'Tis the season! The season for gingerbread, that is! Why do we only eat gingerbread cookies during the holiday season?! In my opinion, gingerbread cookies ought to be a year-round cookie, like the chocolate chip cookie or the oatmeal raisin cookie. Additionally, how many variations of gingerbread are there? One day, I found myself asking why all gingerbread recipes have molasses. Don't get me wrong: I like molasses. However, sometimes I just want to enjoy the warmth of gingerbread cookies without the bitter edge of molasses. That is why I developed a recipe for gingerbread cookies without molasses.
These soft, chewy cookies pack a flavor punch and satisfy in a way that molasses-based gingerbread cookies just don't. When I bake a batch of these cookies, I'm lucky if they last for a few days in my house. If, by some stroke of luck, I have enough time AND cookies, I like to whip up a batch of orange-scented royal icing to decorate my cookies. I smear the icing on top, pipe it, or even dye it with food coloring and go to town decorating.
A Cookie Above The Rest
My favorite thing about these gingerbread cookies is that they have this amazing soft, pillow-y texture and warm, inviting flavor. When you sink your teeth into them, they welcome you like a cozy winter blanket. I admit, I get so comfortable eating them that I need to make sure I'm wearing stretchy pants ahead of time!
As mentioned above, I am in favor of enjoying gingerbread cookies year-round. However, if you are baking them for the holidays, they are super fun and will be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Because they are very soft, I would not recommend using this recipe to make a gingerbread house or sculpture. Instead, roll them out and use festive cookie cutters to make fun holiday-shaped cookies.
I also like to make a batch of orange-scented royal icing to decorate the cookies. You can make the icing and frost the cookies using an offset spatula. If you are looking to take your decorating skills up a notch, try these ideas:
- Scoop the icing into a piping bag or zipper bag and pipe designs onto the cookies.
- Divide the icing into a few separate bowls and dye each batch a different color, using gel food coloring. Then, frost or pipe icing onto the cookies.
- Use festive sprinkles, sanding sugar, dragees, jimmies, nonpareils, or quins to decorate your cookies. Here's a neat guide to help you learn more about the world of sprinkles!
What You Need To Make Gingerbread Cookies Without Molasses
You probably have most of the ingredients for these cookies at home. The items in bold may not be in your pantry or fridge.
Ingredients (for cookies AND icing):
- Salted butter
- Granulated Sugar
- Light Brown Sugar
- All-purpose Flour
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Ground Ginger
- Ground Nutmeg
- Ground Cinnamon
- Ground Cloves
- Meringue Powder
- Confectioner's Sugar
- 2-3 Oranges
I make my royal icing using Wilton Meringue Powder, instead of the traditional way which uses raw egg whites. I just prefer to make it this way to be sure everyone is safe.
How To Make This Recipe
This gingerbread cookie recipe comes together similarly to other cookie recipes. First, in a stand mixer fit with a paddle, you cream softened butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and orange zest.
Next, you sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. In another mixing bowl, you whisk together eggs, honey, and the juice of one orange.
Expert Tip: Before you measure your honey, spray your measuring cup with flavorless nonstick spray. The honey won't stick to the cup!
Once the butter, sugar, and orange zest are fully incorporated, you gradually add all of the dry ingredients. The mixture becomes VERY dry, almost sand-like. This is normal!
After the dry ingredients are combined, the eggs, honey, and orange juice mixture is added. Now, the dough should come together.
The cookie dough is then removed from the bowl and divided in half. Each half is pressed between two sheets of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap and refrigerated for 30 minutes to an hour.
After the dough is chilled, remove one of the dough packets. On a lightly floured surface (or between two sheets of parchment paper), roll out the dough with a rolling pin.
Cut out cute shapes of your choice and bake cookies at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. While cookies bake, whip up some royal icing. When the cookies are out of the oven and cooled, frost them as you wish! These cookies are super easy and so very yummy.
Other Delicious Holiday Recipe Ideas
Looking for more holiday recipe ideas? The recipes below always make their way to my holiday table.
