Are you like me? This time of year, do you have visions of sugarplums dancing in your head…and daydreams of happily decorating sweet little gingerbread cookies to leave for Santa? I do. Every Year. How many years have I ACTUALLY baked gingerbread cookies? Not many. The recipes I had tried before all left something to be desired. They weren’t very easy to cut out and transport to the cookie sheet. Or the cookies spread too much and you had no idea if that was a reindeer or a train once it was baked. And the taste and texture were O.K., but nothing to write home about.
And the icing – well, that’s a WHOLE OTHER STORY. Bless my heart – and yours. Homemade icing is really the best – we all know it. BUT to make cookies that are a little high-maintenance already…and THEN make icing…and THEN color the icing red and green (and keep some white). And put it all in little bags and…well, it actual process of making these cookies always gets a little too overwhelming to actually commit to. I always told myself, “I’ll definitely make them next year.” 😉
No more gingerbread regrets, friends!! I have found the Best Ever gingerbread cookie recipe from my friend Ashley H.! The simply made dough is easy to work with, the cookie shapes stay intact, and they taste wonderful plain or iced. And I’m sharing this wonderful find with you here today, along with some super-simple-but-beautiful decorating tips that I’ve discovered along the way. 🎄
First of all, grab some of these Wilton icing bottles in varying colors. They came in sets of 2 at Walmart. I got a white set and a red/green set.
(P.S. All that stuff on the island behind the stars of this shot? Yeah. This is Real Life, people. I didn’t have time to move it all. Ha!! Also, you may have noticed that my kitchen is in the middle of an identity crisis. Granite countertops elsewhere, old faux wood laminate still on the island. It’s a long story…)
Next – and this is very important – take the instructions on the back of the bottle with a grain of salt. Ha! It tells you to remove the seal and microwave to desired consistency. We didn’t have to microwave AT ALL. That made it waaay too runny. So just play it by ear – if it’s too thick to squeeze out, you might need to try their microwave trick. 😉
Otherwise, it’s a good consistency when you simply shake it up really well – BUT. Don’t get overzealous and put a bunch of icing on all at once. It’ll look fine at first, but then it’ll slide down over the edges.
The one on the right is still not perfect – don’t look toooo close! – but at least the icing didn’t slide over the edges. The trick is that you should carefully outline the cookie with a thin line of icing first – I’ve been using the white for this. And then let it sit for about 3 minutes. You can outline several others while you wait. And then you can go back and fill them in. (You’ll hear more about the marbling technique above here in a minute!)
We hosted our Fusion Family from church for lunch and a cookie decorating party this past weekend. The Fusion Family thing is a new program our congregation is doing and we are really enjoying it – it’s several families of differing ages matched with several college students from FHU. We get together once a month or so and have a meal and/or activity. They loved the cookie decorating thing and so did we!
I had made sugar cookies beforehand, so they decorated those while I mixed up the dough for the gingerbread cookies. The girls did a great job decorating their sugar cookies – it was funny, towards the end Jeremy grabbed the icing bottles and decorated one himself, which I was surprised about. (He’s not the most Christmas-loving person in the world – ha!) But I wasn’t surprised about his cookie design turning out great – he did a marbled affect with a toothpick and impressed all of us. Everyone started grabbing toothpicks to follow his lead. 😉
As for the gingerbread cookies, my friend Ashley had found that their family didn’t like them iced – they just like to sprinkle colored sugar on top. So we did that on Saturday. Delicious and cute!!
Fun fact: after our guests left that day…oh, maybe 20 minutes later…Jeremy noticed that the oven was still on and pulled it open to check. He found this delightfulness:
And that is what happens when I don’t set a timer. 😉 They had been in there at least 30 minutes, maybe longer. Oops!! Yikes!
I cut out more cookies a couple of days later. The dough worked even better once it had been good and chilled – but I did set it out for quite awhile to warm up some first.
If you’re interested in which cookie cutters I have, it’s very similar to this set from Wilton. And if you’re obsessed with my bamboo French rolling pin like I am, well, I think this is the exact one. (Even though I think Jeremy got mine at Kohl’s awhile back.)
We still had bottles of icing left – which don’t need to be refrigerated, so they stay good, consistency-wise. We started playing with them and had the best time! It’s true that the icing does distract a little bit from the gingerbread flavor, but we ended up still liking them really well both ways. =) If you want to keep it simple, you could do a little outline on each one and leave it at that. Still super cute and festive!
If you want to try the marbling technique, it’s super easy! Do the thin white outline that I mentioned before, let it sit for about 3 minutes, and then fill in stripes of whatever colors you want to use. I usually start with white stripes and then fill them in alternating stripes of red and green. Like this.
Then take a toothpick and gently drag it up and down across the whole cookie. Voila!
I encourage you to play and enjoy it! If your first cookie (or 3) doesn’t look exactly like what you were envisioning, don’t give up! Mine didn’t either. But you learn as you go – and that’s part of the fun! =) Don’t wait for perfection – just improvement. And your cookies will be stinkin’ cute anyway!! I promise. 😉
I hope you have a joyful Christmas with your family – let me know if you make our favorite gingerbread cookies! Tag us on Instagram @theruffledmango or on Facebook @The Ruffled Mango. =)
- 1 1/2 c. butter (unsalted)
- 2 c. brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. molasses
- 4 1/2 c. all purpose flour
- 5 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Gently beat in eggs and molasses.
- Combine the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients and gradually add to the creamed mixture, mixing well.
- Scatter some flour onto waxed paper or simply onto your countertop.
- Knead the dough several times, adding extra flour if the dough is too sticky.
- If you have time, refrigerate the ball of dough for about 30 minutes. (If you don't, it'll still work - the cookies will just spread more.)
- Roll the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness.
- Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and decorate with colored sugars, if desired.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. (I found that 8 minutes was perfect.)
- Cool completely on wire racks before adding any icing designs.
- If the dough starts getting too soft, put it in the fridge for awhile to firm up before continuing. Since this recipe makes a lot of cookies, you may even choose to refrigerate some of the dough for another day. This works great - just let the cookie dough sit out at room temperature for awhile to soften up first.