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Side shot of a stack of soft gingerbread cookies tied with a string
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5 from 20 votes

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

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!
Course Cookies, Dessert
Cuisine Southern
Keyword Christmas cookies, Colonial Williamsburg Ginger Cake Recipe, ginger cakes, gingerbread cookies, Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 30 large cookies
Calories 195kcal
Author Blair Lonergan


  • 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 cookie | Calories: 195kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 195mg | Potassium: 203mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 200IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 2mg