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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 processShutterstock / 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 viewShutterstock / 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 tableShutterstock / 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 tableShutterstock / 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 treatShutterstock / 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
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.
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