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Here Is the Royal Family's Favorite Holiday Cookie—And How to Make It

Here Is the Royal Family's Favorite Holiday Cookie—And How to Make It

It's much healthier than you'd think—and (of course) we have tips to make it even lighter.

Even though it's still a week away, many of us are gearing up for Christmas in our kitchens—even Buckingham Palace has gotten to work on holiday feasts. And in the spirit, they have revealed the recipe for the royal family's favorite cookie.

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This week, the royal pastry chefs at Buckingham Palace graced us all with their recipe for "Ginger Bread Biscuits," which are the British take on classic gingerbread cookies. According to the Royal Family's official Instagram account, these simple treats are Queen Elizabeth's favorite and loved by the rest of the household as well. To make them more special, pastry chefs personalize each cookie with a family member's name using a small amount of icing (just a taste). These cookies are beautifully simple—and the pastry chefs behind the recipe say they are sturdy enough to actually hang on your Christmas tree, as well.

The royal recipe for gingerbread cookies is actually pretty straightforward: You'll need self-rising flour, unsalted butter, ground ginger, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, and something called "mixed spice"—which is British speak for a common mixture of cinnamon, cloves, ground nutmeg, and ginger. (It's actually pretty similar to pumpkin spice.) According to the BBC, this spice mix can usually be found bottled in supermarkets in the United Kingdom, but is also easy to make at home.

We love the royals' gingerbread cookie recipe (which is available here), but there are a few ways you can make this classic holiday cookie even healthier: Cooking Light's modern take on gingerfolk cookies contains many of the ingredients used in the royals' version, with only 126 calories per cookie.

More on how the Royal Family stays fit:

While our "gingerfolk" dough can be prepped in just 20 minutes, home cooks can also prep fresh gingerbread squares in 10 minutes, which contains 178 calories, 7g of fat, and 15g of sugar per serving.

If you're vegan or can't use milk, there's also a way to cut out dairy and still enjoy the classic flavors of a gingerbread dessert with our mini gingerbread cakes recipe.


Here Is the Royal Family's Favorite Holiday Cookie—And How to Make It - Recipes

You may not be able to spend Christmas with the British royals at Buckingham Palace, delivering gag gifts to Prince Harry and chasing the queen’s corgi-dachshund mixes around the tree. But you can now make the royal family’s gingerbread cookie recipe at home. On Dec. 16, the royal family’s official Instagram account shared a photo of the simple yet elegant cut-out treats, as well as a link to the recipe so followers can bake their own.

The Brits tend to call cookies “biscuits,” and apparently the royals never use one word where two will do, so the recipe is labeled "Christmas Ginger Bread Biscuits." Name aside, they’ll look familiar to anyone who’s ever decorated gingerbread cookies, no matter their nationality. The royal cookies are cut into traditional shapes, including stars, bells, hearts and circles that are decorated like tree ornaments.

“Together the team in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace will create thousands of sweet treats and canapés for the receptions hosted at the Palace throughout the year – but Christmas time is especially busy,” the Instagram post reads. “These Ginger Bread Biscuits can even be personalized and are sturdy enough to hang on your tree as decorations.”

The recipe mentions the cookies being provided at holiday receptions, but we like to think that somewhere over the years, Queen Elizabeth II has snacked on one or two of them.

The recipe itself, provided on the family’s official web site, is pretty simple. American cooks, take note: The measurements are provided by weight, and in grams, so have your kitchen scale or an online converter handy if you’re used to American measures.

“It’s always best to let the dough rest, so it's great if you can make the dough the night before,' reveals one royal pastry chef. “You can also roll out the dough, cut the shapes and put them in a freezer for an hour. This ensures they keep their shape nicely.”

Last year, the palace kitchens provided another holiday recipe, for mince pie. That’s still online if you’re interested in more royal baking. The royal pastry chefs say they make over 1200 mince pies for each of the many official holiday receptions – you’ll probably be satisfied with 1199 fewer. And even the royals can’t live on sweets alone. Here’s a look at what the British royal family really eats at home.


The Royal Chef Walked Us Through Kate Middleton's Very Favorite Recipe

Darren McGrady was the personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Princess Diana, and Princes William and Harry&mdasha family with notoriously specific food needs&mdashfor 15 years. In 1998, he moved to the U.S.A. where he wrote best-selling cookbooks and founded Eating Royally, a fine-dining catering service based in Dallas, TX.

