Monday, 23 November 2020

Nativity Gingerbread Cookies (no-chill, no-spread cookie dough recipe!)

 For Culinary Arts Ministry event with the church this December, I shared how to make these simple gingerbread cookies!

The Zoom session along with a short talk about Christmas is just over so I will be sharing the detailed recipe and templates here. I will share how you can make these cookies without cookie cutters. Instead of using my default favourite brown sugar cookie recipe as the cookie base, I chose to use another recipe for ease of handling as my default recipe although absolutely yummy and fragrant, has a dough that requires chilling and can be tricky to handle in hot Singapore. 

The recipe I will share is so easy to handle kids can join in the fun. It doesn't spread in the oven so you can pack in as many cookies to bake as possible in one round of baking. The design I chose is deliberately simple as well so that you can decorate it by freehand without needing a template. 

Nativity gingerbread cookies

Logistics list

2-2.3cm round cookie cutter*

3cm round cookie cutter*

4cm round cookie cutter*

5cm round cookie cutter*

4cm star cookie cutter*

Small fruit carving knife**

Plastic file or parchment paper template**

Baking trays

Parchment paper/silicone baking mat

Rolling pin (preferably with 6mm guide)

Mixing bowls


Silicone spatula

Digital weighing scale

Oven thermometer (optional)

Piping bags (use food bags or ziplock bags if you don’t have)



Electric mixer (for making royal icing)

*If you don’t have the cookie cutters, you may use the template provided by tracing the outlines of Joseph/Mary, baby Jesus and star onto clear plastic files. Cut the outlined traced on the file and wash thoroughly before use. This template is reusable. If you don’t mind having a single-use template, you may trace the templates onto parchment paper and cut the shapes out of parchment paper.

** Optional if you have all the necessary cookie cutters

Here is the template you can use. Resize it until this picture fits an A4 paper.

No-chill cookie dough recipe

Ingredients (makes a small portion of about 6 cookies of each of the 4 designs):

40g unsalted butter, slightly softened

30g dark brown sugar

30g Molasses (may replace with maple syrup, golden syrup, or honey in a pinch)

1 egg yolk

60g cornflour

70g plain flour

½-1 tsp ground ginger (depending on how spicy you prefer)

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1/16 tsp allspice powder (optional)

1/8 tsp salt

½ tsp vanilla extract

Here are some photos of some of the ingredients in case you don't know what to look out for.


1. Preheat oven to 180C. Set oven rack to middle position.

2. Place unsalted butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Cream butter and sugar by beating with spatula until smooth. Mixture does not have to be light and fluffy. As long as the ingredients are well incorporated, it is good enough.

3. Add molasses and mix well with spatula.

4. Add egg yolk and mix well.

5. In another bowl, sift together cornflour, plain flour, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. 

6. Add sifted ingredients into butter mixture and fold in until no trace of flour is seen. The dough should be soft but easy to handle. If the dough feels too sticky, add a little cornflour until it doesn’t feel sticky.

7. Place the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll to thickness of 6mm. Transfer the parchment paper with the dough onto the baking tray. Remove the top sheet of parchment. 

8. Use 4cm and 5cm cookie cutters or prepared template and a knife to cut out the shapes for Mary and Joseph. If using cookie cutters, gently press the dough where the 2 circles intersect such that the separated dough sticks together. You may position the cutouts about 1cm apart from each other as the cookie does not spread much. Peel away the portions of dough between the Mary and Joseph cutouts, roll into a ball and roll it between 2 sheets of parchment paper again.

9. Bake the Mary and Joseph cutouts at 180C for 10 min, and then at 170C for 2-4 min more or until the bottom of the cookies are lightly browned. Cool completely on the baking tray.

10. In the meantime, place the rolled dough between parchment on another baking tray. Remove top sheet of parchment. Cutout star and baby Jesus shapes (use 2cm and 3cm cookie cutters) and remove dough between cutouts. Roll out the excess dough again between parchment for more cookies of your choice.

11. Bake the baby Jesus and star cutouts at 170C for 8-10 min or until bottom of cookie is lightly browned. Cool completely on baking tray.

Important notes on decorating cookies

1. You may bake the cookies a day or a week in advance and store in airtight container once cooled completely. 

2.Decorate the cookies as you wish using either of the royal icing recipes. I highly recommend using meringue powder as it is really simple and fuss-free. But if you seldom bake and would unlikely be using meringue powder for anything else, you may use the raw egg white version. Since the cookie dough recipe uses only egg yolk, you would have excess egg whites to begin with so no wastage here! 

