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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!

Side shot of a stack of soft gingerbread cookies tied with a string

How to Make Gingerbread Cookies | 1-Minute Video

Square image of a tin of old fashioned gingerbread cookies.

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!

Dipping an old fashioned Williamsburg gingerbread cookie in a Santa mug.

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!

Process shot showing how to make gingerbread cookies.

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 dessert perfection.

Hands holding a mug and stack of gingerbread cookies.

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.

Rolling out gingerbread cookie dough.

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.
Cutting out soft gingerbread cookies.

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!
Side shot of Williamsburg ginger cakes on a table with hot cocoa.
Side shot of soft gingerbread cookie dipped in a mug.

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.

Hands gifting a tin of the best gingerbread cookies.

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.

Soft gingerbread man cookies in a cookie tin with fun decorations and icing

How to Store Gingerbread Cookies

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

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

Side shot of a Santa mug with gingerbread cookies.

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!
Stack of Williamsburg ginger cakes on top of a Santa mug.

More Classic Christmas Cookies to Try

Square close up shot of williamsburg gingerbread cookies

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

4.97 from 29 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 40 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!


  • 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)


  • 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.



  • 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


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

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


Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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  1. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says:

    Mmm these remind me of the gingerbread cookies my Grandma used to make, which she called ‘lebkuchen’ which is ‘gingerbread’ in German. I can see why you would always stop for these cookies, and I love that you made your own! Thick, chewy, and cakey sounds perfect. What a fun treat for the holidays!

    1. Blair says:

      These would totally remind you of your grandmother, Gayle! Traditional recipes are the best, in my opinion! 🙂

  2. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious says:

    These cookies have my name on them. They’re so thick and chewy looking! YUM!

    1. Blair says:

      Yes!!! And not too sweet — they’re just right! 🙂

  3. Megan says:

    I’m so excited to try these, Blair! I love gingerbread, and these sound incredible! Also, I read a lot about your boys love for doughnuts- FYI Dunkin Donuts has a gingerbread cookie doughnut and a sugar cookie filled doughnut avail now ????????????❤️???? Happy Holidays to you all!

    1. Blair says:

      OMG — I need to make a trip to Dunkin Donuts ASAP!!! Those sound amazing! I’m the gingerbread lover (for sure), and the sugar cookie filled donut would be right up the kids’ alley! 🙂 Happy holidays to you as well!

    2. Stacy says:

      5 stars
      These were so fun to make and delicious! Tasted just like the Williamsburg bakery cookies! Wish I could post a pic! Thank you!!

      1. Blair says:

        That’s wonderful, Stacy! Thanks for your note. I’m so glad that they were a hit!

  4. Jo says:

    Love going to Williamsburg and always have to stop at Raliegh Tavern for their gingerbread cookies and Queens cake. I will be anxious to try your recipe, thank you.

    1. Blair says:

      Awesome, Jo! I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who stops there every time for the gingerbread! Now I want to try the Queens cake, though!

      1. Carol says:

        Hi, Blair! Do you use traditional molasses in this, or can you substitute it with blackstrap molasses? I know blackstraps high in iron, so thought about using that if you think it will work. That said, I’m not sure it will sub ok since it has a bitter taste to me.


        1. Blair says:

          Hi, Carol! I always use traditional molasses in these cookies. I haven’t tested it with the blackstrap molasses, but I wouldn’t use it here — I think it would completely change the flavor of the cookies and would be way too intense. 🙂

  5. Kristy from Southern In Law says:

    Ooh, these look so perfect! Gingerbread cookies are a favourite of ours at Christmas time – followed by my snowball shortcake cookies!

    1. Blair says:

      Those shortcake cookies sound amazing!!!

      1. Lisa buckmiller says:

        Hi there can I have the Yummy shortcake cookie recipe sound good I’d like to have the recipe if you don’t mine and I also really love gingerbread bread cookies and anything shortbread thanks ????

  6. Kathryn Olson says:

    5 stars
    I’m adding these to my holiday baking list! Can you tell me what type molasses you use…dark or light? Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Kathryn! That’s great!