- Festive Eggnog Pancakes with warm, drunken maple syrup and whipped cinnamon nutmeg butter
- Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies with a secret ingredient
- Basque Burnt Cheesecake with cherry Rioja sauce
- Cupcakes with Snowman Cupcake Toppers
- Raspberry Brie Tartlets
Have you ever seen or been someone who put a sheet tray of cookies in the oven, only to pull out one giant cookie after baking? If cookie dough has a lot of butter/fat and is at room temperature when you put it in the oven, the cookies will spread as they bake. I always chill my cookie dough for at least an hour to give the butter a chance to firm up, which results in less spreading in the oven. I also divide the dough in half and work with one half of the dough at a time. This ensures that the dough won't get too warm before popping it in the oven. If you notice that your cookie shapes are kind of gooey after you cut them out, try refrigerating them for another 10-15 minutes before baking them.
Because it has quite a bit of butter in it, I refrigerate gingerbread cookie dough for at least an hour. However, I have also been known to make this gingerbread cookie dough a day or two in advance before rolling it out and baking the cookies. This cookie dough is amazing because you can refrigerate it up to 2 days before baking it and the cookies still come out amazingly!
Yes, this dough can be frozen. If you want to make a double batch and freeze half of it, be sure to wrap the dough tightly so there is no trapped air. I usually wrap it in plastic wrap and then put a layer of aluminum foil over it, to make sure it is protected from freezer burn. You can freeze this dough for up to 3 months. When you are ready to bake the cookies, place the dough into the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Then, you can roll them out, cut them into shapes, and bake them according to the recipe.
I would not advise using this gingerbread cookie dough to make a gingerbread house. Gingerbread house dough is usually sturdy and crisp when it comes out of the oven. This gingerbread cookie dough is soft and chewy. It is best for making gingerbread cookies and not structures.
Soft Gingerbread Cookies Without Molasses
Gingerbread Cookie Ingredients
- 1 ½ sticks salted butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- 4 cups all purpose flour plus ¼ cup more for rolling
- 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tbsp. ground ginger
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp. ground allspice
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup honey
Orange Scented Royal Icing Ingredients
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar sifted
- 3 tbsp. meringue powder link in blog above - Don't use raw or dried egg whites. This recipe is for meringue powder only.
- 5 tbsp. orange juice, freshly squeezed from 1-2 oranges I recommend using the fresh juice of 1-2 oranges. You may substitute water to make up the difference if your oranges don't yield a full 5 tbsp.
- additional water/confectioner's sugar if needed, to achieve desired consistency
Make the Cookie Dough
- Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat softened butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and orange zest until smooth, about 7 minutes.
- In the meantime, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together to blend. (These are the dry ingredients.)
- In another mixing bowl, whisk eggs, honey, and orange juice. (These are the wet ingredients.)
- When the butter and sugar are smooth, lower the speed of the mixer and add dry ingredients a little at a time. When the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, the dough will be very dry with an almost sandy consistency. This is normal!
- After the dry ingredients are well blended, add the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth in the mixer.
- Remove the cookie dough from the bowl of the mixer and divide in half. Press each half of the cookie dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
Make the Orange-Scented Royal Icing
- Clean out the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Add the royal icing ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk ingredients at a medium speed, until icing forms peaks and loses its sheen, about 7-10 minutes.
- If you are piping designs onto your cookies, your royal icing will need to be a medium consistency, so it will hold its shape. If you are dipping your cookies into the icing, the icing will need to be thinner. You can add water/confectioner's sugar, as needed, to achieve your desired consistency.
- Cover the bowl of royal icing with a clean, damp cloth and set aside, until needed.
Bake the Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- After the dough has chilled, lightly dust a flat surface with flour. The dough is very sticky, so you may want to roll it out between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Gently roll the first half of dough (using a floured rolling pin) to about ½ inch thick.
- Using lightly floured cookie cutters, cut out the shapes you want. Using a metal spatula, place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving some space for the cookies to spread a bit.
- Bake in batches at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. Repeat the rolling and baking process with the second half of cookie dough.
- Allow the cookies to cool completely and then frost them.
Frost the Cookies
- If you are dipping the cookies, you may leave the royal icing in the bowl. Or, if you are piping designs using royal icing, transfer icing into a piping bag or zipper bag using a spatula. Snip the tip of the bag with scissors and decorate!