Indulge in the festive season with these delectable Gingerbread Cookie Bars! A blend of rich molasses, warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and a luscious cream cheese frosting makes these bars a perfect treat for holiday gatherings.
Every year, as the leaves begin to turn and the air grows crisp, my kitchen transforms into a wonderland of holiday scents and flavors. Among the cherished recipes is my family’s Gingerbread Cookie Bars, a tradition passed down from my grandmother. These bars hold a special place in my heart, reminding me of cozy afternoons spent baking with her, the kitchen warm and fragrant. The sweet blend of molasses and spices would fill the air, a signal that the holidays were near. Today, as I mix the familiar ingredients, each stir of the spoon brings back those treasured memories, and sharing these bars with loved ones has become a heartfelt part of our holiday celebrations.
Why You’ll Love Gingerbread Cookie Bars:
- Effortless Elegance: Unlike traditional gingerbread cookies, these bars are effortlessly simple to make, perfect for those looking to save time without sacrificing taste during the busy holiday season.
- Perfect Texture: The combination of moist, chewy insides with a slightly crisp edge creates a delightful contrast that elevates these bars above your average cookie.
- Festive Flavors: Rich in holiday spices and the deep, sweet tang of molasses, these bars encapsulate the essence of the holiday season in every bite.
- Versatile & Crowd-Pleasing: Ideal for holiday parties, cookie trays, or as a comforting snack, these bars are a sure hit across a wide range of tastes and preferences.
Ingredients Notes For Gingerbread Cookie Bars:
Before we dive into making these scrumptious Gingerbread Cookie Bars, let’s take a moment to chat about the key players in this recipe!
- Molasses: This is the soul of our gingerbread bars, offering a depth of flavor that’s unmistakably holiday.
- Spices: The warming blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves is what gives these bars their signature gingerbread kick. Freshly ground spices will give you the best flavor, but pre-ground works wonderfully too!
- Butter: Opt for unsalted butter to control the saltiness of your bars. If using salted butter, just tweak the added salt accordingly.
- Cream Cheese for Frosting: Make sure it’s softened to room temperature for a smooth, creamy frosting.
- All-purpose Flour: This pantry staple gives the bars their structure. Be careful not to over-measure, or you’ll end up with dry bars.
How To Make Gingerbread Cookie Bars:
Gather your ingredients, preheat your oven, and let’s get baking! These Gingerbread Cookie Bars are not only a delight to make but also a joy to eat. Follow these steps for a fail-proof baking experience.
- Preparation: Start by positioning your oven rack in the middle and preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your 9×13-inch pan with non-stick spray. This ensures your bars come out easily without sticking.
- Dry Ingredients: Whisk together your flour, baking soda, and spices in a large bowl. This step is crucial for evenly distributing those warm spices throughout your bars.
- Creaming Process: In another bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, vanilla, and molasses. This is where we start building the flavor base. The creaming process should result in a light and fluffy mixture, setting the stage for a moist and tender bar.
- Incorporate Egg & Dry Ingredients: Mix in the egg until it’s fully incorporated, then add your dry ingredients. Start slow with your mixer to avoid a flour shower, then increase the speed to ensure everything is well combined.
- Bake: Spread the dough in your prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes. Watch for a darker color and a toothpick with just a few moist crumbs. This is the secret to perfectly baked bars – moist but fully cooked.
- Make the Frosting: While the bars cool, whip up your cream cheese frosting. Cream together the cream cheese and butter, then add the powdered sugar and vanilla. The goal is a creamy, spreadable frosting that will complement the bars.
- Frost & Finish: Once the bars are cool, spread the frosting over them, add sprinkles if you’re feeling festive, slice, and serve! The creamy frosting on top of the spiced bar is what holiday dreams are made of.
Your Gingerbread Cookie Bars, assuming they aren’t all gobbled up on the first day, can be stored in several ways.
- Room Temperature: Keep them in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The frosting may soften a bit, but they’ll still be delicious.
- Refrigerator: In the fridge, they last up to a week. This is a great option if you prefer your frosting a bit firmer.
- Freezer: For long-term storage, freeze the bars without the frosting. Wrap them tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Just thaw and frost when you’re ready to serve!
Variations and Substitutions:
Every baker has their own twist, and this Gingerbread Cookie Bars recipe is no exception! Here are some fun ways to mix it up:
- Gluten-Free Flour: Swap the all-purpose flour with your favorite gluten-free blend for a celiac-friendly treat.
- Spice Mix-Up: Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your taste. Love ginger? Add a bit more. Not a fan of nutmeg? Reduce it or leave it out.
- Vegan Adaptation: Use plant-based butter and a flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2.5 tbsp water) for a vegan version.
- Frosting Flavors: Experiment with different frosting flavors like orange zest or a dash of cinnamon for an extra festive twist.
- Nutty Add-Ins: For an added crunch, sprinkle chopped pecans or walnuts on top of the frosting.
Gingerbread Cookie Bars
For the Cookie Bars:
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar firmly packed
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 6 ounces cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional: holiday sprinkles for decoration
Preparing Gingerbread Cookie Bars:
- Oven and Pan Preparation: Position the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease a 9×13-inch jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- Combining Dry Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt. Ensure these ingredients are well combined and set the bowl aside.
- Creaming Butter and Sugars: In a separate large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the melted butter, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, and molasses. Beat these ingredients on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
- Adding Egg and Dry Ingredients: Incorporate the egg into the butter and sugar mixture until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, initially mixing on a low speed to incorporate the flour, then increasing to medium speed until the mixture is well combined, approximately 1 minute.
- Baking: Transfer the dough into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bars have darkened in color and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Preparing Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Creaming Cream Cheese and Butter: In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the softened cream cheese and butter. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
- Adding Powdered Sugar and Vanilla: Gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture. Initially mix on a low speed to incorporate the powdered sugar, then increase to medium-high speed, beating until the frosting is creamy and smooth, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
Finishing the Cookie Bars:
- Frosting and Serving: Once the cookie bars have cooled completely, spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top. If desired, decorate with holiday sprinkles. Slice into bars and serve.