In this limited series, Chef McGrady walks Delish through the royals' favorite recipes from his Dallas test kitchen. while spilling all the most glorious royal tea. First up: Her Royal Highness Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge. Or, you know, Kate Middleton.

If the world knows anything about Kate, it's that she has managed to balance all the trappings of a royal lifestyle with the ability to stay pretty freaking normal on all fronts. A prime example? She could have current royal chefs cater her every meal, but she instead chooses to grocery shop and cook for her family on her own. Another example? She loves desserts she can make on her own.

Enter: Chef McGrady's sticky toffee pudding.

The chef starts by coating chopped dates with baking soda, as the base works to soften the chewy fruit. In the meantime, he melts Muscovado sugar for what will ultimately become a sticky-sweet glaze.

While that does its thing, he puts together a somewhat typical cake batter&mdasheggs, butter, flour, sugar, and the like. That now-liquid date combination gets added in as well. Chef then coats the bottom&mdashor top, I guess?&mdashof a deep cake tin with the Muscovado stickiness before pouring in the newly formed batter. Parchment paper and aluminum cover the tin before he steams the whole creation over high heat for about an hour.

More sauce, whipped cream, and boom: Sticky toffee pudding "how we prepared it at Buckingham Palace." The chef confirms "the Queen loved this at Sandringham Palace when it was really cold outside, when she was at Balmoral Castle, and the rest of the royal family did too." Especially dear Katie Kate, who loves her some sweets in between raw food stages.


How the Royal Family Is Coping With the “Dreadful Shock” of Prince Philip’s Death

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Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attends the Sunday Service at the Royal Chapel of All Saints on April 11 in Windsor. Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

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In the hours after Prince Philip’s death was announced on Friday, Prince Charles was seen leaving Windsor Castle in a silver Tesla, and later the Daily Mail reported that the heir to the throne was with his father when he died. Later that evening, previously recorded interviews with Charles and his siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, aired as a part of the BBC’s special coverage, but it wasn’t until Saturday that Charles broke the family’s silence with a message filmed from the steps of Highgrove House, his country home in Gloucestershire.

“My dear papa was a very special person, who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him,” he said. “From that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that. It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time.”

On Sunday, Andrew went to a church service at the Chapel of All Saints near his house in Windsor. The press congregated around the church, and Andrew used the opportunity to make his first public statements since his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and the controversy over a BBC interview led him to step down from his role as a senior royal.

Andrew is very close to Queen Elizabeth, and his statements gave the most insight into her feelings after losing her husband of 73 years. “I feel very sorry and supportive of my mother, who’s feeling it, I think, probably more than everyone else,” he said. “The Queen, as you’d expect, is an incredibly stoic person. She described his passing as a miracle. She’s contemplating, I think is the way that I would put it. She described it as having left a huge void in her life, but we, the family, the ones that are close to her, are rallying around to make sure we are there to support her.”

A source who spoke to the Daily Mail elaborated on the relationship between Andrew and the queen. “Despite the fact he’s, to all intents and purposes, finished as a working royal, he’s still extremely close to the Queen. He talks to her almost on a daily basis,” the source said. “He will be extremely supportive to her in the coming days, weeks and months. He’s still her favourite son, despite all the problems. He will be right there for her at this darkest hour.”

The source added that Andrew is still hoping that he’ll be able to improve his reputation and return to royal duties. “He still harbors thoughts that he can make a comeback. He genuinely thinks that’s possible,” the source said. “He still does believe in his heart of hearts that he can return and that time will be a healer. He thinks he will be able to resume royal duties at some point and save his reputation.”

A senior royal courtier told the Mail that a comeback is unlikely. “Prince Andrew might hope that this sad situation changes things, but Prince Charles is adamant there is no way back while allegations hang over him,” the courtier said. “He spoke on camera in a private capacity because this is a family event. No one can stop him doing that.”

Over the course of the weekend, the rest of Philip’s children spoke out. On Saturday, Edward and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, were captured on camera as they left Windsor Castle after visiting with the queen. “The queen has been amazing,” Sophie said to a correspondent for Sky News.

Princess Anne released a statement to the royal family’s Instagram account, along with a photo that shows her laughing with Philip at the 2012 Olympics in London.

“You know it’s going to happen but you are never really ready,” she wrote. “My father has been my teacher, my supporter and my critic, but mostly it is his example of a life well lived and service freely given that I most wanted to emulate.”

Sophie, Edward, and their 17-year-old daughter Lady Louise Windsor joined Andrew on the Sunday trip to church, making it the first royal family gathering after Philip’s death. “It’s been a bit of a shock. However much one tries to prepare oneself for something like this it’s still a dreadful shock,” Edward said. “And we’re still trying to come to terms with that. And it’s very, very sad.”