      I use an unsulphured molasses that’s made by a brand named Grandma’s. You can see it here:https://www.grandmasmolasses.com/

  7. Phillis Dittmer says:

    I am making “cookies in a jar” for gifts. Do you think I can layer the dry ingredients in a quart jar and attach the recipe for the person to add the wet ingredients? Will they turn as yummy as yours look?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Phillis! Yes, it should work fine to put the ingredients in a jar as a gift. You’ll just need to make sure that they’re layered in the right order so that the recipient can add the ingredients in stages, as described in the recipe. You wouldn’t want them to just dump all of dry ingredients in a bowl at once. 🙂

  8. Anne Coffin says:

    Blair, can I make these now and freeze them? They look so good!

    1. Blair says:

      Absolutely! I have a stash in my freezer right now, and I just thaw a few on the counter (in a covered container) as I need them. 🙂 They’re PERFECT from the freezer!

  9. Caroline says:

    I wanted to make these ahead of time. Should I make dough and freeze or cookies then freeze?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Caroline! Make them exactly as instructed, including baking them. Let the baked cookies cool completely, wrap tightly, and freeze. They thaw perfectly (and I have a stash in my freezer right now, too)!

  10. Lou Cubbage says:

    Were just there last weekend. Got these cookies and a big hot cider while we walked Duke of Gloucester Street. Heaven!

    1. Blair says:

      Oh, lucky you! That sounds heavenly!

  11. Pat Lange says:

    These sound wonderful! I notice that egg is not listed as An ingredient. Sorry…just wanted to be sure this was correct. I plan to make them tomorrow. Thank you!

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Pat! That’s correct — there’s no egg in the recipe. 🙂 Enjoy!

    2. Mary S. McCurdy says:

      5 stars
      Thanks for asking that question…I was wondering about “eggs” as well!

  12. Joyce Knorr says:

    I, too, am a Virginian by birth and grew up on the Peninsula in Hampton. My family always went to the Christmas illumination in Williamsburg and we looked forward to the gingerbread cookies and cider. Thank you for publishing this recipe. I’m excited to make these while bringing treasured memories to our home in Maine .

    1. Blair says:

      That’s wonderful, Joyce! I’m so glad to be able to share the Virginia love with you — all the way up north. Enjoy a taste of your heritage!!! 🙂

  13. Nancy says:

    I was sooo disappointed last summer in Williamsburg to find out they no longer offer the brownies or the gingerbread! I’m excited to try this. Just curious though, no eggs in this recipe?

    1. Blair says:

      Awesome, Nancy — I hope that you enjoy them! And yes — you don’t need any eggs for this recipe! 🙂

  14. Joyce Knorr says:

    Blair, I just posted a photo. These are easy, delicious and just how I remember. My kitchen smells wonderful right now. Thanks again.

    1. Blair says:

      Wonderful, Joyce! I’m so glad that you’re enjoying a happy memory! Merry Christmas!

  15. Angela says:

    Hi Blair, once again you’ve come up trumps! Normally i turn to you for savory dishes until i stumbled upon the photo of these cookies! They looked so delious i just had to try them. It’s just after midnight here in the Netherlands and i’m sitting in my warm cosy kitchen whilst waiting for my third tray of cookies to come out of the oven! I had not quite realised they would take so long to make or bake. But the wait is well worth it. I also had not noticed that the recipe is for so many cookies and they are huge :-). I plan to send the kids to the neighbours tomorrow with a tin full and pop some in the freezer (if the rest if the family don’t get thete first! Angela

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Angela!!! I’m so glad that you’re getting a taste of Virginia — all the way in the Netherlands! That’s amazing! Enjoy the cookies, and Merry Christmas!

  16. Mary says:

    Does this recipe work for gingerbread man or tree cutouts?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Mary!

      I’ve only ever used it for the rounds, since that’s how they serve it in Williamsburg. That said, I think it would be fine with cut-outs too, so long as they’re not too intricate. These make a really nice thick, cake-like cookie, so they will probably be puffier than traditional thin and crispy gingerbread cookies that you might otherwise use for cut-outs. They don’t spread too much when baking, though, so you should be fine using cookie cutters. Hope that helps!

