Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies - The Seasoned Mom (2024)

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Take a step back in time with a classic holiday treat! Soft and chewy, thick, and warmly-spiced, these simple and delicious old-fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies, or Ginger Cakes, have been loved for generations. Pack a tin to share with neighbors, serve them for dessert with a cup of cocoa, mulled cider, or hot tea, or let the kids decorate the soft gingerbread cookies with festive icing and sprinkles!

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies - The Seasoned Mom (1)

How to Make Gingerbread Cookies | 1-Minute Video

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Williamsburg Ginger Cakes

One bite from these gingerbread cookies brings back so many memories from my childhood! As a life-long Virginian, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Williamsburg, and it’s still one of my absolute favorite parts of our state. If you want a real treat, visit Colonial Williamsburg during the holidays — it’s a truly magical place!

An annual holiday visit to Williamsburg was a family tradition in our home, since it was one of my grandmother’s favorite seasonal activities. In addition to the beautiful Christmas decorations, the music, and the festive spirit, I still remember looking forward to the delicious Peanut Soup at the King’s Arms Tavern, the Queen’s Cake, and the old-fashioned ginger cakes from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. Oh, that gingerbread is such a treat!

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Even as adults, if my brother and I are ever in Colonial Williamsburg, we make a point to stop in the Raleigh Tavern to buy a bag of soft gingerbread cookies to go. There’s nothing better than the aroma of the freshly-baked treats wafting through the kitchen — with a mug of warm cider on the side!

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Taste and Texture of Raleigh Tavern Gingerbread Cakes

The taste and texture of the classic cookies are truly unique. They’re warmly spiced with a strong molasses flavor, but they’re not overly sweet and the texture is a perfect cross between a cookie and a cake. They’re soft (not crispy like some gingerbread cookies), and they’re thick, chewy, and “cakey.” In my opinion, they’re holiday dessertperfection.

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While there is plenty of molasses flavor in this cookie recipe, the spices are mild. These are not “spicy” cookies. Instead, they contain just very subtle notes of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. If you prefer a stronger flavor, you can increase the ginger to 1 tablespoon, add ½ teaspoon of cloves, and ¼ teaspoon of allspice — the cookies just won’t taste quite like the authentic Williamsburg gingerbread.

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Ingredients for Gingerbread Cookies

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a batch of soft gingerbread cookies. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • White sugar: for just the right amount of sweetness.
  • Ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon: warm spices that give the cookies that classic holiday taste.
  • Baking soda: a leavening agent that gives the cookies just a little bit of “lift” and puff.
  • Salt: to balance the sweetness.
  • Butter: for flavor, moisture, and soft, chewy cookies. I prefer salted butter, so if you use unsalted butter, I recommend adding a little bit more salt to the dough.
  • Evaporated milk: adds moisture to the batter. It’s thicker and creamier than milk, but you can probably substitute with heavy cream in a pinch.
  • Molasses: a classic ingredient in these old-fashioned ginger cakes. The molasses adds sweetness, moisture, deep flavor, and helps the cookies stay soft and chewy.
  • All-purpose flour: the base of the cookie dough. Sift the flour first so that you don’t have any lumps or dry pockets in the cookies.
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How to Make the Colonial Williamsburg Ginger Cake Recipe

This recipe will show you how to make homemade gingerbread cookies — just like you’d find in Colonial Williamsburg. I did some research online and ultimately adapted the Raleigh Tavern Bakery’s original recipe, so you know these authentic cookies are the “real deal.” The end result instantly sends me back to my childhood!

  1. Whisk together sugar, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and ground cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Add softened butter, evaporated milk, and molasses. Start on low speed with an electric mixer, and then gradually increase to medium speed or medium-high speed until the dry ingredients are creamed together with the butter.
  3. Gradually mix in the flour until a stiff dough forms.
  4. Roll out the dough on a well floured surface with a floured rolling pin (there’s no need to chill the dough first!).
  5. Cut into shapes and arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  6. Bake in a 375°F preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, then package to store or enjoy immediately!
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How to Decorate Soft Gingerbread Cookies

The classic Williamsburg gingerbread cakes are large, round cookies without any icing or other decorations. That said, the thick, chewy cookies do make a great base for traditional Christmas frostings and decorations! If you (or your kids) prefer soft gingerbread cookies with icing, then I suggest preparing a batch of royal icing and getting creative! There’s no wrong way to do it, so throw on some red and green sprinkles and have fun. If you cut the cookies into gingerbread man shapes, then a simple white piping around the edges, a smiling face, and some buttons down the front are a perfect touch.

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Soft Gingerbread Man Cookies

If you’d like to cut-out traditional gingerbread man shapes using this recipe, I recommend a couple of tweaks to really help the cookies hold their shape in the oven (such as wrapping the dough in plastic wrap and chilling before cutting). You can find the full recipe, instructions, and tips for the gingerbread men here.

