, stick to the simple icing made with icing/ powdered sugar and water or milk. Mix the icing sugar with enough water to make a thick icing (start with 50 g of sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of water). The consistency needs to be thick but pipeable, and not too thin (or it will run).
This simple gingerbread cookies recipe only requires few simple ingredients, and here's few tips on how you can swap few of them:
- Dark muscovado sugar - swap it for dark brown sugar or use a mixture of both sugars (half dark muscovado and half dark brown sugar).
- Golden syrup - if you can't find any golden syrup, or you don't want to use it, swap it for black treacle or molasses.
- Flour - I normally use plain, all purpose flour, but I have also made this recipe with gluten free and white wholemeal flour and both alternatives work great.
- Spices - Feel free to add any other of your favourite spices to the dough. Try adding some cardamom or a teaspoon ground cloves.
You can use these gingerbread cookies as a blank canvas. Try decorating them in different ways, using different icing, sprinkles, or any of your favourite festive decorations.
Here are few ideas to get you started:
- Icing - You can use royal icing ( check my Birthday Sugar Cookies recipe for how to make it), or a simple icing made with powdered sugar and some milk or water.
- Food colouring - Add food colouring gel to the icing for some extra pop of colour on your biscuits.
- Sugar dusting - Keep it simple and just dust the gingerbread with some icing/ powdered sugar.
- Festive sprinkles or edible glitter - use any of your favourite festive sprinkles, hundreds and thousands, or edible glitter to ad even more festive cheer to your biscuits.
One of the things I love most about these soft ginger cookies recipe is the fact that you don't need an electric mixer to make it! All mixing is done by hand, without any fancy equipment.
That said, you will need the below items to make sure your cookies turn out great:
- Baking sheets lined with parchment paper
- Cookie cutters - use any of your favourite festive cookie cutters
- Rolling pin
- Piping bag - if you are decorating the cookies with some icing, then it will be handy to use the piping bag with small nozzle. Or use a zip-lock style bag and just snip off a small corner of it with the scissors.
These soft gingerbread cookies will keep well for a week to ten days. You can store them at room temperature, in the airtight container or a cookie jar.
Baked cookies (decorated or not) can also be frozen for up to three months. You can also freeze the unbaked cookie dough for up to three months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight.
Royal icing can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Transfer it to a zip lock style bag, removing as much air from the bag as possible. Flatten it out and store in the freezer. Thaw it overnight in the fridge, then bring to room temperature before using it.
For softer cookies, reduce the baking times by a couple of minutes. If you prefer them to be more crispy, add a couple of minutes of baking time.
Remember, the dough needs chilling for at least couple of hours, or ideally, overnight.
Working with chilled, firm dough is much easier and more manageable. It will also ensure that the biscuits will hold their shape.
Also, make sure you have plenty of flour while rolling the cookies. You want well floured work surface as well as rolling pin and your hands. Don't worry about flour covering your dough, as it will bake off.
If you have a selection of small and big biscuits / cookies, make sure to bake them in batches according to their size. Keep the larger ones together and bake for about 6-7 minutes, turning them half way through.
Bake the smaller ones separately, reducing the baking time by a couple of minutes.
Soft Gingerbread Cookies
- baking sheets
- baking parchment or silicone mat
- festive cookie cutters
- rolling pin
- piping bag with small nozzle (optional)
- 175 g dark muscovado sugar * see notes for the alternatives
- 85 g golden syrup or black trickle/ molasses
- 100 g unsalted butter softened
- 350 g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 300 g royal icing sugar or icing sugar optional
- 4 tablespoon water room temperature
- Place the sugar, butter and golden syrup/ trickle in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Allow the ingredients to melt completely, stirring occasionally. Set it aside and allow the mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon and ginger. Pour in the melted butter mixture, and add an egg. Stir to combine all of the ingredients,
- Divide dough in half, and wrap each half in cling film. Flatten the dough into a disc and refrigerate for at least couple of hours.
- Preheat the oven to 170 C. Place one half of the dough into floured surface (keep the other half in the fridge until needed). Cover your rolling pin with some flour and roll the dough into the thickness of about 5-6 mm (a bit thicker than a £1 coin). Cut the cookies using your cookie cutter. Re-roll any leftover dough and repeat until you have used all of your dough.
- Transfer cookies into a cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch space between each cookie. If using different size cutters, remember to bake smaller cookies separately and reduce the baking times by a couple of minutes.
- Bake for 6-7 minutes, rotating your cookie tray half way through to ensure an even bake. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes and transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
- To decorate: Mix the royal icing sugar with water using an electric mixer. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with small nozzle (alternatively, use a zip lock bag or plain, plastic piping bag with a small corner snipped off). You can also add your favourite sprinkles or edible glitter.
Please note that all my recipes are developed and tested in metric grams. I recommend that you use digital scales for a more accurate results. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.
- If no dark muscovado sugar is available, you can use dark brown sugar or a mix of both.
- You can use golden syrup or black treacle/ molasses. If you use black treacle/ molasses, the cookies will be darker in colour.
- The amount of cookies will vary, deepening on the size of your cookie cutters.
- For smaller cookies, reduce the baking times by two minutes.
- Make sure to flour your work surface, rolling pin and your hands when working with the gingerbread dough.
- Store any leftover cookies/ biscuits in airtight container for 7-10 days.
- Freezing: you can freeze these cookies for up to three months. The unbaked cookie dough can also be frozen for up to three months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight.
- Any leftover icing can be frozen for up to two months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight and bring to room temperature before using it.
This post was originally published in November 2017. It has been updated with the new photos, tips and revised recipe in October 2021.