  17. Pat Lange says:

    5 stars
    These cookies turned out fantastic! They will be a new holiday tradition for our family. They are super easy and fast to make and truly do taste like old fashioned gingerbread that you remember from childhood. A couple of helpful hints…I found the dough still a tad too sticky after I had added all of the flour. So, i turned it out on a floured surface and very gently kneaded it a couple of times. Really just a very gentle two/three turns. I then rolled out to a good 1/4 inch (and kept re-rolling scraps). With a 3” diameter round cookie cutter, I got 24 cookies and used up all of the dough. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Merry Christmas!

    1. Blair says:

      Great tips, Pat! Thank you!

  18. Jan Politis says:

    5 stars
    Made these for Christmas giving. They were a big hit! I cut recipe in half the first time because I only had 1/2 c molasses. They still came out great, but I did have to add some extra flour. Even after rerolling the scraps several times, the cookies were still perfect! Thanks for a new holiday tradition!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks for letting me know, Jan! I’m so happy that you’ve enjoyed the cookies! 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  19. Anne Hernandez says:

    When I was a very little girl, my family lived near DC and we often went to Williamsburg. What I remember most distinctly was these cookies and the molassas cookies. Yes, there are vaugue memories if costumed people doing period accurate things and such, but the cookies. . .
    I wondered if I had dreamed them – and then I saw your post. ❤ I’ve Pinned it and will DEFINITELY be trying them soon.

    1. Blair says:

      Oh, I’m so glad that these bring back fond memories, Anne! They’re definitely not a figment of your imagination. I hope that you enjoy them!

  20. Oinc says:

    “1 ½ tsp baking soda” ?
    Not baking powder?
    Don’t you need an acid like buttermilk for baking soda?

    1. Blair says:

      No, the recipe works exactly as it’s written. 🙂

  21. Katherine says:

    I just made these with the kids and they are really yummy! I was nervous about no egg and vanilla added but they are fantastic! I’ll be making another batch shortly after Christmas.

    1. Blair says:

      That’s great, Katherine! I’m so glad that you enjoyed them! 🙂

  22. Sheree Hyde says:

    I love the cookies at the Inn in Williamsburg and was thrilled to find the recipe and plan to make them soon. Do you maybe have the recipe for the Shewsbury cakes you can purchase there. The large sugar cookies? Love Williamsburg and I wish I lived close enough to go during Christmas sometime.

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Sheree! No, I don’t — but I’ll definitely work on a recipe for the coming year! Thanks for the suggestion!

  23. Bonnie Musser says:

    Hello. I adore these Gingerbread cookies. I live strolling the streets of Williamsburg with one of these cookies, a cup of warm cider and stopping at one of the many bonfires during The Grand Illumination. Just perfect. One of the comments mentioned Queen Cake. I cannot find a recipe for it. I had some at one of the taverns and loved it but cannot find a recipe even in my Williamsburg cookbook. Do you or anyone posting here have a recipe? I sure would be grateful. Thank you and Happy New Year!

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Bonnie! I will definitely share a recipe for Queens Cake in the coming months — I just need to perfect it. 🙂 Stay tuned!

  24. Catherine M Elrod says:

    I made these for the Christmas time to go along with all the other cookies I was baking. They was good, but not much in ginger flavor. I added what it was called for and you could not even tell that they was gingerbread cookies. I think it would need extra ginger added or use fresh grounded ginger to get the ginger taste.

  25. Patty says:

    I know it’s only September, but I saw this recipe on Pinterest and had to try it. I have very vague memories of these cookies (or their copycats) being sold at The Pottery in Williamsburg back in the late 80s and early 90s when we were stationed in VirginiaBeach. (Am I right about this?) I am always on the lookout for a great molasses cookie, and I am doing the slightly-warm-out-of-the-oven taste test as I write this! They are VERY good!! I used a total of 22 oz of flour in order to get the right consistency for rolling and cutting, which works out to just under 4 1/2 cups. (I measure all large amounts of dry ingredients by weight, not volume). I baked them on parchment-lined cushioned baking sheets for 11 minutes per pan. Also, I sprinkled turbinado sugar on top, just because I enjoy a crunchy top on a soft cookie. This one’s a keeper! Thanks, Blair!

