Soft and chewy gingerbread cookie bars topped with a layer of cream cheese frosting. The perfect alternative to making individual gingerbread men!
Can I get a show of hands for those of us that LOVE a good gingerbread cookie but don’t want to deal with the mess of rolling out dough and tedious decorations? This is the recipe for you. These gingerbread cookie bars are my favorite holiday baking recipe. I love them so much, I’m thinking about going on a mission to normalize gingerbread all year round. After what 2020 has brought us, I guess anything is possible!
Growing up, I was always excited about baking cookies around Christmas time. Cookie decorating can be a fun, creative release but sometimes, we just want something delicious, festive and easy to make. Cut out cookies can also be really finicky. Getting the right taste and texture for the dough, the mess of rolling it out, preventing spread while baking, creating designs that look neat and appetizing, it’s a lot. This recipe takes away all of the stress and gives you all the gingerbread vibes in a thick and chewy, perfectly spiced cookie bar. Schmear it with rich, cream cheese frosting and some fancy holiday sprinkles and you might not ever make gingerbread cut outs ever again.
*This post contains affiliate links — please see my disclosure for details*
How to make gingerbread cookie bars
This recipe is pretty simple and way faster than making cookie dough, rolling it out, chilling it, baking and decorating and it looks and tastes just as good, if not better!
The most important step is to line your 13X9 baking dish with parchment paper. This will make it easy for you to just lift the cooled bars out in a slab and cut them evenly without any sticking. This is a must. If you’re not baking everything with parchment paper, get some and prepare for your life to change. I also recommend using a metal baking pan for this recipe. You can use what you have but I find that a metal baking pan has sharper edges for more uniform bars and even cooking with brownies and bars.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by creaming butter and sugar together in the stand mixer. You can also use a hand mixer. Add in the molasses, vanilla and egg. Stir together the dry ingredients. Mix until well blended. The result will be a soft and sticky cookie dough. Gently press the dough into an even layer in your parchment lined baking dish. Using floured fingers helps with stickiness for this step.
While the bars are in the oven, make the cream cheese frosting. Simply add cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt to your mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add in powdered sugar until everything is well combined and creamy.
When the bars are done, allow them to cool completely before frosting. Use the hang over of the parchment to carefully lift the slab of cooled bars out of the pan and place on a flat surface. Frost them with an offset spatula and decorate with festive sprinkles. Use a sharp knife to cut them into 24 even sized bars.
What do I need to make Gingerbread Cookie Bars and Cream Cheese Frosting?
Flour – all purpose flour. I have not tested this recipe with any gluten free or other flour alternatives. If you try it, let me know the result in the comments! My go to brand is King Arthur Baking Company. During the holidays I order pretty much everything I need for baking from Thrive Market.
Brown Sugar – I use dark brown sugar when I make this recipe. I love to pack as much flavor as possible into gingerbread dough.
Molasses – There are a few different varieties of molasses – light, medium or dark and blackstrap. I recommended going with the deep, full flavor blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap has the least amount of sugar and has the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals. Blackstrap molasses is super thick, highly concentrated and has a deep, spicy, almost bitter flavor. Most of what you find in the grocery store will be unsulphered but make sure you check the label to confirm.
Butter – You’ll need some for the cookie dough and some for the cream cheese frosting. I use salted butter in all of my baking recipes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little extra salt in baked goods! Kerrygold and I are in a serious relationship.
Egg – Just one.
Vanilla Extract – My favorite vanilla is Nielsen Massey. You will use it in both the cookie dough and the frosting.
Baking Soda – not to be confused with baking powder. Always double check your recipe when baking!
Spices – This cookie dough is heavy on the spices, making it so flavorful and delicious. No bland gingerbread here. I use a combination of Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Nutmeg, Salt and my secret ingredient, black pepper. Yep, that’s right! It adds such great depth of flavor and plays nicely with the other warm spices. I order most of my organic spices from Thrive Market. They come in bulk packaging and are much cheaper than what you find in the grocery store.
Cream Cheese – for the sweet and slightly tangy frosting.
Powdered Sugar – a few cups for the frosting.
Pretty simple. I absolutely love this recipe and I hope that you do too!
Soft and chewy gingerbread cookie bars with cream cheese frosting. The perfect alternative to individual gingerbread men!
For the gingerbread cookie dough:
- 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
For the cream cheese frosting:
- ¼ cup of softened butter
- 4 oz softened cream cheese
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ tsp of vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Don’t forget to decorate with plenty of holiday sprinkles!
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13×9 baking pan with parchment paper. Use two sheets, one across the length and one across the width. Leave a bit of overhang so you can use it as a sling to lift the cooled bars out of the pan after baking.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), cream butter and brown sugar till light and fluffy. Add in molasses, egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and black pepper.
- Carefully add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredient mixture and stir until just combined into a soft, sticky dough. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and ensure that everything is well incorporated.
- Turn dough into parchment lined baking dish and use floured fingers to gently press the dough all the way to the edges in an even layer.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. The bars will look puffed and set when they are done and deflate as they cool.
- While the bars are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting.
- Add ¼ cup of softened butter and cream cheese to a clean bowl of the stand mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. Add in vanilla, powdered sugar and pinch of salt and beat until everything is well combined and smooth.
- When the bars are completely cooled, Use the overhanging parchment paper to gently lift the slab of bars out of the baking dish and place on a flat surface.
- With an offset spatula, spread the cream cheese frosting in an even layer all the way to the edges of the bars.
- Decorate with lots of sprinkles and use a sharp knife to cut the slab into 24 even sized bars.
Gingerbread cookie bars are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Keywords: gingerbread cookies, gingerbread cookie bars, frosted gingerbread cookies, gingerbread bars with cream cheese frosting, holiday brownies, holiday cookies, christmas cookie recipe, christmas gingerbread cookies, christmas brownies, cookie bar recipe, cookie bars