As you stand in your cozy kitchen, having successfully baked a batch of ginger spice cookies, one question pops into your mind: What to decorate these tasty treats with?
In this article, I’ll discuss eight tasty ideas that will not only satisfy your taste buds but also turn your gingerbread cookies into works of art. From regular icing to cookie stamps, let’s dive into the sweet world of gingerbread decorations!
You can decorate gingerbread cookies before or after baking. The choice depends on your preference and the technique used.
Generally, icing and other frostings are suitable for cooled, baked cookies. That’s to prevent the topping from melting and sliding off, messing up the appearance.
Likewise, fondant, edible paints, and other decorative elements are best applied after baking to avoid this issue.
Imprinted designs are your go-to option to decorate gingerbread before baking. This includes using cookie stamps or embossed rolling pins.
You can use endless toppings and patterned tools to decorate gingerbread cookies before or after baking.
Icing, powdered sugar, chocolate, fondant, and more are among the delicious garnishes you can use for aesthetics. If you want to get creative, you can make peanut butter and jelly gingerbread cookie sandwiches!
Here are eight ideas to help you make these treats more visually appealing:
You can’t go wrong when using powdered sugar for decoration. A few sprinkles can give your gingerbread cookies a snowy, festive appearance.
All you need is powdered sugar and a fine-mesh sieve to break down the clumps. You can also use paper stencils to create different designs on your cookies.
Aside from that, you can make a thin glaze by combining 3-4 parts icing sugar and 1 part water. Mix well until it forms a thin liquid, and drizzle it on the cookies for a glossy finish.
You can also make a granulated sugar glaze. However, keep in mind that these toppings can make the cookies too sweet.
So, avoid using a large amount; a few drops to cover the surface would suffice. To add a touch of color, dust edible glitter or sprinkle sugar while the glaze is still wet.
Vanilla-flavored icing is a classic choice for decorating gingerbread cookies. For one, the sweet, fruity taste of vanilla pairs well with the tangy flavor of ginger.
Additionally, this icing is versatile. You can mix and match with other flavors, including almond, lemon, or coffee. You can also add food coloring for a dazzling effect.
Not to mention, vanilla-flavored icing is easy to make. Here’s what you need to do:
- In a bowl, add two cups of powdered sugar.
- Add a quarter cup of milk. You can also replace it with orange juice (optional).
- Use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix well until you form a thin, smooth icing.
- Add more powdered sugar for a thicker consistency (optional).
- Pipe the icing on the cookies.
- Top the iced gingerbread with colorful decorations, like sugar pearls or edible flowers.
3 – Royal Icing
Like regular icing, royal frosting consists of confectioners’ sugar and flavorings. However, instead of liquids, egg whites go into the mix.
That creates a creamy, thicker texture. Once it dries out, royal icing hardens, giving the cookies a smooth finish.
Such a candy-like texture is suitable for creating intricate designs, allowing you to layer different colors without smearing.
Here’s how to make royal icing:
- Beat 3 egg whites until they’re frothy.
- Gradually add 4 cups of icing sugar.
- Beat the mixture on medium-low speed for 5 minutes or until you reach a thick, meringue-like consistency.
That said, make sure to use fresh, pasteurized eggs. As you might know, poultry products can harbor harmful bacteria like salmonella.
Pasteurization heats the eggs in a warm bath using controlled temperatures and time intervals. That helps destroy harmful pathogens without cooking the inside.
4 – Chocolate Ganache
If you’re a chocolate enthusiast, you may like pairing ginger with chocolate ganache. The slight peppery zing from ginger complements chocolate’s sweetness and subtle bitterness.
Combined with the rich creaminess of dairy, you get an explosion of flavors that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth!
Here’s how to make chocolate ganache:
- Chop 340g of semisweet, milk, or white chocolate.
- Place them in a heat-proof bowl.
- Bring 1 cup of heavy cream to a boil over medium heat.
- Slowly pour the cream over the chocolate and mix until smooth.
- Leave the ganache to cool for 10 minutes before dipping the gingerbread cookies into it.
- For a nice color contrast, drizzle some white chocolate ganache on the coated cookies.
5 – Candy Melts
Candy melts, or colored chocolate, are a kid-pleaser since they come in various shades.
For those wondering, these vibrant circles aren’t made of cocoa. They’re a mix of sugar, vegetable oil, milk solids, and flavorings.
Since no chocolate goes into the mix, candy melts have a sweet, milk-like flavor. You might want to add other ingredients to improve that waxy, artificial aftertaste.
That said, candy melts are easy to work with. Simply warm the colorful circles in a water bath.
You can also microwave them at low to medium heat. Start with 1 minute and stir the wafers until they become liquid. Pop the bowl back into the microwave for 30 seconds if needed.
Now, all you need to do is use a clean paintbrush and get creative with your designs!
6 – Fondant
If you remember decorating gingerbread men or houses as a kid, then you’re probably familiar with fondant.
This baking staple is made of sugar, water, and corn syrup. Combined together, these ingredients make a pliable dough that you can shape.
Simply bring the fondant to room temperature. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on a clean surface and roll the dough to the desired thickness. Cut them into different designs. Use water or icing to glue the pieces to the cookies.
Imagine this: creamy peanut butter and sweet jam coming together to join two crispy gingerbread cookies.
This fusion of nutty and fruity flavors, combined with ginger warmth, is sure to excite your taste buds, offering a unique twist to the classic gingerbread recipe.
The best part is that you don’t need to prepare any ingredients. All you have to do is spread a thin layer of peanut butter over one cookie and top it with your favorite jam. Sandwich it with a plain gingerbread cookie, and you’re done!
Unlike the above methods, cookie stamps are used to decorate gingerbread cookies before baking.
You can use embosser and debosser rubber stamps to add visual interest and texture to these treats. For those wondering, the former creates designs raised from the surrounding material, while the latter stamps down the pattern into the cookies.
You can also use this technique on fondant or combine it with the above decorating methods.
Now that you’re familiar with different gingerbread garnishes, let’s discuss how to decorate these cookies!
Before you jump into action, you need to let the cookies cool down. That’s because decorating freshly baked gingerbread will only cause a sticky mess.
Most of the mentioned toppings melt quickly, even at room temperature. To avoid the hassle, use a spatula and transport the cookies onto a metal rack. Let them cool for around 20-30 minutes before icing them.
Divide your icing into smaller bowls and mix in a drop of food coloring. Make sure not to add too much, as it will become darker as you stir.
It’s worth mentioning that food dyes, like blue 2 and red 3, can pose some health risks. Although they’re FDA-approved, a few studies show that these artificial chemicals can contribute to cancer development.
Once you’ve prepared the icing, it’s time to get creative. Fill a piping bag with frosting using a spatula, and cut the tip.
Start with the cookie edges and draw an outline. Then, pipe the icing across the center and use the bag’s tip or a toothpick to spread it over any gaps.
Top the iced gingerbread with decorations and let it dry for around 2 hours. You can use candy, sprinkles, chocolate, or edible flowers.
You can even use more icing to draw different patterns. To create 3D trees, stack different star-shaped cookie sizes, placing the largest star at the bottom and the smallest one at the top.
When it comes to decorating gingerbread cookies, you have plenty of delicious options to choose from.
You can use powdered sugar for a snowy effect, vanilla-flavored icing for an authentic taste, or peanut butter and jelly for a delightful twist. Fondant, chocolate ganache, candy melts, and rubber stamps are also excellent options for adding your creative touch.
Whether you decorate before or after baking, these ideas will make your gingerbread cookies look as good as they taste!
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.