    1. Blair says:

      Great! Thanks so much for that helpful feedback and detailed information, Patty!

      I’m not sure if the cookies were sold at The Pottery in Williamsburg or not. It wouldn’t surprise me, but I’ve always picked them up from the little shop on Duke of Gloucester St. 🙂

    2. Amber says:

      If I’m not mistaken, one cup of flour weighs out to 4.5 oz. So 22 oz would actually be just under 5 cups of flour.

  26. Katie says:

    5 stars
    Every year we’ve been married (5 years now) my husband requests “gingerbread cookies” and every year he politely tells me that, though they are good, they aren’t what he meant. In my mind gingerbread cookies were thin and crisp, but he wants them “like cake but a cookie- soft and fluffy” My 2 year old and I made these today and turned out to be exactly what he’s been dreaming of. We did need to add extra flour and did skip the rolling and cutting, opting to roll them in balls and then press with the bottom of a glass. BUT THEY ARE DIVINE, light and fluffy ,with out that undercooked in the middle texture that some soft gingerbread cookies have had. This is my new go to recipe. I can’t wait to start my Christmas baking now that I’ve found the perfect gingerbread cookie.

    1. Blair says:

      I love that, Katie!!! Thank you so much for your kind note. It makes me so happy to hear that your husband approves of the cookies! 🙂

      1. Sarah says:

        5 stars
        I made these last year and they were amazing! But as I’m preparing to make them again I can’t recall if salted butter or unsalted butter is best.
        Also is Fancy molasses a good sub situation for your favourite brand that you mentioned in 1 of the comments above?

        1. Blair says:

          Hi, Sarah! I always use salted butter. I’m not familiar with fancy molasses. If it’s a regular brand like Grandma’s, then it should work fine. I wouldn’t use blackstrap molasses, but otherwise you should be good to go!

  27. Claude Handshoe says:

    Why are my cookies dark brown and not light brown like yours? What molasses do you use?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Claude! I just use regular molasses (Grandma’s brand is what I have in my pantry right now). Did you use Blackstrap Molasses?

  28. Connie Shull says:

    Can you substitute regular whole milk for condensed milk?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Connie! The whole milk is not an equal substitute for evaporated milk (also called unsweetened condensed milk), so the recipe would not work the same. The evaporated milk has about 60% less water than regular milk, so it yields a very different cookie texture.

  29. Lisa says:

    I was feeling very homesick for Virginia today and this recipe of yours popped up on my feed. Our son went to William & Mary which gave us plenty of excuses to visit Williamsburg, even when he was busy! We lived in Virginia for over 45 years so it is hard to forget. When I realized I had all of the ingredients in my pantry, I took it as a sign to try your recipe. These cookies are perfect! Our family loves ginger cookies all year long, not just for Christmas. I think the whole neighborhood could smell them baking. My grandchildren came running in afterschool and devoured a dozen. Thank you so much for posting this delicious recipe.

    1. Blair says:

      That’s wonderful to hear, Lisa! They bring back so many fond memories for our family, too. 🙂

  30. Kristina Perry says:

    5 stars
    Man I honestly was just now like, “I wish I could make the cookies like in Williamsburg” I googled so much then thought well I’ll just give Williamsburg Gingerbread a google and laughed that someone had actually posted exactly that! THANKS SO MUCH!!!

    1. Blair says:

      I love that!!! So glad that I could help to satisfy your craving! 🙂

  31. Karen says:

    5 stars
    Wonderful flavor and chewy texture. Made it with half whole wheat which added a slight nutty flavor. Did not roll out. Formed balls and slight flattened with a glass dipped in sugar.

    1. Blair says:

      Great! I’m so glad to know that they work without rolling, too. I’m going to try that next time! 🙂

  32. Kristen says:

    I can’t seem to get this to form a dough either. I’ve followed directions exactly and even after using 5 cups of flour it is too sticky to work with. Any ideas?

