I feel like I’ve done a lot of gingerbread recipes lately. There’s the Gingerbread Trifle and the Gingerbread Mini Bundts, but I haven’t done a straight up gingerbread cookie. Probably because gingerbread cookie recipes are a dime a dozen. But these Gingerbread Cookies with Vanilla Bean Frosting are special, and I’ll tell you why – it’s the frosting. It is downright heavenly. Also cause the cookies are actually really good. As in, they’re not just good for decorating. You’re actually going to enjoy eating them. The spices are warm and balanced without being peppery, and the cookies bake up buttery and soft.
So let’s get to the cookies first, and then we’ll talk about that insanely addictive frosting later.
What is Gingerbread anyway?
The term gingerbread refers to a broad category of baked goods that typically include a combination of spices like cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Brown sugar and molasses give gingerbread its rich brown color. Gingerbread can range in texture from cake to cookie to really crispy snap. And all of them just scream Christmas.
How to make these Gingerbread Cookies
You can whip up a batch of this cookie dough in about 15 minutes and you only need two bowls. In the first bowl, combine the butter, sugar, molasses, egg and vanilla. In the second bowl, combine the flour, salt and all of the spices. Put it all together, pop it in the fridge to chill, and in no time you’ll have cookie-cutter ready dough.
You only really need to chill cookie dough for 30-45 minutes, but you can also store it in the fridge for several weeks. If your dough has been in the fridge for a while, let it sit out on the countertop for 15-30 minutes before rolling it out, just to take the chill off. It will be easier to work with that way.
What’s in the vanilla bean frosting?
I love using vanilla bean paste in recipes that call for real vanilla bean. Sometimes you just don’t have an actual vanilla bean on hand, and the paste is super convenient. It keeps in the pantry for a very long time, and really brings the vanilla flavor to life in a way that extract can’t.
One tablespoon of vanilla bean paste can be used in recipes in place of one vanilla bean. So for this frosting, we are whipping butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla bean paste. Thin it out with a little bit of milk to get the consistency you want for decorating or spreading. If you’re piping this frosting, use less milk for a stiffer consistency. If you’re spreading, add more milk.
For the trees you see here, I used a thicker consistency to pipe the outline of the tree. Then I added more milk to the frosting to make it thinner and more spreadable for the rest.
If you love these Gingerbread Cookies with Vanilla Bean Frosting, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment or drop a rating below. It’s almost Christmas – happy baking!
Gingerbread Cookies with Vanilla Bean Frosting
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 6 oz. salted butter
- 12 oz. confectioner's sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp. milk
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla paste (or 1 whole vanilla bean)
- In a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until fluffy.
- Beat in the molasses, egg and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and spices.
- With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.
- Form the dough into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Place the cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before decorating.
- To make the frosting, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Beat in the vanilla bean paste. (If using a real vanilla bean, slice the pod open lengthwise and scrape the insides into the mixing bowl. Beat to incorporate.)