Open Arms of Minnesota

Weekly Recipe #279: Grandma's Famous Gingerbread Cookies

By TyAnn Zeal, Dietetic Intern [University of Minnesota-The Emily Program]

Photo credit: Glenn Fleishman/Flickr

Some of my best memories from my childhood are those spent with my Grandma Billie. She taught me all of the important things in life, like how to make sock puppets, fly a kite, play games (by her rules of course), and how to bake.

My favorite thing to bake with my grandma was her famous gingerbread cookies. They are as fun to eat as they are to bake! I always rummaged through her cookie cutters until I found my favorites: a sled, a snowflake, and of course, the gingerbread man. My sister and I became expert decorators, and loved experimenting with dying the frosting many different colors and using lots of sprinkles.

Every year at Christmas, my sister and I keep the tradition alive and bake these gingerbread cookies. We even started a new tradition, which is a gingerbread cookie decorating contest! Hopefully these cookies will bring you as much joy as they have brought me and my family.

Grandma’s Famous Gingerbread Cookies

(Yields 24 bars)



  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 ½ cups flour (extra flour will be needed while rolling and cutting cookies)


  1. Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in egg, water and molasses.
  2. In separate bowl, combine all remaining ingredients; add to mixture in increments while stirring.
  3. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  4. Once dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Lightly coat a cutting surface with flour and roll out dough using a rolling pin.
  6. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out cookies from dough. TIP: Dough gets stickier when it warms up! Continue to chill any excess dough until you are ready to roll it. If dough is still sticking, place a couple handfuls of flour into a spare bowl. Coat the top of the dough with a thin layer of flour and dip cookie cutter into the bowl of flour before cutting the dough.
  7. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and bake cookies for 8-10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.
  8. Remove cookies from sheet and place on wire rack to cool



  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. butter or Crisco
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • Dash of salt


  1. Combine ingredients in large mixing bowl and beat until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and frosting is creamy.
  2. Add food coloring if desired and spread on cooled cookies with small spatula.
  3. Get creative! Top with sprinkles, candies, or whatever compliments your cookies.

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