Watch the video, then check out the full recipe below:

Make a particularly impressive batch? The royal family wants to see your creation, so post a pic with the hashtag #RoyalBakes.

Icing:
2 egg whites
600g icing sugar
Food colouring of your choice!

Biscuit Method:
&bull Preheat the oven to 170 C // 340 F
&bull Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices in a bowl
&bull Add the diced butter and mix until a crumb texture
&bull Add the sugar
&bull Once all of the above is combined, add the egg and golden syrup
&bull Mix until a dough is formed
&bull Roll the dough to a thickness of 5mm
&bull Use biscuit cutters or a paper pattern to cut into desired shape
&bull Place the biscuits on a non-stick mat, or parchment paper and bake on the middle shelf for 12-15 minutes
&bull Bake until the biscuits maintain their shape when touched and are golden in colour
&bull Cool completely before icing

Icing Method:
&bull Add 1 egg white to 600g of icing sugar and beat until smooth
&bull The icing should pipe smoothly and be able to hold when piped as a line
&bull To cover all the biscuits with icing add extra egg white to thin the mixture
&bull Decorate and enjoy!


Royal family releases 2018 Christmas card photos

After 15 years with the royal family, McGrady moved to the U.S. and became a personal chef to a family in Texas. He now runs a catering company in the Dallas area, where he helps his clients with high-end events, teaches cooking classes and leads culinary tours.

With those upper-crust credentials, you might assume that any recipes McGrady shares would be way too fussy for a home cook. But the recipes in his book, "The Royal Chef at Home: Easy Seasonal Entertaining," are approachable for cooks of all skill levels and he includes plenty of time-saving tips and make-ahead options. McGrady told TODAY Food that he wanted to showcase "recipes that were foolproof — to the standard of what I did at Buckingham Palace but doable as a home chef."

Prince William, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — aka the royal "fab four" — will spend Christmas Day together at Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth’s estate in Norfolk. And while McGrady never worked directly for the two couples, he is sharing five recipes that were served for many years to all the royals for Christmas dinner. (We do know, however, they will be served these gingerbread cookies.) Each dish has a connection to the royal family, but you don't need the skills of a royal chef to make them.

With a little planning, you'll be able to relax and enjoy the meal with your friends and family, instead of running back and forth between the kitchen and dining room. After all, says McGrady, your guests aren't coming over for a restaurant-style experience, but "they are coming over for your company."

Potted Shrimp

Potted shrimp — a buttery spread made with chopped, seasoned and cooked shrimp served on toast points — makes an elegant appetizer for your guests to nibble on before dinner. "At Balmoral Castle, the Queen would receive a delivery of Morecambe Bay shrimp each week to be served at afternoon tea with hot crusty Melba toast, so the spicy shrimp butter would melt into the toast," says McGrady. He calls it the "ultimate comfort food after a chilly day in the hills."

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon may be French in origin but it's an English royal family favorite. McGrady would make it with a special twist by using venison from royal shooting parties around Christmas and the New Year. "Shooting lunches at Sandringham and Balmoral Castle always had to be hearty meals — lots of stews with mashed potatoes," said McGrady. "Beef bourguignon could be made with beef or with venison off the estate." He added that the Queen preferred the latter. McGrady and his team would make a batch and send it out with the shooting party in special hunting boxes designed to keep the food warm.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Onion and Bacon

"The Balmoral Castle gardens were amazing and provided fresh incredible produce to the kitchens daily," said McGrady. This simple dish of Brussels sprouts cooked with onion and bacon is the perfect example of the type of dish he'd make with the bounty from the local produce. And "anything tastes good with onions and bacon," added the chef. But if you want to be really true to a royal feast, you'll have to omit one ingredient from this recipe: "Of course, we couldn't use garlic in the recipe when the Queen was at the table because she did it like it," said McGrady.

Kale and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

"We served bubble and squeak — a traditional British dish of mashed potatoes mixed with chopped cabbage — a lot at Buckingham Palace," said McGrady. "That inspired me to create this dish using healthy and trendy kale." The mashed potatoes can be made ahead: Simply rewarm before serving (you can heat them in a casserole in the oven or in bowl set over simmering water).

