These Soft Gingerbread Cookies are dipped in royal icing and sprinkled with red and green sugar sprinkles, just like the Little Debbie version we all grew up with! A simple, sweet holiday treat.
Soft, Sweet Gingerbread Men (Little Debbie Copycat)
If you grew up eating Pumpkin Delights in the fall and Little Debbie gingerbread men every Christmas, then these cookies will really take you back. They’re puffy, soft, and chewy, just like the snack cake version – but better for you (and better tasting, too). Made with wholesome, real ingredients, soft gingerbread cookies are a seasonal favorite you can feel great about.
These easy-to-make cookies are a festive favorite, perfect for holiday gifting, after-school-snacking, a Christmas Eve indulgence, or just to leave out for Santa. If you try them, I think you’ll agree!
(For even more gingerbread goodies, try these Gingerbread Muffins, this Classic Gingerbread Recipe, and this killer Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting! For traditional crisp gingerbread men with piped icing decorations, you’ll want these old-fashioned Gingerbread Man Cookies).
What Makes Gingerbread Hard or Soft?
There are a few ways to give gingerbread the texture you want – if you’re looking for soft gingerbread, then adding baking powder is a great way to lighten the dough while it bakes. An additional egg adds structure and loft, too. It’s also important to watch the baking time and not overbake!
Okay, let’s talk about the ingredients in more detail. Here’s what you’ll need to make soft gingerbread cookies, Little-Debbie-style:
For the Soft Gingerbread Cookies
- Flour: I use regular all-purpose flour for these cookies.
- Spices: Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves give these their classic Christmas taste and fragrance.
- Baking Powder and Baking Soda: To make the cookies soft and light.
- Butter: Unsalted butter, softened.
- Brown Sugar: For an extra-cozy flavor, I use dark brown sugar.
- Molasses: For that special, caramelized sweetness.
- Eggs: Large, whole eggs help add structure and richness.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract gives the best flavor.
For the Icing
- Powdered Sugar: To make a smooth, creamy icing, make sure you grab powdered sugar, also known as confectioner’s sugar.
- Milk: Whole milk makes the creamiest icing, but reduced or low fat is also fine.
- Sprinkles: Red and green sugar sprinkles add a festive touch.
The baking process here is very similar to making regular gingerbread men, including the all-important chilling step. Make sure you set aside enough time to chill it for at least a couple of hours.
- Mix the Dry Ingredients and Wet Ingredients in Separate Bowls. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together your flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Next, add the egg, vanilla, and molasses to the butter mixture, and beat until smooth.
- Combine the Dry Ingredients with the Wet Ingredients. Finish the dough by adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in batches, mixing after each batch until the flour is fully incorporated.
- Chill. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a ball, and flatten the balls into discs. Wrap the discs tightly in plastic wrap, and chill them for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Cut Out the Gingerbread Cookies. Once the dough has chilled and you’re ready to bake, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. On a well-floured surface, roll out some of your dough, keeping the rest covered and chilled. Cut out as many cookies as you can with a gingerbread man cookie cutter, and lay them on the baking sheets about one inch apart.
- Repeat the Cutting Process. Re-roll the leftover scraps of dough, and cut more cookies, until you have used all of the gingerbread dough. If the dough becomes sticky and hard to work with, add more flour to your work surface and rolling pin.
- Bake! Once the cookies are cut and arranged on the cookie sheets, place them in the preheated oven, and bake for 10 – 11 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are set and the centers are puffy.
- Let the Cookies Cool Completely. Take the soft gingerbread cookies out of the oven, and let them cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Make the Icing. While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, until smooth. The icing needs to be fairly thick, but still thin enough to dip the cookies into. You can thin or thicken it as needed by adding more milk or powdered sugar.
- Dip the Soft Gingerbread Cookies in Icing. Once the cookies are completely cool, dip them face-down into the icing. Gently shake off the excess, and quickly flip them right side up again. Place them on your wire rack, add sprinkles, and let the icing set completely before serving.
These soft gingerbread cookies are easy to make, especially when you have a few helpful tips and tricks up your sleeve. Here are my top pieces of advice for perfectly soft, sweet gingerbread men:
- Watch the Oven Time: It’s crucial not to overbake these cookies, or they will be very dry and crunchy. It’s better to underbake than overbake. Keep a close eye on the oven, especially while the first batch is baking.
- Chill the Dough: To keep the dough workable, make sure to budget enough time for chilling. Cold dough will be much easier to roll and cut, while warm gingerbread dough is very sticky.
- Rotate the Pans: Ovens often have “hot spots,” so I recommend rotating the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time, for more even cooking.
- Icing the Cookies: Be sure to wait until the cookies are completely cool before frosting them. If you frost your cookies while they’re still warm, the icing will melt.
Store soft gingerbread cookies at room temperature for up to a week. To help keep your cookies soft, place a piece of white bread in the container with the cookies. Replace the bread every couple of days as it gets stale. This little trick will help keep the cookies soft and chewy.
Can I Freeze These?
Yes, you can freeze either the baked cookies or the dough, for up to three months! Thaw the cookies at room temperature before serving. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator before rolling and baking.
These Soft Gingerbread Cookies are dipped in royal icing and sprinkled with red and green sugar sprinkles, just like the Little Debbie version we all grew up with!
- 4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Red and green sugar sprinkles
- In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, vanilla and molasses and continue mixing until well incorporated.
- Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing well between additions, until fully incorporated.
- Divide the dough into 2 large balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- On a heavily floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4” inch thick. Use gingerbread man cookie cutters to cut out the dough. Re-roll the dough as needed and cut out as many gingerbread men as you can.
- Place cookies 1” apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until the edges are set and the centers are puffy. Then remove the cookies from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Let cookies cool completely before frosting.
- To make frosting, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, until smooth. It should be thick, but still thin enough to easily dip the cookies into.
- Dip each cookie, face down, into the bowl of icing and let the excess drip off. Set cookies back down on baking sheet or cookie rack and quickly sprinkle tops with red and green sugar sprinkles.
- Allow the icing to set before enjoying.
Storing and Freezing
- Store cookies at room temperature for up to a week. To help keep your cookies soft during storing, place a piece of white bread in container with the cookies. Replace the bread every couple of days as it gets stale. This will help keep the cookies soft and chewy.
- Freeze baked and decorated (or undecorated) cookies for up to 3 months.
- Freeze the unbaked cookie dough discs for up to 3 months, thawing the dough overnight in the fridge before baking.
- Do not overbake these cookies, as they will become very dry and extra crisp. It’s better to underbake a little than overbake.
- It’s very important to allow the dough to chill completely before rolling it out and baking your gingerbread men, or the dough will be sticky and difficult to work with.
- If your oven has hot spots, I recommend rotating the pan halfway through baking to try to ensure even cooking.
- Remember to cool the cookies completely before icing - if you frost your cookies while still warm, the icing will melt.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 131Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 115mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 17gProtein: 2g
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