The hunt for Grandma Kay’s Gingerbread Men recipe!

When I was 5 years old my father’s mother passed away. Although I was young, I remember her quite well. She loved to bake…I guess that is genetic. I remember her baking gingerbread men and creating the most gloriously beautiful gingerbread houses at Christmastime. I remember the taste of these sweet treats as if I had them yesterday…even though it was 35+ years ago. (Yeah, yeah, I am almost 40)

Seriously: this girl LOVED her Grandma Kay’s gingerbread cookies!


My lifelong hunt for Grandma Kay’s gingerbread recipe has been, well,  futile at best. After she passed, my Pappa didn’t save any of her recipes. He didn’t bake, so why save them? Oh, Pappa! *sigh*  I have baked and tasted different gingerbread cookies over the years, but am yet to find the correct version of Grandma Kay’s gingerbread cookies.

I posted on my personal Facebook page, asking for gingerbread cookie recipes from friends. I wanted something from their mum’s or better yet GRANDMOTHER’S, recipe box. Maybe that was the key…someone else’s grandma’s recipe! I was given one recipe from a friend and found another recipe online. I have posted both recipes below. Although both here HUGE hits at home and at work, neither one were quite Grandma Kay’s.

Is my hunt over? 

No…I will bake every recipe out there until I find the one I am looking for!

I am hoping by Christmastime 2017 I will have the proper gingerbread cookie recipe. I might even go rogue and concoct my own recipe. I would love to build a gingerbread house just like Grandma Kay’s someday! Something I could pass along to my four children and the generations to come!

The two recipes I tried were quite fun to make with my 12-year-old daughter…while my 2-year-old son was in and out of the kitchen declaring, “I LOVE COOKIES!” You know, in case I somehow forgot toddlers like cookies. And please don’t get me wrong: both of these recipes are absolutely delicious and fun to make. They’re just not what I am searching for.

The first recipe: Molasses Cookies!

This came from a 1943 cookbook a friend of mine had. Being from Boston, molasses cookies made complete sense to me. Maybe Grandma Kay used an Olde Boston recipe! Now my mind was wandering…Did Grandma Kay make molasses cookies and call them gingerbread?  No. Well, at least not this version…well, at least not the way I made them anyhow. The recipe calls for ground ginger, which I was out of at the time, so I substituted ground cloves.

SIDE THOUGHT: Maybe if I used ginger it would be closer to Grandma Kay’s. An experiment for another day…as well as another blog post!

1943 Molasses cookies

From a 1943 cookbook


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½  tsp baking powder
  • ¼  tsp salt
  • ½  tsp baking soda
  • ½  tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½  tsp cinnamon
  • ½  cup shortening, melted
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp. warm water
  • 1 egg beaten


  • Sift dry ingredients together


  • Combine remaining ingredients.


  • Mix well before adding dry ingredients


  • Add sifted ingredients mix thoroughly


  • Let stand 10 minutes.


  • Better yet; refrigerate for an hour


  • Roll out on floured board and cut into shapes.


  • Bake in hot oven 400 F about 15 minutes.


  • Makes 4 dozen



Now to make them more decorative!

I made and (poorly executed) royal icing for the very first time. I watch baking shows all the time, so how hard can the piping and icing of cookies really be? My fabulous mother-in-law had given me her old piping tips, I just needed a bag to put the icing in. Well, according to the interwebs; one can simply cut the corner of a plastic sandwich bag and use that as one’s own piping bag.

SIDE NOTE: Did you know not everything in the interwebs is true? Yeah! For example: using a plastic bag as a piping bag. THEY BURST when pressure is added!  Fun times!


May I kindly suggest: if you’re intending on piping, icing, or otherwise decorating with a bag, get a proper pastry bag. You can literally get one at the dollar store…for a buck!

Here is the recipe, and warning, for the Royal Icing:

Royal Icing


3 ounces pasteurized egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually and mix on low-speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag or heavy-duty storage bag <– SEE! Even The Food Network suggests the bag trick!  and pipe as desired. If using storage bag, clip corner. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

CONTAINS RAW EGGS: The Food Network Kitchen suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served, use shell eggs that have been treated to destroy salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method.Image result for the food network logo

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, The Food Network.

As you can clearly see from the photo below; I have a LOT of work ahead of me when it comes to learning how to pipe/ice cookies properly. I mean, for a very first attempt, they’re not half bad. Part of the problem was the plastic sandwich bag and its bursting contents. Maybe a heavy-duty bag would work better…like The Food Network suggested. I added some water to the royal icing to dilute it down in hopes of keeping the bags from bursting, which sorta worked. Coupled with figuring out the proper pressure to squeeze the bag, things went a little bit better. But after four bags bursting, I was done!



PRO TIP: when things are not going well in the kitchen (or anywhere in life for that matter) don’t swear within earshot of a toddler. “Why the f**k do you keep bursting?” isn’t as adorable as it sounds when said by a 2-year-old!


The second recipe: Gingerbread Men Cookies!

I wanted something old-fashioned and figured a recipe from someone I knew was the best way to go, but whereas I didn’t get one, I went to the interwebs. The interwebs are chock-full of fantastic recipes! This one is from  and came out quite delectable!

I only had a small gingerbread man, but 4 different sized hearts, so my daughter and I made (mostly) gingerbread heart! She is sassy and loves to bake, just like me. Here she is showing us the heart cookie cutters! Ooooo…well done!


Gingerbread Men Cookies

By: Taste of Home



  • ½  cup butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup = 1 stick
  • ¾  cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½  teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½  teaspoon ground allspice


  • Frosting of choice:
    • I prefer Royal Icing…see above in blog post!


Preheat oven to 350°

  • Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in molasses, egg and water.
  •  In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients minus frosting
  • Gradually beat into creamed mixture.
  • Divide dough in half.
    • Shape each into a disk; wrap in plastic.
    • Refrigerate until easy to handle, about 30 minutes.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion of dough to 1/8-in. thickness.
  • Cut with a floured 4-in. gingerbread man cookie cutter.
  • Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets.
  • Bake until edges are firm, 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Frost as desired once cooked.

Yield: about 2 dozen.

© 2017 RDA Enthusiast Brands, LLC

The gingerbread hunt continues.

These cookies too had a royal icing disaster. I thought (incorrectly this time) that the royal icing was once again too thick. So I once again added water. OY! No, no, no. Rookie mistake! This made the royal icing too runny! I tried to pipe designs onto the hearts and faces, buttons, and mittens on the men, but the icing was WAY too liquidy! UGH! My inspector (seen below) loved everything about the cookies. From the “ginger men” to the “pink hearts.” He was a huge fan! I see nothing at all biased about his opinion! 😉

PRO TIP: After the cookies come out of the oven, and they’ve cooled down, they may still be covered in some of the flour from when you rolled them out to cut them. Take a paintbrush (that has never been used for painting) and brush excess flour off both sides of the cookies. 

Like I said earlier; maybe if I made the molasses cookies according to the recipe, I would be more satisfied with the results. Honestly though; I think I am just going to just turn my kitchen into a Gingerbread Man laboratory and get all wild and crazy with it. Sometimes the craziest mistakes turn into the greatest inventions!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Next week we will be making Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. But this time, they’re anything but traditional! I have perfected my very own little recipe for these lovelies!

Happy Baking, Everyone!


~Mama Foley

PS: If there is a recipe you would like to share, or something you would like to see me (attempt to) bake, send an email to


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