Mickey Gingerbread Cookies
One of the things I love most about the end of the year and the winter season is all of the yummy and cozy holiday flavors from peppermint to gingerbread! So this weekend I decided to make one of my favorite treats to get at Disneyland during the holiday season: Mickey gingerbread cookies! I love stopping by the Jolly Holiday Cafe, grabbing a cookie, and bringing it home to heat it up in the microwave so it’s nice and soft! And now that I can make these at home, I can get them fresh out of the oven!
So let’s get started, shall we?
Gingerbread’s signature flavor comes from a mixture of molasses and a couple of distinct spices (mainly ginger). What’s great about gingerbread spices is that you can customize the ratio of each individual spice to your taste.
Since this was the first recipe I’ve tried that called for molasses, I tried to find a substitute so I wouldn’t have to keep molasses in my cupboard until next year (when I make gingerbread cookies again), but my main concern about the substitutions I found was their potential for changing the texture of the dough. So I very uncharacteristically went out and got the actual ingredient! If you haven’t worked with molasses before, it’s a dark and very thick syrup-like ingredient. There are a couple of different types of molasses; the darker it is the more bitter, but for the purposes of gingerbread, you should avoid using blackstrap molasses which is the darkest and most bitter of the types.
This is the molasses that I picked up from the store. The other thing to look out for unsulphured molasses. Unsulphured molasses is made from mature sugarcane and has no sulfur preservative so the taste and texture is supposed to be richer and thicker.
For the icing, I decided to make the royal icing from scratch, but if you’re in a pinch you can purchase some premade royal icing. The recipe is very simple: all it takes is eggs, powdered sugar, and vanilla!
The Baking Process
Starting off by mixing all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Already at this step, the gingerbread smell really shines through. As I mentioned in the ingredients, you can mix together your spices first and adjust how much you want to add based on how it tastes to you before adding it into the flour.
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, creaming the butter until it’s smooth takes about 1-2 minutes before adding in the brown sugar and the molasses. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl every once in a while! After the brown sugar and molasses are completely mixed in, the creamed butter may look slightly grainy due to the butter somewhat separating, which is okay at this step. Similarly, after adding the egg and vanilla to the mixture, the batter may continue to look grainy.
With the stand mixer on low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture. This dough shouldn’t be over-kneaded, so the dough should be mixed just until the flour is fully incorporated. The final dough should be thick and tacky.
To help the dough cool and set, I split the dough in half and wrapped each half in plastic wrap and refrigerated them for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. I chose to only bake one half of the dough this time around, so I’ll be saving the other half in the freezer.
After waiting (im)patiently, it was finally time to cut my cookies! If you’ve seen my Mickey-shaped beignets recipe, you’ll have seen my homemade Mickey head “cookie cutter” that I made out of cardstock and aluminum foil. So, being true to me, I made my own Mickey gingerbread cookie cutter with the same materials for this recipe!
To roll out the dough, you can either use flour to coat your workspace, hands, and rolling pin, or you can sandwich the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. If you choose to use flour, be generous with it and continue to use flour because the dough gets stickier the longer you’re handling it. I chose to use parchment paper because it felt like the cleaner method. It’s also important to know that the dough is so soft that it’s pretty difficult to move the cookie once you’ve cut it, so what I chose to do was to cut the cookies directly on the parchment paper that I would be using to bake, so that I wouldn’t have to move them. I also found that immediately out of the refrigerator, the dough was a bit too hard and some of the dough actually stuck to the parchment paper. But after letting the dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, it becomes a lot easier to work with.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the thickness of your cookies. If you’re aiming for soft gingerbread cookies, they should be at least around 1/4 inch thick. Thinner cookies will result in a crispier result. The dough also expands a decent amount when it’s being baked so make sure that the cookies are well-spaced out so that they don’t expand into each other in the oven. Then it’s time to get them in the oven! Smaller cookies will need about 8 minutes in the oven whereas larger cookies need about 10 minutes, but you’ll want to check in on them to make sure they don’t get overbaked.