Rustic Date and Apple Pastry

This easy date and apple dessert is another dish inspired by a royal retreat. "Sandringham House had its own apple orchard and would supply the royal kitchens," said McGrady. "This rustic twist on apple pie would be perfect for Sandringham royal picnics." And don't be afraid of the word "pastry" (which can be notoriously difficult to navigate) — the dough for this one is simply mixed by hand, rolled out and then shaped with your fingers — it's OK if it doesn't turn out perfect, remember it's supposed to look rustic!


What’s the Difference Between Royal Icing and Regular Icing?

The biggest difference between royal icing and the type of icing you see drizzled over coffee cakes or spread onto cinnamon rolls is the texture. Royal icing dries into a hard, candy-like coating that crunches when you bite into it. It’s designed to harden so you can decorate on top of it with piped royal icing, or even paint it. If you’re looking for picture-perfect sugar cookies, royal icing is the way to go.


What You Need to Make Royal Icing

Aside from a mixing bowl, hand mixer or whisk, and measuring cups, there are a few other tools that will help you to easily decorate with royal icing. First, our food editors recommend using either a small pastry bag ($7.99, amazon.com) or plastic squeeze bottle ($2.99, amazon.com) for piping the icing onto cookies, cakes, or cupcakes. This helps the baker to be more precise when decorating and put the icing exactly where you want it. The other tool that is useful is either a long toothpick or metal cake tester ($4.32, amazon.com), which helps to get the royal icing in every nook and cranny within a designated area.


What Is Royal Icing?

What most folks mean when they say "icing" is really buttercream frosting. Buttercream frosting has a butter base, so it&aposs soft, creamy, and thick enough to spread on large cakes while maintaining its soft, whipped texture.

Royal icing, on the other hand, has an egg white base, so it&aposs thinner while you&aposre working with it and hardens very quickly. It has a smooth candy-like finish which makes it perfect for delicate cookie work. 

Bake some sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies (or both if you&aposre really in the Christmas spirit) and let them cool, then you&aposre ready to get started learning how to decorate cookies with royal icing.

For this royal icing tutorial you&aposll need:

  • Baked and cooled cookies
  • Royal icing (recipe below)
  • 2 small bowls
  • 2 toothpicks
  • 1 piping bag with a #3 tip (a zip top bag with a tiny corner snipped off can work in a pinch or you can make your own pastry bag out of parchment paper using this quick tutorial)
  • 1 icing spreader
  • Sprinkles of your choice

Perfect Sugar Cookies

Sure, chocolate chip is everyones go-to cookie but some of us in the Delish Kitchen have a secret love (or obsession) with sugar cookies. Whether frosted, sprinkled or eaten plain right out of the oven we can't get enough of these cookies. Our recipe is the only one you need because: It holds its shape, it's perfect for decorating and you'll get sharp edges every time.

Do I have to chill the dough?

Yes. Some sugar cookie recipes online pride themselves on not having to be chilled, but we think letting the dough chill out in the fridge is an essential step&mdashespecially when cutting into cute shapes. If you skip this step, the dough will be sticky and could spread while baking. Chilling the dough also helps with rolling out the dough. If you find the dough is too sticky and won't roll, then let it chill a little longer.

Can I use a hand or stand mixer?

Absolutely! Using a mixer can help to speed up your prep time, just be careful to not over whisk your butter and sugar.

How thin do I roll the cookies out?Try not to go too thin! Between 1/4" and 1/8" thickness is perfect. If you go too thin you'll end up with crunchier cookies. We love that these sugar cookies are on the softer side. So we recommend erring on the side of thicker cookies rather than thin. Thicker cookie dough is also easier to pick up and transfer!

Can I make the dough ahead?

Yes&mdashup to three days in advance. Wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake. Before rolling and cutting the dough into shapes, let the dough soften to room temperature.

Do I really need to freeze the dough for 10 minutes before baking?

No, this step isn't essential. But if you want perfect lines on your shapes, this definitely won't hurt.

How do I know when they're ready to take out of the oven?

We always recommend checking the cookies at 8 minutes to see how golden they are (oven temperatures can vary). Once the edges are golden, the cookies are ready. The tops should still be a little soft!

Do I need special tools to decorate the cookies?

Absolutely not! Don't have an offset spatula? Use a butter knife! Don't have a piping bag? Use a plastic bag and one of the corners off! You'll be surprised with the amazing designs you can make with stuff you already have lying around the house.

What's the best recipe for icing sugar cookies?

This is the perfect Sugar Cookie Icing. (Our favorite buttercream for frosting is below!)

Tried this recipe? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Editor's Note: The introduction to this recipe was updated on September 25, 2020 to include more information about the dish.