    1. Blair says:

      Hey, Kristen! I honestly don’t know — I haven’t had that problem. 🙁

  33. Krystal says:

    I just wondered, out of curiosity, if anybody had tried making these using one of those embossing rolling pins to add that extra bit of pattern before cutting/baking. I’m curious if these bake up puffy enough that the pattern would be obliterated. I’m definitely going to try these for my holiday baking this year and can’t wait to taste them!

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Krystal! I haven’t tried that, so I honestly don’t know. Curious if anyone else has tried the stamping method?

      1. Krystal says:

        5 stars
        Update after making these: the pattern rolled on top worked really well! It’s best to roll them a bit thicker to allow for rolling them a bit flatter with the patterned rolling pin. I didn’t do this so mine were a bit thinner than 1/4” – I baked them a bit less and they turned out great. These were so delicious. I’ll definitely be adding them to my annual Christmas recipe lists.

        1. Blair says:

          Perfect! Thanks for the update, Krystal!

    2. T says:

      5 stars
      I have this issue a lot. I’m not sure why! I generally stop adding flour at 5 cups, split the dough into two equal parts, shape into disks and wrap in plastic wrap overnight. The next day they are fairly easy to roll out and I only roll out a section of the dough at a time to keep it from getting too soft. They come out perfectly every time. These cookies are SO good and I make them every year.

  34. Anna says:

    I would like to bake and ship these for Christmas. I’m not much of a baker, and I’d like to add the dusting of powdered sugar. When do I do that? Is it when they’re cooling? After they’ve cooled completely? Thank you!

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Anna! I’m so glad that you’ll give these a try! What you see on my cookies here is just the flour from rolling. If you want to use powdered sugar, I would do both — dust with powdered sugar before baking, and then again once the cookies are cool. 🙂

  35. Ashley says:

    5 stars
    Best Gingerbread cookie recipe I have ever tried.

    1. Blair says:

      Wonderful! Thanks, Ashley!

  36. Jessica Anderson says:

    I just made these and they are so amazing!! Best cookie I have made! Thanks!

    1. Blair says:

      Awesome!! Thanks so much, Jessica! We love them, too. 🙂

  37. Lisa says:

    Hi, there. I’ve made this recipe so many times, and only once did they ever turn out cakey and dense instead of crisp. What’s the secret to that dense cakeyness? Thanks so much!

    1. Blair says:

      Hey, Lisa! I’m not sure why the other times they weren’t cakey and dense. I’ve never had that issue, so I’m not sure what the difference was when you prepped them.

    2. Tiffany says:

      The same thing just happened to me when I made them for the first time. I followed the recipe and instructions exactly except I used shapes instead of circles but that shouldn’t affect the texture. They hardly rose at all and were crispy on the outside and only a little soft on the inside. I’m so disappointed!

  38. Laura Adams says:

    This is the exact recipe that I’ve been using for 20 years, and they are wonderful – a family favorite, that is perpetually on the list of must-have Christmas cookies. A friend got the recipe out of a cookbook she picked up on a visit to Williamsburg. Although they don’t need it, they are luscious with a little vanilla frosting piped onto them, which we sometimes do at Christmastime. Thanks for posting the recipe so others can enjoy!

    1. Blair says:

      That’s awesome, Laura! Aren’t they so good? I love the idea of adding the frosting. They’re so cake-like in texture that it would be like having a mini cake to eat!

  39. Jessica Anderson says:

    5 stars
    I made these last year and my whole family loved them! I’m making them again this Saturday! We made gingerbread men out of these cookies! My kids loved decorating them. Amazing! I’m going to make these every year! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you, Jessica! That makes me so happy to hear! 🙂

  40. Elaina says:

    Fresh ginger or powdered ginger?

    1. Blair says:

      Ground ginger (not fresh). 🙂

  41. Jan says:

    Would gluten free flour work instead of flour?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Jan! I honestly don’t know, since I’ve never baked with gluten-free flour. I imagine that if you have an all-purpose gluten-free flour, the cookies would probably work fine! 🙂

  42. Linda says:

    I live in the area and actually used to teach in Williamsburg. The cookies are a definite part of any Williamsburg trip. In recent years, they seem to have changed the recipe for the ginger cakes. They are drier it seems to me. Just not the same. I made yours and they are just like the original ones. Perfect! Thanks!

