Rather than the hassle of trying to find molasses and other ground spices that are generally unavailable in Cuba, I decided to make sugar cookies and cut them into gingerbread men for a recent Christmas party. I figured that my kids probably wouldn’t like ginger-spiced cookies, anyway. The cookies were a hit. We made two batches, one with whole wheat flour, which gave the cookies a browner, more gingerbread-like complexion. (Putting together the two batches in a tin, I'd inadvertently created a rather accurate picture of how whites and blacks mix in Cuba.) Since the kids liked them equally and the whole wheat ones were healthier, I’ll make them with whole wheat flour in the future.
The cream cheese frosting goes on most of my cakes, and here, it provided an easy way for the kids to participate in the cookie making. We don’t have much in terms of candy in Cuba, but I dug through our pantry and found half-eaten bags of raisins and dried cranberries. A friend donated sprinkles. They were a hit at my daughter’s school Christmas party, where the cookie decorating competed with a visit from Santa, peacocks, a puppet show, and pony rides.
Whole Wheat “Gingerbread” Cookies (adapted from All Recipes’ Best Rolled Sugar Cookies recipe)
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 batch of Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flours, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill the dough for at least one hour (or overnight). You may also freeze the dough and reserve it for later use; if doing so, defrost it on countertop for about 2 hours before using (until dough is soft but still cold).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Roll out the dough in batches on a floured surface to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut them into gingerbread shapes using cookie cutters. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookies sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in a preheated oven, until the cookies start to brown lightly around the edges.
Cool completely before decorating with frosting, sprinkles, and whatever other edible decorations you manage to find!
Cream Cheese Frosting
7 oz. (200 grams) cream cheese, slightly softened
8 oz. (200 grams) butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sprinkles, chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries, or other candy and dried fruit for decoration
Place the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes on medium until well blended and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and sugar, one cup at a time, blending with the electric mixer for 1-2 minutes after adding each cup. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to a week.