Perfect classic gingerbread men (and women) with crisp edges, soft interiors, and topped with a sweet and spicy chai royal icing. Add them to your holiday baking list today!
Christmas just isn’t Christmas without gingerbread people hanging around the holiday table!
Gingerbread is one of my favourite holiday flavours. Although I haven’t been brave enough to attempt a whole gingerbread cake or loaf, I always make sure I have some gingerbread cookies lying around at Christmas. I love their spicy sweet flavour and the incredible smell as they bake away in the oven. For me, the holidays start as soon as I smell that familiar smell.
The issue I have with store-bought gingerbread (be that cookies, houses, etc.) is that they’re always chock full of sugar and slathered in a sickly sweet royal icing that overpowers the spiciness of the gingerbread. They’re often also decked out in candy-coated chocolates and artificially dyed jelly beans or ju-jubes. Not exactly natural, and definitely not what we’re going for on this blog.
I wanted to create a gingerbread cookie recipe that used natural ingredients, resulted in my version of the perfect cookie (crisp exterior, chewy interior), and were decorated with an icing that wasn’t overly sweet. I wanted a recipe I could turn to year after year and know that it was good and good for me. I truly think I’ve accomplished my mission with these gingerbread people. (<– people, because we’re PC here!)
Most gingerbread men recipes involve a heap of castor sugar and brown sugar to achieve that classic crisp/chewy combination. I don’t think you need either of those. To get that crispy exterior, raw cane sugar does the trick while a combination of molasses and a bit of maple syrup keep the interiors chewy. Because this dough is a little wetter than other gingerbread doughs, it does need the double chilling in order for the people to keep their shapes. A small price to pay for delicious holiday cookies!
To make sure the icing wasn’t too sweet, and to complement the flavours of the gingerbread, I added some chai spices to the traditional royal icing. It works so well with the gingerbread! I left out the artificially coloured candy completely, because we don’t need it when we can make cute bow-ties and skirts out of the icing!
I hope you enjoy my twist on these traditional Christmas cookies and add them to your holiday baking list for many years to come. If you make my Classic Gingerbread People with Chai Icing, be sure to take a photo and tag me @cinnamonscribe on Instagram or Twitter. I would love nothing more than to see your creations!
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups whole wheat (wholemeal) flour
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ⅔ cup raw cane sugar
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ⅔ cup molasses
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 egg white
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp + 2 tsp almond milk (or cow's milk)
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 3½ cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla and beat on medium until combined. In thirds, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring to combine each addition. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Turn out the dough onto a heavily floured surface and knead a couple times until it comes into a ball. Roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness and cut out your gingerbread people. Scrape up the scraps and repeat the rolling and cutting process. You will need to do this a few times. Place each dough person on the prepped baking sheets and put the sheets into the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. Bake the cookies for 9--11 minutes or until slightly browned on the bottom. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white, lemon juice, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the spices and stir to combine. Start adding the confectioner's sugar, 1 cup at a time, and whisk until all the sugar has been incorporated. Pour the icing into a piping bag fitted with a thin nozzle (I used a Wilton #4). Once the cookies have cooled completely, decorate them in any manner you see fit!
- These cookies will keep sealed in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. They can be kept frozen in the same manner for up to 2 months.