Christmas is for Cookies:: The Gingersnap Chronicles

Christmas is for Cookies:: The Gingersnap Chronicles

My family is full of women who love to bake, particularly around the holidays. My maternal grandmother, Leora, was well known in our home town for her baking and cooking skills; her pies and cakes were always the first to sell at the church bake sales and her peach cobbler was legendary. I tell no lies. My mother did her fair share of baking, too, but, it was my sister, Vicki, that set the standard for Christmas cookie baking. When I was a kid, my siblings and I would gather at my parents house for Christmas and baking Christmas cookies was always part of the fun. I know, it kind of sounds like a Hallmark movie.  Since then, Vicki and I have produced hundreds of cookies annually to ship to friends and family across the country. This is probably my favorite family holiday tradition, one that I hope my kids carry on for many years to come. 

Variety is the Name of the Game

Over the years we’ve made just about every cookie I can think of – Lemon Squares, Apricot Bishop Caps, Cream Cheese Brownies, sugar cookies…you name it, one of us makes it. Yet, there was one cookie that remained elusive – gingersnaps.  To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever tasted one that wasn’t store bought and I’m not a fan. However, when I consider the ingredients – the rich sweet fullness of molasses mixed with the warmth of the spices – I knew it could be so much more. I wanted it to be crisp on the outside with a soft, tender inside and just the right ratio of sweet to savory. A cookie that immediately makes you think of Christmas with the first bite. Turns out, I had been sitting on the perfect cookie recipe for years. 

Molasses – Spice Christmas Cookies

Otherwise known as Gingersnaps. Call it whatever you want, but it is so delicious and tastes nothing like what you buy from the grocery the store. This recipe is taken from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook {1999}. I am a huge fan of the entire collection of Southern Living cookbooks, I own several and I have gifted quite a few over the years. Just about any recipe you want can be found in one of these books and the food is fantastic. 

The first time I made this cookie, not one of them made it to the boxes of Christmas cookies because we ate them as fast as they came out of the oven. True story. The original recipe is fabulous as written, but please see the note at the end to find out how I tweaked it to suit my family and my own tastes. 


3/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 cup sugar


*Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating well.  Add egg and molasses; beat well.

*Combine flour and next 8 ingredients, mix well. Add one-fourth of the flour mixture at a time to shortening mixture, beating at low speed after each addition until blended. Cover and chill 1 hour.

*Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in 1/4 cup sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

*Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes {{tops will crack}}. Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

*Note: I bake gluten free for my family, therefore I substitute a store bought gluten free flour mix {{Red Mill is my favorite}} for regular flour.  Gluten free baking tends to need a bit more moisture and fat in order to achieve the right texture, so for this recipe I add about 1/4 cup of browned butter. Melt the butter on the stove and simmer on low for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the butter is a golden light brown.  Be careful not to burn it! Browned butter adds a rich depth of flavor that blends well with the spices in the cookie. 

This is Christmas cookie perfection! Merry Christmas and happy baking!

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