Decorating Tips for Gingerbread Cookies

Have some fun this season by creating elaborately decorated cutouts or using these tips to make your simple cookies stand out.

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gingerbread cookie dough and gingerbread man cookie cutter making process
Shutterstock / usmee

Refrigerate your dough

Patience is the key to making the ultimate gingerbread cookie! Gingerbread dough can be notoriously sticky, so let it rest at least 30 minutes (if not an hour) in the fridge before you start rolling it out.

Head to our ultimate guide to gingerbread for more great tips.

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Rolling pin with flour and gingerbread cookie on wooden table.
Shutterstock / Evgeny Karandaev

Don’t be afraid of flour

Even if you let your dough rest, it still might be a bit on the sticky side. Don’t be afraid to dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour to keep your cookie making frustration-free. This recipe even suggests dusting the cookie cutter with flour, too.

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Raw dough for cooking Christmas cookies ginger men top view
Shutterstock / KucherAV

Speaking of cookie cutters…

You could absolutely leave your gingerbread cookies round and classic. They’ll taste delicious and be an easy, no-fuss way to bake this season. But who doesn’t love biting the head off of a happy gingerbread man cutout ($6)? Or, better yet, have some fun with these funky cookie cutter shapes!

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Gingerbread cookies, cookie dough and Christmas decorations on wooden table
Shutterstock / Vladislav Noseek

Use parchment paper to make life easier

My least favorite part of using cookie cutters is transferring the shapes to the baking sheet without stretching them out. Make your life easier by rolling the dough directly on a piece of confectioners’ sugar-dusted parchment paper. Use the cutter to create the shapes and remove the excess dough. Then, slide the parchment onto the baking sheet and bake away!

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Sugar chocolate cookies on wooden background, top view.
Shutterstock / Neta Livne

More patience required…

It’s starting to feel like cookie making requires a lot of patience! Before you start decorating your gingerbread cookies, do yourself a favor and let them cool completely. Otherwise, the icing will melt as you apply it, creating smudges and smears on the finished product.

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Decorating gingerbread cookies for christmas.
Shutterstock / Agnes Kantaruk

Keep things simple

If you don’t want to go all-out with the icing, keep things simple by preparing a confectioners’ sugar glaze. You can combine the sugar with milk for a simple flavor profile, or use the icing in this Iced Orange Cookies recipe to give your gingerbread men a boost of tangy flavor.

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Christmas homemade gingerbread cookies on wooden table
Shutterstock / haveseen

Or, go more complicated!

There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your homemade cookies decorated to the max with royal icing. This type of icing is surprisingly simple to make, and it will really take your gingerbread men to the next level. Have some fun with food coloring to create festive red-and-green patterns on your cookies!

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Christmas cookies of various shapes in sugar glaze on a cutting board on a brown wooden table sprinkled with flour, flat lay.
Shutterstock / LedyX

Have fun with decorations

In addition to icing, throw on some sprinkles and nonpareils before the icing dries. If you need inspiration, we’d recommend the winter wonderland mix, white pearls, or gold sprinkles from this must-have Christmas sprinkle list.

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gingerbread cookies with green icing and colorful sugar sprinkles shaped Christmas tree for kids winter holiday treat
Shutterstock / Anastasia_Panait

The best storage methods

Did you know you can freeze undecorated gingerbread cookies for up to four weeks? So make a double batch and have back-ups in the freezer for when you run out. Decorated gingerbread cookies will last up to two weeks in an airtight container, but make sure you let them rest (uncovered) for 2 hours to let the icing dry. If you’re worried about them sticking together, layer the cookies between wax paper. Be sure to check out our favorite cookie tins for gifting!

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.