What’s the best gingerbread cookie frosting recipe? We have a hard time choosing between royal icing and a simple glaze. Here are both recipes, along with our favorite soft gingerbread cookie recipe.
A Short History of Gingerbread
Gingerbread’s origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Gingerbread’s association with holiday baking seems to date to the 16th century. At that time, German bakers began to create elaborate gingerbread houses around the Christmas season. The popularity of gingerbread houses increased dramatically in the 19th century. It’s unclear whether Hansel and Gretel’s famous encounter with a gingerbread house was responsible. More recently, gingerbread houses have been taken to an extreme. The current Guinness world record holder measured 60 x 20 feet long!
Is Royal Icing the Best Gingerbread Cookie Frosting?
As early as 1600, cookbooks included recipes for royal icing, known as “egg white” icing. It consisted of egg whites mixed with confectioners’ sugar and a little bit of lemon juice. During the 18th century, bakers had to purchase sugar in loaves. A baker wishing to ice a cake would need to painstakingly grate and then sift the sugar down to the appropriate level of refinement.
Fortunately for modern home bakers, sugar refining technology improved in the 19th century. As more bakers had access to powdered sugar, they developed many of the frosting recipes we still use today. Egg white sugar received its more romantic name, “royal icing,” when it famously garnished Queen Victoria’s wedding cake. During the 19th century, German bakers began to experiment with piping the icing into decorative flourishes. Prior to that date, confectioners used royal icing to create molded decorations.
A Simpler Alternative Gingerbread Cookie Frosting
If all this talk of molding, piping, and egg whites is just too much for you, we’ve provided a very simple glazing method. When paired with stamped cookies, the glaze makes a beautiful cookie with minimum effort.
Cookies, Cookies Cookies
Looking for some other cookies to round out your holiday gifts? Check these guys out:
- Marshmallow Cookie Recipe
- Inside-Out Cookies
- Chocolate Brownie Cookies
- Almond Jam Cookies
- Kolaski Cookies
- Chocolate Crinkle Sprinkle Cookies
Gingerbread cookies with two types of gingerbread cookie frosting
- silicone baking mat
- parchment paper
- cookie sheet
- cookie stamp
- cookie cutter
- disposable piping bag
- piping tip
For the gingerbread cookies
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
For the royal icing
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 2 tbsp meringue powder
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar sifted
For the glaze
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar sifted
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp warm water
For the gingerbread cookies
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses on medium speed. Beat the egg yolk into the creamed mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that that the dough is thoroughly mixed.
- Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed until the dough comes together.
- Turn the gingerbread cookie dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until all the floury bits are mixed in.
- Flatten the gingerbread dough into a disk. Use a rolling pin to roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. You only need to chill this dough if it's very soft.
- Use a cookie cutter or cookie stamps to cut out the cookies. Transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake 8-10 minutes until just set. Remove to wire racks to cool fully.
For the royal icing:
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment, beat 2 tbs meringue powder into 1/4 cup cold water on medium-high speed until peaks form.
- Beat confectioners' sugar into the meringue until desired consistency is reached. Add more sugar for stiffer icing, or a droplet of water to soften icing consistency.
For the glaze:
- Whisk the glaze ingredients together until they become a smooth, thin glaze. Add water if too thick. The glaze should have the consistency of maple syrup.
- Brush the glaze on the cooled cookies. Let glaze set fully before serving.
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