Stacked anywhere from four to 14 cookies high, these Christmas Gingerbread Trees are festive and fun. Their 3D shape allows them to stand tall on any dessert table, or could be used to decorate individual place settings at your holiday feast. Much quicker and way less complicated that assembling an entire gingerbread house, these cookie trees come together rather easily during this busy time of year. Featuring homemade gingerbread cookies, the festive treats taste just as good as they look, too!
For gingerbread cookies, in a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and all of the spices together. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and brown sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the corn syrup and molasses and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in two additions. Mix until combined. If the dough seems dry, add in the water and mix until the dough comes together to form a ball. Gather the dough and form into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature until it is soft enough to roll out (5 to 10 minutes). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats. Set aside. Dust a clean work surface lightly with flour. Roll out the dough until about ¼-inch thick and cut out with various sizes of star cookies cutters. Baked the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges turn slightly golden. Repeat with the remaining dough. Completely cool the cookies on a wire rack before decorating.
For royal icing, place the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Gently stir to combine. Add the water and mix on medium-low until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and continue to mix until stiff peaks form, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the corn syrup and vanilla or lemon (if using) and mix to combine. If the icing is still rather thick and clumps together, add more water (a teaspoon or two at a time), until the icing holds stiff peaks.
To assemble, thin the royal icing with water until the desired consistency is reached (for piping, it should resemble the same consistency as toothpaste). Decorate the tops of the cookies, as desired. While the icing is still wet, build the Christmas Gingerbread Trees by stacking the smaller stars on top of the larger stars. Use a dab of icing in-between cookies to secure as needed. Attach a small star to the tops of each tree.