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Classic Gingerbread Cookies

Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields about 4 dozen 4-1/4-inch cookies

Classic gingerbread cookies are dense, heavy on the ginger, and usually flavored with molasses. This recipe is traditional, though it’s been refined over the years. The spice mix has been adjusted to boost the pepperiness of the ginger and intensify the cinnamon aroma, and it has just enough nutmeg and cloves to round things out. A mild molasses flavors the cookies and finely grated orange zest adds a layer of complexity. See more gorgeous cutout cookie recipes.

This recipe calls for a 4-1/4-inch cookie cutter, but you can use any size; just keep in mind that the baking time and yield will vary. We like this collection of Ann Clark cutters in 3 different sizes, which lets you choose just the right one.


For the cookies

  • 15-3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 2-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup mild molasses
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest (from about 1-1/2 large oranges)

For the royal icing

  • 8 oz. (2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp. powdered egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size (per cookie)
  • Calories (kcal) : 100
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 20
  • Fat (g): 2
  • Saturated Fat (g): 1.5
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): .5
  • Cholesterol (mg): 10
  • Sodium (mg): 45
  • Carbohydrates (g): 19
  • Fiber (g): 0
  • Protein (g): 1


Make the cookies

  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, mixing until combined, then add the molasses and orange zest and beat on medium speed until smooth, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes. On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix just until the flour is incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and sticky.
  • Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured baking sheet and pat it flat to a 1-inch thickness. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1 hour and up to 4 weeks.
  • Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  • Cut the chilled dough into quarters On a well-floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to 1/8 inch thick (keep the remaining dough in the freezer). If the dough sticks to your work surface, slide an offset spatula under the dough to release it and dust the work surface with more flour.
  • With a 4-1/4-inch cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and use an offset spatula to transfer them to the baking sheets, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart. Brush off any excess flour.
  • Gather and press the dough scraps together, then roll to 1/8 inch thick, and cut out more shapes. Add any remaining scraps to the next quarter of chilled dough. Continue rolling and cutting until the baking sheets are full.
  • Bake the cookies, rotating and swapping the sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until firm to the touch and the edges are slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Slide the cookies on their parchment onto racks and let cool. Roll out and bake the remaining dough in batches on fresh sheets of parchment.

Make the royal icing

  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer) mix the confectioners’ sugar, powered egg whites, and cream of tartar on low speed. Increase the speed to medium low and add 3 to 5 Tbs. of water, 1 Tbs. at a time, mixing well and scraping the bowl as necessary, until the mixture is evenly moistened and the whisk leaves small trails that disappear quickly, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to beat on medium low until the icing is thick, glossy, smooth, and free of lumps, about 5 minutes more.
  • To test for proper consistency, put a dot of icing on the counter with a toothpick. If, when you pull up the toothpick, the icing forms a peak that slowly melts back into the dot, the icing is ready. If the peak stays up, it’s too stiff: Add 1 tsp. of water to the icing, beat to combine, and test again. Repeat if necessary.

Decorate the cookies

  • Scrape the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. (You can also use a plastic squeeze bottle or a plastic sandwich bag with a corner trimmed off.) Decorate the cookies as you like and let sit until the icing is completely set, about 40 minutes.
  • Store baked and decorated cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.


Rate or Review

Reviews (7 reviews)

  • User avater
    italianrose987 | 01/01/2020

    Great recipe for gingerbread! Very snappy and gingery. We were really satisfied using it for our Christmas Gingerbread Women.

  • LizGb | 12/16/2019

    You know how on the "biscuits" episode of Great British Bake Off they're always telling the contestants that their biscuits must be "beautifully crisp" and "with a good snap"? That's what these cookies are like.

    I've been looking for a good recipe to make rolled gingerbread cut-out cookies for a while now. Most recipes I've found make cookies that are much too soft to retain the shape of the cookie cutter. They taste delicious and chewy, but your gingerbread men will look like they've been stung by a whole hive of bees! Not these ones though- they hold a shape beautifully.

    Since another reviewer said they were inedibly hard, I added a little extra butter to the recipe- about 1/8 cup or so. They were very easy to roll out. I did not follow the instructions to keep the dough frozen during the rolling out process- I didn't find that necessary at all. Even as the dough got warm it stayed fairly easy to roll out and not too sticky.

    They tasted great. Very gingery. The orange comes through nicely and gives it an interesting subtle flavor (I only added the zest of one orange since that's all I had). The texture was similar to a ginger snap, perhaps a bit softer. Not difficult to bite into, but still crunchy. I recommend erring on the side of under-baking than over baking. They are perfect for dipping in coffee! I'll definitely be using this recipe again.

  • colettem | 12/26/2018

    These cookies looked great. The royal icing for decoration works well. The directions were excellent. Now for the “but...”
    But, they were super hard. They were so hard that I feared my grandchildren would break a tooth. So after decorating and packaging, I had to tell the parents to just throw them away and I will redo using a recipe for soft and chewy gingerbread boys and girls.
    What a waste of money and time. Not to mention the disappointment.

  • divi2 | 11/19/2016

    This is my all time favorite ginger cookie recipe. They have a nice crip.

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