Gingerbread Men are an absolute classic for the holiday season and they really aren’t hard to make and decorate. I’m going to teach you how to make and decorate your gingerbread men like a pro. Classic Gingerbread Men are a soft centered cookies with a crisp outside flavoured with brown sugar, molasses and perfectly spiced with ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice.
It’s very rare to see REAL gingerbread men here in New Zealand. If you do see a ‘gingerbread man’ it will usually be just a regular flavoured cookie or shortbread shaped and decorated like a gingerbread man. Because of this, it wasn’t until recently that I actually tried proper gingerbread and I instantly feel in love with the rich brown sugar and spices flavour. Super warm and comforting.
I took my Gingerbread Men to a market to sell and I sold out very quickly! In fact someone said they went away and tried one and was amazed it was REAL gingerbread men, so they bought more!
The gingerbread cookie dough is very easy to make. This is a classic cookie dough that is easiest made with a hand beater or in a stand mixer. The only difference between this cookie dough and others is this dough will be quite stiff. We want a stiff dough so we can roll the dough out and cut into gingerbread men shapes.
I do add molasses to these gingerbread men but not too much. I can’t stand molasses on it’s own and I find too much molasses completely overwhelms the gingerbread. This could just be my personal taste and if you want to add more then by all means do, (I’ll add a note to the recipe if you do), but everyone I sold these cookies to absolutely loved the flavour!
Once you have your gingerbread dough, you need to chill it. The dough will be far too soft to roll out and work with so to chill the dough properly, I recommend flattening your dough into a disk and wrapping your dough in plastic wrap and placing in the fridge for at least two to three hours. Or up to three days if you prefer.
Once chilled it’s time to roll your dough! Roll out your dough until it is around 3mm-4mm thick and then stamp out your men with a human shaped cookie cutter. Be sure to leave a few centimeters space between each cookie. Although they won’t spread during baking you still need to give the cookies some breathing room.
The cookies should only take 10-12 minutes in the oven. The outsides will start to turn a light golden colour and the centers will be firm but not hard. The cookies harden as they cool and leaving a bit of give in the middle ensures a crisp outside with a soft middle.
Now comes the fun part… Decorating! We’re talking squiggles, eyes, smiles, bow ties if you want and of course we can’t forget the buttons! You can use any royal icing you want but I chose to adapt the icing recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. The result was a sweet and glossy royal icing that didn’t spread.
The colours you choose to decorate your gingerbread men is entirely up to you! I chose red and green for Christmas and as a fun touch, I gave a few of them candy cane walking sticks.
I can assure you, you will love this recipe! The dough is super simple to make, the flavour is warm and filled with spice, molasses and brown sugar and you’re going to have so much fun decorating them. Happy Christmas cookie making!
- 2/3 Cups Butter, Softened (150g)
- 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar (140g)
- 1/4 Cup Molasses (90g)
- 1 Medium Egg
- 1 tsp Vanilla Essence
- 3 Cups Flour (360g)
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 Tbsp. Ginger
- 1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Mixed Spice (Or All Spice)
- 1 tsp Liquid Glucose (Or Light Corn Syrup)
- 1 Cup Icing Sugar (120g)
- 3/4 tsp Vanilla Essence
- 2-3 Tbsp. Water
- Few Drops Red Food Colouring
- Few Drops Green Food Colouring
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand beater, beat the butter until smooth.
- Add the brown sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Add in the molasses, egg and vanilla essence and beat until combined.
- Add in the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice and beat until a stiff dough forms.
- Flatten the dough into a flat disk shape and wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least three ours to chill.
- Line two baking trays with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Flour the bench, cookie dough and rolling pin and roll the dough until it is around 3mm-4mm thick.
- Cut into gingerbread men shapes. Place the gingerbread men on the baking trays and re-roll the scraps of dough until there is none left.
- Place in the oven for around 10-12 minutes. The outside should be lightly golden and the middle soft but slightly firm to the touch. The cookies will harden as they cool.
- Allow the cookies to cool completely while you make your icing
- Place your icing sugar into a bowl with the liquid glucose and vanilla essence.
- Starting with 1 tablespoon of water add the water and mix. Add more water as needed to ensure the icing doesn't become too runny. If the icing becomes too thin add more icing sugar and if too thick add more water.
- The icing should run off your spoon but hold its shape for a few seconds before turning back into icing.
- Separate into three bowls. One for white, one for green and one for red.
- Add liquid or gel food colouring to the respective bowls and mix.
- Pour each colour icing into separate icing bags and cut the very tip off each.
- Decorate as you desire.