    1. Blair says:

      That’s wonderful, Linda! I’m so glad that this recipe reminds you of the originals. 🙂 I didn’t realize that the recipe might have changed in recent years. Thanks for your kind words!

  43. Mandy L FALZON says:

    These are the best cookies ever… the compliments i get about these..MY GO TO GINGER BREAD MEN…

    1. Blair says:

      Aw, thank you, Mandy! I totally agree. Always a hit! 🙂

  44. Tony says:

    5 stars
    I made them today but it’s a Christmas tradition and I use the Raleigh tavern recipe and really like adding the vanilla and lemon extracts and sometimes the lemon zest as well . I grew up in va and have been Williamsburg many times and always go get a gingerbread at Raleigh tavern bake shop . It’s changed some over the years but the taste always takes me back .

    1. Blair says:

      Hello to a fellow Virginian, Tony! I’m sure the lemon is a delicious addition! Merry Christmas! 🙂

  45. Laura says:

    5 stars
    Just made these today because I was craving a soft, thick, cake-like gingerbread cookie. I did add the extra spice and these came out perfectly with the texture and taste I was craving. I really appreciate all the tips and the option to make them “spicier”. I will definitely be making these again and again! Also may try the gingerbread men next time! Thanks so much for this.

    1. Blair says:

      Wonderful! Thanks for your note, Laura! I’m so glad that they worked well for you and satisfied that craving. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  46. Jeanie says:

    5 stars
    My 87-year-old dad has been talking about how much he loved the “ginger cake cookies” he once had during a visit to Williamsburg. I’ve tried several recipes for him through the years. Though he said they were all very tasty, none were just like the cookies he remembered… until now! I made him a batch of these and his eyes lit up… love at first bite! I was so happy that I was finally able to give him the cookies he so fondly spoke of for all of those years. Thanks SO much for this recipe… you made his Christmas! God bless!

    1. Blair says:

      This is one of the happiest notes I’ve read in a long time! Thanks, Jeanie! I’m so glad to know that the cookies brought your dad a little bit of holiday cheer. Thanks for taking the time to come back here and let me know!

  47. Terrin Pitrone says:

    Oh my gosh! I am so excited to find this recipe! I have talked about these cookies since my 5th grade field trip but I could never remember the name of the place where we got them!! I am 32!! – this just popped up on my Pinterest feed and I am rushing out for condensed milk and molasses! So excited, I’ve never had a cookie like this since then.

    1. Blair says:

      That’s wonderful, Terrin! Enjoy! 🙂

  48. Susanne Maggrah says:

    5 stars
    This is to let you know that the subscribe button on this page isn’t working. I tried it twice and no luck.
    Best regards

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you for letting me know, Susanne! I’m not sure why it wasn’t working. I just tested it again and it seems fine. I’ll have others take a look, though!

    2. Veronica says:

      5 stars
      These cookies taste amazing and are so easy to use with cookie cutters! I always roll them a little too thin because I make them into Christmas cookies, but this time I am going to try and roll them to 1/2 inch rounds like you suggest, to get the authentic Williamsburg look and texture. Thank you for this recipe! Brings back great memories of getting these warm out of the oven at the Williamsburg bakery.

      1. Blair Lonergan says:

        Thank you, Veronica! I’m so glad that you love them!

  49. Deb says:

    Hi Blair,
    I was wondering about the molasses. Dark Brer Rabbit? Blackstrap? Our family considers King Syrup molasses (it really confused a friend who I shared a Recipe for Vanilla pie with…I meant King and she bought Black strap)
    Thank you, I’ll wait to hear back but I can’t wait to try these
    Merry Christmas,

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Deb! I always use Grandma’s brand molasses, which is unsulfured, sun-ripened sugarcane molasses. Here’s a link to their page: https://grandmasmolasses.com/product/original-molasses/

      Basically, any regular unsulfured molasses will work. I’m not familiar with the King Syrup brand, but you definitely don’t want to use black strap molasses in this recipe.

      Hope you enjoy!

  50. Paula says:

    Why don’t you want to use black strap molasses in this recipe?

