Gingerbread Men

A classic crispy gingerbread cookie with royal icing.

Source: Martha Stewart, the Queen of the classics.

Yield: 2-3 dozen

Is there anything more Christmasey than Gingerbread men?  I think not.  My daughter, who is 10, is at an age where she is very interested in helping me bake, and she is capable and helpful in the kitchen.  Plus, she is very crafty and really wanted to make a gingerbread house this year.  I had planned on making gingerbread men anyway, so I figured we could kill two birds with one stone.  

I ended up feeling awesome about the gingerbread men, all cute in a classic sort of way.  And, I ended up feeling, well, *ahem* something different than awesome about the gingerbread house.  But more on that later.

It’s funny, but Martha actually has more than one recipe for gingerbread.  (She also has more than one recipe for apple pie, in case you were wondering.)  I looked through them and chose to make her “gingerbread snowflakes,” even though I don’t actually own a snowflake cookie cutter.  I don’t know why not, I own every other holiday shape known to man.  Not that it matters, because I intended to make them into little men the whole time.

The recipe itself is not that surprising, except for the very large amount of spices in the dough.  My daughter said, “what’s that smell?” and I replied, “cloves.”  She (unfortunately) scrunched up her nose in disgust.  There are 4 entire teaspoons each of cinnamon and ginger, and another 1 1/2 teaspoons of cloves, so make sure your pantry is prepared.  My kids did not like the dough, because it was dry and spicy, but I didn’t mind it.

And speaking of dough, it definitely was quite dry and heavy.  It takes a huge 6 cups of flour.  Honestly, next time I will probably reduce the flour just a bit.  You will need to chill this dough for at least an hour.  I actually chilled mine for a long time (a couple days), because after mixing the dough, I had a hard time finding enough free time to roll, cut, bake, and decorate these cute little men.  When I finally took the dough out it was quite tough.  I worked a little better after I worked it a little to warm it up.

I did learn the value of a gingerbread house kit through this process.  I cut the shapes myself with a knife, but they did not go together very well.  It actually wasn’t too bad for a first try, and I think that with a little practice I could get it down.  However, this year’s house fell apart very quickly, and while we worked to put it back together, one large wall fell to the floor and shattered.  We basically gave up at that point.  It was a bitter disappointment.

Martha recommends baking for 15 minutes, which I thought was a touch long.  Those that I baked for 13-14 minutes turned out a little better.  If they are getting brown on the edges, they are overdone.  I also made some of these little gingerbread babies, basically a 1-inch shape, and they only baked for about 9-10 minutes.

I let my daughter make the royal icing.  Her little 10-year-old arms got “so tired” from holding the hand mixer long enough to beat 2 egg whites into stiff peaks.  I thought it came together pretty quickly though.  I’m nowhere near fancy enough to own my own pastry bag or any other kind of decorating equipment, so I went with the old standby… a plastic baggie with the corner cut out.  I let my daughter do the icing.  She did better than I expected, and I think her cookies turned out pretty darn cute.

My favorite might be this little guy that fell to the floor and lost one leg and one arm in the process.  (Yes, they are pretty crispy!  They always break if you drop them.)  Since this icing is basically like glue, she “stitched” the leg and arm back on, and gave him a sad face and tear.  Too cute!  I’m not sure I could bring myself to eat this one.

This is most certainly a dunking cookie.  It needs some milk or coffee to counteract the crunchy texture and spicy flavor.  It would be fun to get creative with little button candies or gumdrops, as well, and get kids involved.  These cookies are a great part of a holiday tradition.

Gingerbread Men
Cook time
Total time
A classic crispy gingerbread cookie with royal icing.
Serves: 2 dozen
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 tsp. ginger
  • 1½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 5½ - 6 cups flour
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • juice of one lemon
  1. Melt butter, and combine butter and brown sugar.
  2. Add eggs and molasses, mix well.
  3. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir to get and even mixture. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.
  4. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
  5. Roll chilled dough onto a floured surface to ¼" thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 14-15 minutes.
  7. For icing, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and lemon juice and stir until combined. Adjust consistency by adding more sugar to thicken, or more lemon juice to thin.
  8. Place icing in pastry bag or plastic baggie with corner cut, and pipe icing onto cookies.

If you liked this recipe, you might also like:

Gingerbread Men from Mad Baker

Giant Ginger Cookies from Jen’s Favorite Cookies

Soft Sugar Cookies from Jen’s Favorite Cookies

Soft Gingersnaps with White Chocolate Chunks from Two Peas & Their Pod

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