Now, it’s very important to allow the cookies to cool completely before you decorate so that the heat from the cookies don’t melt or affect the icing. After letting the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, transfer them to a cooling rack.
When the cookies are nearly cooled, you can start preparing your royal icing if you’re making it yourself. I beat the egg with vanilla until the mixture was frothy, then set the stand mixer speed to low and slowly added in the powdered sugar until it was fully incorporated and the icing is smooth. You’ll want the icing to be a bit runny (but not too runny!) so that you can pipe it fairly easily but it’s still able to hold shape. So if the icing is too thick, you can add just a tiny bit of water or milk until it reaches your desired consistency. Be very conservative with the amount of additional liquid you add in because too much will result in an overly-runny icing that won’t hold shape.
Now it’s time for the fun part: the decorating! For different color decorations, you can split your icing into batches and color them with food coloring as needed. For the brown color that’s used for Mickey’s eyes, nose, and smile, instead of finding a brown food coloring I used dutch-processed cocoa powder to give it the dark brown color. Because this was a powder it made the icing more dry, so I added a little bit more water to this batch to maintain the right consistency.
After all the icing is piped it’s time to enjoy them! Royal icing stays fairly soft for several hours but forms a thin hardened crust within 10-20 minutes, so if you want the icing to fully harden you’ll need to let it sit for a couple hours. But if that’s not a concern then now’s the time to dig in!
I was so happy with how these cookies came out! My homemade cookie cutters always worry me because I know that their bottom edges aren’t sharp enough to make clean cuts, but the edges of the cookies came out smoothly and the shapes were so cute! Some came out puffier than others, but it’s just more to love!
They were the perfect consistency and had that satisfying bend to them right before you break a piece off. The flavor was rich and spice-y, though I wouldn’t mind a bit more ginger and cinnamon flavor. Because I waited overnight to eat them the icing had a satisfying snap and added a light sweetness to the cookies which are otherwise just slightly sweet.
I recommend microwaving the cookies for about 20 seconds before enjoying them so that they are nice and warm and a bit softer. They make a perfect winter snack to enjoy as you cozy up under nice warm covers and enjoy a s’wonderful holiday movie!
Mickey Gingerbread Cookies
ºoº 3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
ºoº 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
ºoº 2/3 cup room-temperature butter
ºoº 2/3 cup molasses
ºoº 1 tsp baking soda
ºoº 1/2 tsp salt
ºoº 1 egg
ºoº 1 tsp vanilla extract
ºoº 1 tbsp ground ginger
ºoº 1 tbsp cinnamon
ºoº 1/2 tsp allspice
ºoº 1 egg white
ºoº 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
ºoº 1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix together the ground ginger, cinnamon, and allspice
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, gingerbread spice mixture, baking soda, and salt
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth
Add the molasses and brown sugar to the butter and mix until well combined
Mix in the egg and vanilla extract and mix for another 2 minutes on high speed
Gradually mix in the dry mixture into the wet mixture on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed
Split the dough in half, cover each half in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours
Remove one half from the refrigerator and roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper
Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes on the parchment paper. Continue rolling and cutting out the cookies until all the dough is used
Repeat with the second half of the dough or save the dough for future use
Preheat the oven to 350F and refrigerate the baking sheets as the oven is preheating
Bake for 8-10 minutes
Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack
Prepare icing (see icing directions if making your own)
Decorate and enjoy!
Beat the egg white and vanilla until the mixture becomes frothy
On a very low speed, gradually mix in the powdered sugar until it’s completely incorporated and smooth
ºoº To ensure even baking, you may want to rotate your baking sheet halfway through the
ºoº If the royal icing is too thick, add in a couple tiny splashes of milk or water to help thin
the icing (but not by too much!)
ºoº The icing may start to harden if left out for too long, so give it a few mixes to keep it
soft. If you have leftover icing that you want to store, you can put it in an airtight
container and cover it with plastic wrap