3. Use toothpick to nudge the icing into tight corners and for drawing the eyes. 

4. Remember to let the base layer of icing dry before layering on another layer if you would like 3D pop-up features. 

5. Let the iced cookies dry completely in the open under the fan or briefly in the oven at 60C with the fan mode on before storing the decorated cookies. 

Have fun while remembering what Christmas is about!

Royal Icing recipe (using meringue powder)


125g icing sugar

9g (2 and ¼ tsp) meringue powder

1/8 tsp salt (optional)

25g water (more as necessary)

¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1/8 tsp caramel flavouring (optional)

Yellow, blue, green, peach and brown gel food colouring 

Here is the meringue powder I use.


1. Sift icing sugar, meringue powder and salt together in mixing bowl. 

2. Add water and flavourings (if using). Use electric mixer and beat on medium low speed for a few minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula now and then. You may also use a hand whisk and whisk continuously for 6-7 minutes. The consistency of the royal icing is such that it is able to form firm peaks. 

3. Divide icing into portions for various colours. Portion same amount for each colour except for white, which should be a double portion. 

4. Add colouring (except for white) and thin out the icing by adding 1/8 tsp of water at a time to thin it out until it reaches flooding consistency. Flooding consistency is where any peaks in the icing in the mixing bowl sinks back in within 20 seconds. Transfer royal icing into piping bag with a small hole cut at the end. Pipe as needed. You may store any unused icing in an airtight container with a clingwrap touching the surface of the icing. Store the container in the fridge, up to 1 month. Stir the stored icing well before use. 

Royal Icing recipe (using raw egg whites)


113g icing sugar

1 egg white

¼ tsp lemon juice

Food colouring and flavouring as mentioned in above section

Some water for thinning the icing


1. Sift icing sugar and set aside.

2. In a clean metal bowl, beat egg whites with lemon juice until frothy with an electric mixer. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff and glossy.

3. Add flavouring if you wish and beat until incorporated.

4. Portion, colour and thin it out as mentioned in point 4 in previous section. Transfer into piping bag and pipe the designs onto the cookies.

IMPORTANT NOTE!! As this version of royal icing uses raw egg whites, the iced cookies need to be baked at low temperature of 70C for at least 20 min to ensure that the cookies are safe for eating.

Steps for decorating cookies

First layer

1. Ice the star with yellow icing
2. Ice baby Jesus' head with beige/peach icing
3. Ice baby Jesus' swaddle with white icing
4. Ice Mary's head scarf with white icing
5. Ice Mary's face with peach icing
6. Ice Mary's clothes with blue icing
7. Ice Mary's hair with brown icing
8. Ice Joseph's head scarf with green icing
9. Ice Joseph's face with peach icing
10. Ice Joseph's beard with brown icing
11. Ice Joseph's clothes with white and yellow icing (order doesn't matter) 

Let this layer dry in the oven at 60C with fan on for 10 min or in the open under a fan for at least an hour. 

Second layer

1. Pipe lines and dots on the star using yellow icing
2. Add in baby Jesus' ears and nose with peach icing
3. Add baby Jesus' hair and eyes with brown icing. You may find it easier to paint the eyes on using a toothpick. 
4. Add in 2 of the swaddle lines using white icing
5. Add in Mary's sleeves with blue icing
6. Add in Mary's nose and left hand with peach icing 
7. Add in Mary's eyes with brown icing
8. Add in Joseph's sleeves with white icing
9. Add in horizontal line on Joseph's head scarf with yellow icing
10. Add in Joseph's eyes with brown icing
11. Add in Joseph's left hand with peach icing

Let this oven dry again for 10 min or dry in the open for 30 min before continuing. 

Third layer

1. Add in final line on baby Jesus' swaddle using white icing
2. Add in Mary's right hand using peach icing
3. Add in Mary's head scarf outline using white icing
4.  Add in Mary's sleeve and collar outline using blue icing
5. Add in Joseph's right hand using peach icing 
6. Add in Joseph's head scarf outline using green icing
7. Add in Joseph's sleeve outline using white icing. 

Dry this thoroughly (overnight if air drying, 45min-1h if oven drying at 60C) before storing in airtight condition. 

With love,

Phay Shing 

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