Spiced Orange Gingerbread Cookies

W has been asking to listen to the Johnny Depp Christmas song. I inquired as to which that might be. “You know, the one that says ‘let’s be Johnny Depp’!”

I eventually deciphered it: “voices singing let’s be Johnny Depp! the halls with boughs of holly…”

If this weekend had a flavour, it would have been gingerbread. On Saturday, one batch was enough for W and 6 friends/cousins to roll, cut, bake and decorate. The thing I love about working with gingerbread dough: as you reroll and cut the scraps, rather than get dry, tough and crumbly, the dough gets wonderfully smooth and leathery; I’m quite certain no kid has complained about the finished product.

On Sunday, my sister made a whole neighbourhood of gingerbread houses – one for each family to decorate. The were connected and reinforced with molten sugar so as to structurally tolerate a maximum candy load.

On Sunday night, baths were necessary to rid everyone of excess icing.

Gingerbread cookies 1
Gingerbread cookies 1

Spiced Orange Gingerbread Cookies

Recipe link


December 9, 2012

  • Makes: Makes about 3 dozen cookies, or a house or two.


1/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup dark molasses

1/3 cup cold water or orange juice

grated zest of half an orange (optional)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. salt


1In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, molasses, water and orange zest with an electric mixer or by hand until smooth. In another large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, salt and cloves.

2Add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture, stirring by hand just until you have a soft dough. Divide the dough in half, shape each piece into a disc, wrap in plastic and let sit for half an hour, refrigerate for a few days, or freeze.

3When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about 1/8” thick. Cut out with cookie cutters and place about an inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet.

4Bake for 12–15 minutes, until set and slightly darker golden around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes: Makes about 3 dozen cookies, or a house or two.

About Julie

16 comments on “Spiced Orange Gingerbread Cookies

  1. Asiya @ Chocolate and Chillies
    December 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Gingerbread cookies are so cute! Love how kids are involved! I’ve never made gingerbread cookies before and I know my boys would love to do this!

  2. diana
    December 10, 2012 at 1:10 am

    We have done this for many years. We bake the pieces and put them together with hot sugar syrup, then each family member decorates their own house. We usually put together anywhere from 10 to 14 houses. I got the idea from Christmas in November years ago!

  3. brenda
    December 10, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Greetings from Southwestern Ontario! I was given your cookbook a couple of months ago and am working my way through it. LOVE IT! Yesterday I did a post on your book and I am giving away a copy. All the best, Brenda.

  4. CathyH
    December 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Love the Johnny Depp song, although I did have to listen closely for that hidden message. My adult daughter ( you know who ) still loves to make a gingerbread house for Christmas. What a lovely tradition!

  5. Carol S-B
    December 10, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I had not fully appreciated that song until now. Thank you, W: I really like Johnny Depp.
    Mmm, thank you for the gingerbread cookie recipe, Julie. Just the smell of these baking will make our house merry and bright!

  6. Brandy
    December 10, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Love the Johnny Depp song! He really does come up with some good ones! What do you do for icing? Just a mix of icing sugar, butter and milk? I’m obsessed with finding a really good (and easy) gingerbread cookie icing and a sugar cookie icing…

  7. rose
    December 10, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Hi Julie

    That is a classic!!! “let’s be Johnny, Depp the halls with boughs…”
    Never forget that sweet anecdote. I bet it’ll come out every Christmas. Only wish I’d written down all the remarkable things the kids have said.


  8. Jen
    December 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Gingerbread is a holiday staple around our house. i make my Great-grandma’s Gingersnaps, Gingerbread pudding cake, and traditional Gingerbread cookies. Rose-here is a fantastic recipe for icing sugar cookies. I use the dipping method and found that a little patience is required! After dipping, hold the cookie upside down long enough for the excess icing to drip off; once you flip the cookie over and set it on a rack to dry, the icing will smooth out nicely. After the icing is dry, you can add piping details. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/sugar-cookie-icing/detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=best%20sugar%20cookie%20icing&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

  9. Erica B.
    December 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Looks like a lot of fun! Love the addition of orange to the recipe-I have a Gingerbread House day at J’s school soon & was looking for a reliable dough. Thank you for the recipe & Thanks W for the new appreciation of an old favourite :)

  10. Kathy H
    December 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Oh, gingerbread cookies, icing, and kids! I miss those days. I LOLed at your son’s brilliant lyric update to the classic–made my day :)

  11. Maureen
    December 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

    My husband and I have been belting out “Let’s be Johnny DEPP the halls …” all morning as we get ready for the day. I doubt we’ll ever sing it any other way. Love it. Thanks W. Thanks Julie.

  12. Laurie from Burnaby
    December 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    That song is hilarious! I love the gingerbead, too.
    This is a wonderful addition to my holiday,

  13. Barb
    December 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I thought W might be grwoing out of his adorableness now that he is going to school and all but he did it again! Sweet – and not just the brick houses!

  14. The Wom
    December 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    What a great way to get children involved and have them love it too. Gingerbread cookies are awesome!

  15. Jenni K
    December 11, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    What a great way to get children involved and have them love it too. Gingerbread cookies are awesome!

  16. RG
    January 12, 2013 at 8:25 am

    That’s hilarious. How would a 5 year old even know who Johnny Depp is?

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