With a modern twist on a holiday classic, these Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies use a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and peppercorns in place of traditional ground ginger for an added kick of warm, holiday spice!
Gingerbread cookies are probably my favorite holiday treat. They’re simply classic. I love how clean and pretty they look on a plate with beautiful white frosting piped around the edges. They’re so versatile — easily transitioning from a late morning snack paired with a cup of coffee or perfectly fitted for a light dessert after a heavy holiday meal. My love for gingerbread inspired me to create these Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies.
My Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies encompass all the classic elements of the gingerbread you find around the holiday season — molasses, crisp yet slightly chewy texture, and spice but with the substitution of Chinese Five Spice, the heat of the cookies are a bit warmer and spicier than the classic. There’s also a dab of honey added with the molasses that adds a hint of ‘something sweet’ when you bite into the gingerbread! I love the touch of honey combined with the Chinse Five Spice!
If you’re unfamiliar with Chinese Five Spice, it’s a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and schezuan peppercorns. It’s also a staple in Chinese cooking used to add a sweet, savory element to dishes. It’s also often incorporated as part of a marinade or dry rub when cooking meat. You may also find Chinese Five Spice in rice or vegetable dishes. When added to baked goods, it brings warmness which is why it works well in place of ground ginger in these Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies.
I was able to locate Chinese Five Spice in the bulk spice section at HEB here in Austin but if you’re unable to find it at your local grocer, you can easily make the mixture on your own or order this one from The Savory Spice Shop.
If choose to make your own for my Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies, simply follow the below instructions from The Kitchn and grind together
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns (or generic peppercorns)
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon fennel
- 1 cassia or cinnamon stick, broken into a few pieces
When you’re ready to make the Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies, be sure to plan a few days ahead of time in order to accommodate a full day of refrigeration after the dough is made. I realize a full day may seem excessive but it’s 100% necessary for all the spices to come together and truly flavor the dough before you roll it and cut it into cookies.
To decorate my Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies, I used a simple royal frosting. I love that royal frosting is so pure and white. It also creates a beautiful contrast against the toasty gingerbread cookies while adding a touch a sweetness to the warmth of the Chinese Five Spice.
- *For the Cookies*
- 3 cups flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ⅓ cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons milk (2% or whole)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- *For the Royal Icing*
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1lb confectioner's sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons lukewarm water
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and Chinese Five Spice and set aside
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the softened butter until light and fluffy
- Add in the brown sugar and cream for 2 minutes
- Scarpe the sides and add in the egg, molasses, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest
- In 3 additions, add in the dry ingredients followed by the 2 tablespoons of milk
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and form it into a flat disc
- Tightly wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours
- To bake, preheat the oven to 375* and line your baking sheets with parchment or silicon mats
- Section the dough into four pieces and roll each section to ¼ inch thickness
- Using cookie cutter, create shapes and place them on the prepared baking sheets, 1-2 inches apart
- Bake for 9-10 minutes
- Remove from oven and cool completely before decorating
- To prepare the frosting, in a large mixing bowl beat together the confectioner's sugar and meringue powder. Slowly drizzle in 3-4 tablespoons of lukewarm water until the desired consistency is reached.
- Place the frosting in a piping bag with a small tip and decorate the cookies.
- Let the frosting set completely before storing the cookies.