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Paula! Blackstrap molasses has a very different consistency and a very different taste than regular unsulfured molasses, so it doesn’t act the same in baking. Blackstrap molasses is not nearly as sweet (about 45% sugar as opposed to 70% sugar of regular molasses), it’s much saltier than regular molasses, and it has a much more bitter taste. Blackstrap molasses is also much thicker than regular molasses, and has a lower moisture content. As a result, the texture and flavor of the cookies will be very different if you use blackstrap molasses.

  51. Kristin Payne says:

    5 stars
    I am going to have to try your recipe. I was just in Williamsburg over the weekend and bought six to bring home. My daughter and I did eat one in the car because it was fresh and hot. Love those cakes.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      That’s awesome! Williamsburg is so pretty at this time of year. Hope you enjoy the homemade version, too! 🙂

      1. Vicki Abel says:

        5 stars
        I have been looking for this recipe for over 30 years! While searching online this week again, I finally realized I had never used Williamsburg in ky search! I am so happy to find this recipe! I visited Williamsburg often as a child. I live in Montana, Williamsburg is a place I would live to see again

        1. Blair Lonergan says:

          Yay! I hope that the cookies bring back great memories, Vicki!

  52. Sallie Russ says:

    Blaire, We are heading to Williamsburg soon. Remembered your post about the ginger cookies. We are planning on a trip to the Tavern to get some. Is there anything off the beaten path that you recommend we see, do or eat while visiting Williamsburg? Thank you!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      That’s so fun, Sallie! We’ll be there in November for my son’s soccer tournament, and I’m already looking forward to the ginger cookies! 🙂

      I don’t have too many recommendations outside the norm. It’s fun to make dinner reservations at one of the taverns in the historic part, if you can. We also enjoyed Jamestown when we did that with the kids a few years ago. The “college delly” is a popular local spot with the students, and a good place to grab lunch. We also like to pick up sandwiches at the Cheese Shop, which is right on the main street in the historic section. There’s a candy store next door that the boys love. For dinner, if you don’t go to one of the historic taverns, The Trellis is another good option (although maybe it has closed now?!).

      If you have history buffs in your family, they might enjoy a visit to Yorktown battlefield. My kids liked walking around there when we took them a couple of years ago.

      Hope you have a wonderful trip!

  53. David Black says:

    Doesn’t say how much of each ingredient

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, David! The ingredient measurements are included in the full recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  54. Vicki Abel says:

    I have been looking for this recipe for over 30 years! While searching online this week again, I finally realized I had never used Williamsburg in ky search! I am so happy to find this recipe! I visited Williamsburg often as a child. I live in Montana, Williamsburg is a place I would live to see again

  55. Sarah Ruppersburg says:

    5 stars
    Made these yesterday and they are perfection! I halved the recipe and it still made plenty.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you, Sarah!

  56. Debra Wilson says:

    5 stars
    I don’t think I will ever make anything different; these cookies are amazing!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you, Debra!

  57. Rebecca says:

    5 stars
    These cookies were devine!! Will be the recipe I use every year at Christmas!! I made the recipe traditionally cutting in circles and also stamped and glazed some of the cookies to add a bit of specialness but they are really perfect as the recipe is traditionally.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Wonderful! Thank you, Rebecca!

  58. Sarah says:

    4 stars
    Love this recipe! I definitely recommend doubling the spices and adding about 1/4th teaspoon cloves and 1/4th tsp allspice. After that, they taste exactly like the ones I used to get in Williamsburg (before they switched to packaged)! Also make sure to not overcook if you want them to be the same texture.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you so much for the feedback, Sarah! We’re glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  59. Morganne says:

    5 stars
    Love these

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you, Morganne!

  60. Manda says:

    5 stars
    These are my go to everyone loves these cookies when I make them..I do them as ginger bread men

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      So fun! We’re happy to hear they’re a hit and appreciate you sharing, Manda!

  61. Melanie M. says:

    5 stars
    This is a phenomenal recipe. It does as it says. No wasted ingredients. No disappointing results. Whomever created this recipe knew what they were doing. These cookies will be a hit. MAKE THEM!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you so much, Melanie! We’re happy to hear they were a hit.