Gingerbread Man Cookies (on sticks!)

Gingerbread Man Cookies (on sticks!) Recipe

Along with millions of other holidays bakers this time of year, I inevitably end up cranking out a few dozen gingerbread cookies. They bake alongside a handful of tiny gingerbread stars and gingerbread candy canes made from the dough scraps. I have strong opinions when it comes to gingerbread men, and up until this point I haven't messed with my approach or recipe much. It worked just fine every year and the cookies were tasty, classic, spice-flecked and a rich shade of brown - exactly what they were supposed to be.

I decided to shake things up this time around by overhauling my recipe from the ground up to include white whole wheat flour, more assertive spices, and less refined sweeteners.

As I've said before this is not the time for ooey-gooey or flaky cookies. Gingerbread men need to stand crisp and tall. Being sturdy is important too, particularly if you are a tall gingerbread man. If you are too chewy your posture becomes compromised, particularly if you are standing on the lawn of a gingerbread garden.

Gingerbread cookies should have a nice spicy kick to them. As they are baking people should flock to the oven from the far recesses of a house to have a peek at the source of those wonderful smells. You can't be shy with the spices.

I like to decorate my gingerbread men simply. Nothing over the top. I did some of these with a sheen of big sugar, others I do with a dot or two of royal icing for buttons (I'll add some notes on how to make royal icing without raw eggs below). I also put a bunch of them on sticks. This way if you take them to a party you can fill a small flower pot (or container) with sugar and arrange them in a bouquet of sorts. So they are standing upright. Gingerbread men don't show very well stacked up, flat on their backs on platters.

Happy holidays, I hope you enjoy!

Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

HS notes: Whatever you do, don't over bake these guys - they will dry right out. If anything under bake them just a shade (they will continue to bake for another couple of minutes once you pull them from the oven). Big cookies take longer to cook than tiny ones, keep that in mind as well.

People often like to use bright white royal icing to decorate gingerbread cookies. It doesn't smear once it sets, and it can bind the seams of a gingerbread house like concrete. Many recipes for royal icing call for raw egg whites - this make a lot of people including myself nervous and unfortunately pasteurized egg whites don't whip up the way pasteurized egg whites do. Another option is to use meringue powder, a powdery blend made of dried egg whites and other ingredients (gums?)'s a brief on royal icing in case you are interested, there is also an evolving discussion here on eGullet. I'll also add, don't bother using organic powdered sugar in your royal icing, it tends to mix up a very unappetizing shade of light gray.

4 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup dark natural cane sugar (i.e. muscavado), or alternately use a dark brown sugar, packed

3 large eggs
2/3 cup organic unsulfured molasses (blackstrap)
large grain sugar (turbinado) for decoration

popsicle sticks (optional)

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl by hand (or with an electric mixer) cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix again until light and creamy. Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the molasses. Add the flour mixture in two additions either by hand or on low speed. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic and chill for an hour or so.

Heat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle, and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Set aside.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop roughly 1/8-inch thick and cut into gingerbread men (or other desired shapes). Transfer to baking sheets and arrange a popsicle stick underneath each (if desired), no need to press the stick aggressively into the dough, gently is fine - the cookies will bake right onto the sticks. Sprinkle with sugar (optional) and bake for 7 -10 minutes (for 3 - 4-inch cookies), less for smaller cookies, more for larger.

Makes about 3 dozen four-inch gingerbread men.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Here's a recipe for royal icing that's worked well for me:

Love your gingerbread men on sticks -- what a great idea!


I can't tell you how much your recipe is of a godsend. I've tried looking for recipes that ask for blackstrap molasses for gingerbread men, and yours is pretty much the only one I've found :)

A question: If I were to substitute the white whole wheat flour with allpurpose flour, would I have to change the amounts of flour (or anything else) I use?


Mj, no I think you should be fine swapping APF 1:1.


I'm always looking for ways to incorporate white wheat into my recipes--it's such a relief to have somebody else do it for me! And I think the sticks idea looks great--why didn't I think of that?


These look amazing Heidi, especially with those big, delicious sugar crystals sprinkled on top. Heaven!

Ari (Baking and Books)

Heidi, that's an awesome twist! Reminds me of the year growing up when Mom, my brother and I decorated many, many gingerbread men with little silver cake decoration beads on their faces ... only to discover that the metal beads were, in fact, inedible. Mom cut the heads off *all* the gingerbread men that year. It made for some very dark humor, and VERY puzzled looks, at the Christmas party that year.

Happy holidays!


Heidi, Creative should be your middle name. Love what you've done - and the advice on keeping these guys tall and firm is so helpful.


what a great idea to use popsicle sticks! makes eating them even more fun. thx!


Gingerbread Man Cookies - COOOLLL!! :)
It made for some very dark humor, and VERY puzzled looks, at the Christmas party that year.

Happy holidays!



This would be quite charming with stars too.
Poor little g-boys.

In Germany we would have gingerbread hearts with a ribbon laced through two holes cut into the top. We would hang these around the house. Decorated with royal icing and all!


from your notes: >>and unfortunately pasteurized egg whites don't whip up the way pasteurized egg whites do.

pray elucidate...


Thnx Heidi!! I got some copper star and gingerbread boys/girls cookie cutters over the weekend and was looking for a good, wholesome [and easy] recipe. I am going to try yours out, it sounds great!!

one question though and pardon me if it sounds outright dumb :), but won't the popsicle sticks burn/brown in the oven? Do I need any special kind or the plain ones for kiddie crafts will do?


Maybe someone can weigh in with the food science answer on the egg white issue. I should have looked into it before posting. There is a chance that you just have to whip them forever....I've gone at it in the past for 10 minutes+ with and electric mixer with minimal success.

Snehal, no problem with the popsicle sticks (I think mine came from Crrate & Barrell)...they aren't in there long enough to burn up.


They really do look great Heidi -- I'm putting the baker in the house right on it!

Eric Gower

Thank you for a cookie recipe with white whole wheat flour which I always use! Is there a reason why you say 11 tablespoons of butter as opposed to 1/4 cup. That seems like a lot of scooping and unscooping of balls of butter. Is there an easer way to do this?


Hi Gladys,

I was just slicing off the stick....what is that, a scant 3/4 cup if you are scooping? That should do it.


hi heidi!
i love your recipe and your photos are just beautiful!!
can i add you to my link???


ur recipes are very good
i am basically catering student
it is very useful for me


A note on royal icing: I always use meringue powder. You can also buy powdered egg whites, which are pasteurized. To add just an extra touch of gloss to the icing, may I suggest a small teaspoon of corn syrup? Corn syrup is disgusting-- there's no question, but the tiny amount you use in your icing really helps bring a sweet shine to the dried, finished product. Yay for gingerbread men! Happy Holidays, Heidi!


My four year old and I were just talking about gingerbread men (they did the story at school today) and he said "I wish I could make gingerbread men." So, I promised him that next week, we'll do just that. Your twist of putting them on a stick is brilliant! I love that idea!


Awesome recipe and pics, Heidi. (as usual)

I'll have to try these out. My kids have been bugging me to bake cookies with them, and I think these will be just the thing. It's tough having one child who doesn't like chocolate, and another with a nut allergy. One can only make (okay, eat) so many oatmeal raisin cookies.

Oatmeal craisin, OTOH...


Hi everyone, thanks for the thoughtful messages. I'm traveling off and on over the holidays, so I am going to turn comments off now and then to keep the spammers at bay.
They will be back on soon and in stretches - particularly when I have internet access! Happy holidays - h


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