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How to Store Gingerbread Cookies

Store the cookies in an airtight container atroom temperature for up to 1 week.

To bake the cookies in advance, allow them to cool completely, wrap tightly, andfreeze for up to 2 months. Thaw on the counter at room temperature.

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Tips for the Best Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

  • Allow the butter to soften at room temperature. I leave the butter on the counter overnight before I plan to make the dough. This helps the butter mix into the other ingredients easily.
  • Don’t be shy with the flour.Keep your work surface very well floured to prevent the dough from sticking to the board when rolling and cutting. It’s also helpful to flour the cookie cutter before each use.
  • Roll the dough thicker than other typical cut-out cookies. I like about ½-inch thick dough, which yields thick, soft, chewy cookies (rather than thin, crispy cookies).
  • You can re-roll the dough scraps as many times as necessary in order to use all of the dough.
  • Do not overbake the cookies or they will become hard and crisp. To maintain the soft, chewy, cake-like texture, remove them from the oven while they’re still soft.
  • Decorate these cookies with royal icing and sprinkles for a festive touch.
  • I use a round biscuit cutter that measures 2 ½ inches in diameter to make large cookies — just like you find at the Raleigh Tavern Bakery in Williamsburg!
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More Classic Christmas Cookies to Try

  • Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
  • Chocolate Crinkle Cookies {with cake mix!}
  • Jam Thumbprint Cookies
  • Italian Ricotta Cookies
  • Soft Gingerbread Man Cookies
  • Magic Cookie Bars
  • Russian Tea Cakes {Snowball Cookies}
  • Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Blossoms
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Old-Fashioned Chewy Molasses Cookies
  • Fruitcake Cookies
  • 3-Ingredient Scottish Shortbread Cookies
  • Grandmother’s Bourbon Balls
  • Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Christmas Cookies

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies - The Seasoned Mom (14)

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

4.97 from 29 votes

Prep: 30 minutes minutes

Cook: 10 minutes minutes

Total: 40 minutes minutes

Servings 30 large cookies

Calories 195 kcal

Take a step back in time with a classic holiday treat! These simple and delicious old-fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies (or "ginger cakes") have been loved for generations — and you will soon discover why!

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (plus additional 1 -1 ½ cups of flour, as needed, to form a workable dough)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.

  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.

  • Add softened butter, evaporated milk, and molasses. With an electric mixer, start on the lowest speed so that the liquid doesn’t splash out of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed until the butter and sugar are creamed together and completely smooth.

  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add 4 cups of flour (one cup at a time), mixing until the flour is incorporated.

  • The dough should be stiff enough to handle without sticking to your fingers, so if it’s still too wet and sticky, add additional flour (½ cup at a time), just until a fairly stiff dough comes together.

  • When the dough is smooth, roll it out to ½-inch thickness on a very well-floured surface.

  • Use a 2 ½-inch round biscuit cutter (or other cookie cutter) to cut the dough into round shapes. Continue to add as much flour as necessary to the dough, the rolling pin, and the cookie cutters to prevent the dough from sticking. Place shapes onto prepared baking sheets.

  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly golden brown but still soft. Make sure that you don't bake them for too long or they will become hard and crispy. To maintain the soft, chewy, cake-like texture, pull them out of the often while they're still soft and let them firm up slightly while they cool.

  • Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Video

Notes

  • Allow the butter to soften at room temperature. I leave the butter on the counter overnight before I plan to make the dough. This helps the butter mix into the other ingredients easily.
  • Don’t be shy with the flour.Keep your work surface very well floured to prevent the dough from sticking to the board when rolling and cutting. It’s also helpful to flour the cookie cutter before each use.
  • Roll the dough thicker than other typical cut-out cookies. I like about ½-inch thick dough, which yields thick, soft, chewy cookies (rather than thin, crispy cookies).
  • You can re-roll the dough scraps as many times as necessary in order to use all of the dough.
  • Do not overbake the cookies or they will become hard and crisp. To maintain the soft, chewy, cake-like texture, remove them from the oven while they’re still soft.
  • Decorate these cookies with royal icing and sprinkles for a festive touch.
  • I use a round biscuit cutter that measures 2 ½ inches in diameter to make large cookies — just like you find at the Raleigh Tavern Bakery in Williamsburg!
  • Recipe adapted from MakingHistoryNow.com

Nutrition

Serving: 1large cookieCalories: 195kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 3gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 195mgPotassium: 203mgFiber: 1gSugar: 16gVitamin A: 200IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 2mg

Keyword: Christmas cookies, Colonial Williamsburg Ginger Cake Recipe, ginger cakes, gingerbread cookies, Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Course: Cookies, Dessert

Cuisine: Southern

Author: Blair Lonergan

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This recipe was originally published in 2017. The photos were updated in December, 2021.

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies - The Seasoned Mom (2024)

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