Baked treats don’t last long in my house, but gingerbread cookies are a different story.
While they’re absolutely delicious, they have to compete with other holiday classics for attention. Sometimes, the cookies lose the fight, and I need to deal with the leftovers.
Over the years, I’ve lost one or two batches to humidity and had some casualties (gingerbread people with broken limbs) on my hand.
Thankfully, I found a few nifty tips that helped me keep the cookies fresh and intact for a couple of weeks. So, I decided to share them with you today!
This post will help you figure out how to store gingerbread cookies the right way. You’ll also find out how long the batch will last in your pantry or freezer.
Unlike gingerbread cake, the cookies (cutouts, drops, or house pieces) tend to last long. That said, the exact shelf-life depends on where and how you store the batch.
According to the USDA, homemade cookies can last for 2–3 weeks at room temperature. And the festive gingerbread cutouts are no exception.
Of course, you should take some precautionary measures to keep the cookies looking (and tasting) good throughout this period.
Don’t worry if this is your first go with homemade cookies. I’ll go over the top five storage tips later!
Now, this question is a little tricky.
In many cases, you won’t need to pop the cookies in the undecorated cookies in the fridge at all.
However, once you start decorating your gingerbread men, different rules might apply depending on the sort of icing and toppings you’re using. Remember that your cookies will only last as long as the quickest expiring ingredient!
Generally speaking, icing made with meringue powder holds well at room temperature. Still, I’d recommend double-checking the storage recommendations for the royal icing recipe.
Similarly, you’ll want to check the shelf-life of any candy melts you use to paint the cookies.
If you don’t plan on eating the cookie batch anytime within the next couple of weeks, freezing might be the way to go.
Baked gingerbread freezes well and can last for around 8 months. The texture won’t be as impressive as it once was, but the taste is still to die for.
Note that you can get better results by freezing undecorated cookies.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Let your cookies cool down completely before you even try to package them.
- Place them on a sheet lined with parchment paper and wrapped with cling film.
- Freeze the cookies till they harden.
- Arrange them in a single layer inside a freezer bag, paying particular attention to the cutouts’ limbs.
- If you must stack the cookies, use wax paper to separate the layers.
- Label the freezer bag with the date.
- Pop the cookies into the freezer.
When you’re ready to prepare the cookies, preheat the oven and bake the batch as you normally would.
Done? Cool them down, grab your royal icing to put some smiles on their faces, and serve!
Okay, so the baked gingerbread people might not need refrigerating. But what about the cookie dough?
Chances are, you used an egg for the dough. So, it’ll definitely spoil if you leave it out.
Thankfully, most homemade cookie doughs last 2–4 days in the fridge.
Store-bought gingerbread cookie dough typically lasts longer, but you’ll have to refer to the best-by date.
Yes! You don’t have to bake the batch before freezing it.
You can wrap the dough with cling film and pop it in the fridge. It’s also possible to cut out the gingerbread cookie shapes and store them wrapped.
The dough needs to thaw in the fridge (or on the counter) before baking, though. So, you give yourself some extra time on the bake day.
Before you pick a storage container for your cookies, you need to know who your enemies are. For the most part, humidity and dry air are the main culprits.
Dry air (or heat) will suck up the moisture from the cookies. After a few days, your gingerbread people will be rock-hard, and you won’t be able to take a bite without hurting your teeth!
With that in mind, you might think that humidity isn’t such a serious threat, but you’d be wrong. Too much moisture will leave the cookies soggy and stale.
That’s why the ideal storage conditions must keep those two culprits as far away as possible!
Don’t let all that talk about the importance of storage rush you—you don’t have to store the cookies the right way.
In fact, doing so will only backfire.
Why? Well, imagine that you pop hot (or even warm) cookies in a sealed container.
The heat will eventually be released from the cookies, but it’ll have nowhere to go. It’ll only condense and moisten the little gingerbread people, ruining their crispy texture.
Instead, you should leave the cookies on a rack and make sure that they’re all cool to the touch before moving on to the storage step.
If you want to keep the batch fresh for as long as possible, try wrapping each cookie in cling film. The protective layer should keep the moisture away, but sometimes, I double-wrap for good measure!
This method takes some time, but it works well when I want to pack one or two cookies on the go for the kids.
As a side note, aluminum foil might do in a pinch if you don’t have any plastic wrap. Just make sure you don’t rub away your icing.
Unfortunately, wrapping individual cookies isn’t always an ideal solution.
The plastic obscures the decorations on the cookie, and it’s not just because I go for double-wrapping, either. Even a single layer is enough to hide a gingerbread man’s features.
For those days when I want to show off my icing skills, I keep the cookies in a glass jar.
All in all, this method is great for the batches I make around the holidays. And as long as the jar’s lid is airtight, the cookies don’t spoil quickly.
To take things to the next level, I like to decorate the jar itself. Even a shiny red ribbon can match the festive vibes!
However, one minor drawback to keep in mind here is that you have to pick a large jar and take your time arranging the cookies. Otherwise, the cutouts might chip and break apart.
Sure, you don’t need to keep the cookies in the fridge, but it’s still better to look for a cool and dry spot. Your pantry is a safe choice in most cases.
If you want to show off your baked goods, you can take the jar out for snack/dessert time, eat all you want, and then take back any leftovers to the safe storage spot.
One of the main concerns when storing gingerbread cookies is that they dry out if left out in the open. Now, that’s not a problem at all with gingerbread houses—they’re best when they’re hard!
In fact, many house-specific recipes tweak the dough to make the “wall” cookie sheets sturdier.
Naturally, you don’t want to wrap the house. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to store the construction and extend its shelf-life.
For instance, I’d recommend building it on a flat, portable surface. Think cutting board, platters, or cardboard.
Then, secure the house in place with icing. This way, you’ll be able to move it without worrying too much about breakage.
Some folks choose to spray their gingerbread constructions with clear lacquer, too. This is a great storage tip since it keeps the moisture away and gives the house a glossy finish!
The trick here is to apply multiple coats, which requires a ton of patience. After all, you need to let each coat dry out completely before going in with the next round.
However, it’s important to note that this storage tactic would render the cookie pieces (and any other decorations) inedible. But most people I know don’t eat their gingerbread houses anyway.
So, overall, it doesn’t sound like a bad trade-off to me.
To recap, you can wrap your gingerbread cookies individually or store the entire batch in a large glass jar with an airtight lid. Either way, the goal is to ward off moisture, heat, and pesky ants.
With ideal storage conditions, the cookies will last for 2–3 weeks. But if you ask me, I’d say eat them while they’re fresh and crispy!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.