Oktoberfest Gingerbread Hearts

Oktoberfest may be canceled this year, but it always holds a special place in my home. That’s why I couldn’t let the festival go by without doing something. I’ve made traditional Oktoberfest gingerbread hearts as an easy, fun, and delicious way to celebrate.

I’m not sure how many people are aware that Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration to honor the would-be king and queen. And still so much of that romantic spirit exists in the festival today! From the sweeping bunting to the draped florals, and of course, the Oktoberfest gingerbread hearts.

The gingerbread heart cookies aren’t part of the original Oktoberfest celebrations, but they’ve certainly become a staple in modern times. The cookies are made of a harder gingerbread to keep it sturdy when they are strung with ribbon and hung. Each heart is covered with intricate piping and designs using royal icing.

I had so much fun piping these Oktoberfest gingerbread hearts! I was nervous about the flavor of the icing messing with the gingerbread. If I’m being honest, I’m not a big fan of the taste of royal icing. It’s too overpowering, and I always find myself using less of it than I would want to just to avoid tasting it. But the faux royal icing I used on these gingerbread heart cookies was perfect.

It’s a mix of powdered sugar and meringue powder, so it gets all the strength and quick-drying effects from the meringue powder but all the flavor from the powdered sugar. In the end, it had a really strong vanilla and sugar flavor, which was perfect for the gobs of icing I knew I was going to put on these gingerbread heart cookies.

Normally, Oktoberfest gingerbread hearts are massive, almost the size of dinner plates, but I couldn’t track down a cookie cutter that size. And I didn’t want to deal with the struggle of getting the cookie hard enough, baked enough, and somehow manage to not burn it. I settled on a four-inch cookie cutter, but it was large enough to fit my favorite phrases, so I think it turned out perfectly.

I’m trying to save some gingerbread heart cookies for next week for my husband and I to enjoy while we have our homemade Oktoberfest celebration, something we do every year since our first anniversary. But these things are so good, I’m not sure I’ll be able to save any!

We’re still hoping to be able to travel to Germany next year for our anniversary to celebrate in-person. In the meant time, these gingerbread cookies will have to do until we can get our hands on official Oktoberfest gingerbread hearts.

For the Cookies

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening, melted

2/3 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup molasses

1 large egg

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, allspice, and cloves, and then set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter, shortening, brown sugar, and molasses. Beat in the egg. Add the dry ingredients in small batches.
  3. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic, and form 1/2-inch discs. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Lightly flour the surface of your counter and roll out one piece of dough to 1/4-inch thick. Dust with flour as needed to get rid of stickiness. Cut into large heart shapes. Brush off excess flour and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  6. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with second piece of dough.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Icing

Ingredients

4 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons meringue powder

5-6 tablespoons water

Gel food coloring, as desired (traditional colors include red, blue, yellow, green)

Directions

Whisk the powdered sugar with the meringue powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat in water, one tablespoon at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form and it’s a pipable consistency. Mix in food coloring as desired. Fill pastry bags fitted with tips. Decorate the gingerbread cookies.

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