Decorated Gingerbread Men: Quick and Easy Christmas Cookies
How to Make Gingerbread Men
- Cookie dough (can be gingerbread, but most people prefer sugar cookies; see below for recipes)
- 4-5 inch gingerbread man cookie cutter
- Rolling pin
- Baking pan and parchment paper, or butter to grease pan
- Preheat the oven (see recipes for temperature) and cover the baking pans with parchment paper (I use this all the time now because the cookies come out better) or grease the pans.
- Choose one of the recipes below and roll it out to 1/8 to 1/4 inch on a floured board (or roll between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper).
- Cut with a gingerbread man cookie cutter that is between 3-5 inches. You can also make smaller cookies and use mini M&Ms or cinnamon candies.
- Cut as many of the gingerbread men as you can on the rolled cookie dough. then take away all the extra dough. Use a spatula to lift the gingerbread men onto the cookie sheet. Leave about 1 inch of room between them.
- Cook the cookies until just lightly brown on the edges (except for the shortbread which won't usually brown on the edges--follow the time in the directions).
- Take out of the oven and let cool before lifting the gingerbread men off the pan.
5 Kinds of Dough
You'll find the recipes for each of these below.
- Easiest: Get refrigerated cookie dough and canned frosting.
- Almost as Easy: Make my Cake Mix cookie dough that is almost as easy as store-bought but tastier. Use canned or homemade buttercream frosting.
- Strongest: Use my Perfect Sugar Cookies recipe. These are nice and firm and great for kid's parties. Use canned or homemade buttercream.
- Melt in Your Mouth Taste: Shortbread cookie dough is easy to make, roll and bake, but the cookie is a bit more fragile and tends to break more easily. However, these are absolutely the best tasting, and actually, my very favorite holiday treat. For adult parties and family celebrations, I always use shortbread and homemade buttercream.
- Authentic: Krustez Gingerbread mix is what I use if I really want that authentic holiday taste. Although the mix is for bread, it also has instructions for making cut-out cookies. I used to make homemade but this mix is really easy and tastes great.
Fast: Cake Mix Dough
These cookies spread out a little more, but they are so fast and easy that I make them all the time. Kids can make this recipe themselves very easily and this dough is also very forgiving for little ones!
Mix together with an electric mixer in a large bowl until well blended:
- 1 pkg. yellow cake mix
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
The dough will be thick. Roll out as described above. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes until cookies are lightly brown at the edge.
Strong: Perfect Sugar Cookie Recipe
This is an excellent recipe for making any cookies you cut out with cookie cutters.You can make and freeze until you need it, or put it in the refrigerator (your own refrigerated dough!). I usually make a double batch and keep half in a plastic container for using later. These make very sturdy cookies and are my favorite for kids to use when making any rolled cookie recipe. They still taste great even if kids roll and re-roll with lots of flour!
- ¾ cup margarine
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ tea. Vanilla or another flavoring (lemon is good!)
Add and mix until well blended:
- 5. 2 ½ cups flour
- 6. 1 tea. baking powder
- 7. 1 tea. salt
Roll dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board or roll between two sheets of wax paper or saran wrap.Cut out with cookie cutters.Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden.Decorate with buttercream frosting.
Melt in Your Mouth Taste: Shortbread
- 1 cup butter, (not margarine)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tea. salt
- 1 tea. vanilla, almond or lemon flavoring
- Cream butter and sugar with mixer.
- Add flour, cornstarch, salt and flavoring. Mix with a mixer but until just smooth. Don't overbeat since this will make cookies tougher.
- Roll out dough about 1/4 inch thick. Use flour or sugar to keep from sticking.
- Put on parchment or foil to bake. The butter makes these come off easily. You don't need to grease the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes. These cookies don't brown much but will be firm when done.
- Decorate as described above. These cookies are also wonderful plain or with a chocolate icing.
Step one: Use icing to cover the whole top of the gingerbread man.
Step two: Sprinkle the sprinkle topping on the icing (letting the extras fall on a plate so you can re-use them). Or you can put a lot of sprinkles in a dish and turn the frosted cookie upside down and put into the sprinkles (press down just a little bit until they stick).
Step three: Put on the M&M eyes, mouth and buttons (turn the M&M symbol down).
Step four: Unwrap the mini-candy cane and press into the side of the cookie
Variation: I've also made round cookies and used green and red sprinkles and M&Ms to make them look like cookie ornaments
Homemade Buttercream Frosting Recuoe
This recipe keeps in the refrigerator for weeks. The Karo syrup makes it easy to spread. You can also tint it or add other flavorings like almond or lemon.
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 1 tea. vanilla
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 TBS. milk
- 2 TBS. Karo syrup (optional—it makes the frosting spread more easily)
- Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer.
- Add vanilla.
- Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.
- Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
- Add milk and beat at high speed until light and fluffy.
- Add Karo syrup. I've learned to mix this a while to make it taste better and spread better.
This stores a long time in the refrigerator or freezer. In fact, I often make a double batch and just keep it in my freezer so that it really is like having my own canned frosting around. To use frozen frosting, just leave it out on the counter for an hour, or put it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time (stir in between) until it is ready to spread.
Note: This icing works great for coloring and using in frosting bags for fancier decorating too.
Great For Holiday Parties
Great for Parties: A few years ago, I was responsible for the treats for the kindergarten class party. I thought about cupcakes, but those are always so messy and the kids usually only eat the frosting anyway. So I decided on cookies, but I didn't have much time to decorate them. I had sprinkles and red and green M & Ms but not much else. So I experimented and came up with this design which was a big hit with the parents, teachers, and kids.
Easy and Taste Great: I love this design because it looks professional, but it is so very easy to make. Yet, what surprised me is that these cookies actually taste really good. The mixture of the cookie, the frosting, the candy cane and the M & Ms actually makes this one of my favorite eating cookies at Christmas (especially when I make them with my shortbread cookie recipe below). Yesterday, my husband was eating one and told me it was his favorite Christmas cookie--which means a lot from a chocoholic!
Kids Can Make: When I ended up making them for several other events and the next year, I enlisted the help of the kids (6 and 8) to make them with me. Even preschoolers could probably help put the M & Ms on the cookies.
Lots of Variations: I usually do the red/green alternate cookies but I've also done all green and all red ones and they look beautiful. You could probably make them in blue or white too. There are a lot of fancier and more time-consuming ways to make decorated cookies, but these are so easy, kids can make a whole batch.
Here are some ways I've used them:
- class party treats
- holiday party dessert
- birthday party for Jesus
- add one or two on a plate of food gifts to make it look fancier
- put in Ziplock bag and use a tag on a gift (let air dry for a few hours first
- use as a cookie decorating project with kids or older adults
- bring to a cookie exchange (smaller ones might work better for this)
For a class or home party, I like to read the story of the Gingerbread Man or The Gingerbread Baby, by Jann Brett. For younger kids, it is fun to leave clues around the school or the house in the shape of a gingerbread man (like a treasure hunt). When they reach the final clue, they find the cookies to eat (or to decorate).