It’s no secret that Queen Elizabeth II has a serious sweet tooth—her wedding cake was nine feet tall and weighed nearly 500 pounds (to be fair, it was fruitcake, which is dense). And, according to the royal family’s former chef Darren McGrady, she loves chocolate biscuit cake, and has been known to “take a small slice every day until eventually there is only one tiny piece.” So it’s no surprise that the queen insists on serving gingerbread cookies during the holidays, and luckily, the notoriously private royal has allowed her pastry chefs to share their signature recipe.
In a blog post titled “Christmas Ginger Bread Biscuits” (and a series of Instagram photos) the Buckingham Palace pastry chefs walk us through the cookie-making process, from prep work to finishing touches. So, what’s the secret to cookie dough fit for a queen? “It’s always best to let the dough rest, so it’s great if you can make the dough the night before,” one anonymous chef writes on the royal family’s website. “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.”
This particular recipe uses all of the gingerbread cookie staples (brown sugar, flour, ginger, butter), as well as “mixed spice”—a blend that typically incorporates cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves or allspice. And, as a special touch, the royal pastry chefs place a small hole near the top of each cookie so they can be strung with ribbon and hung as Christmas ornaments once the icing dries.
Fun fact: while Queen Elizabeth II prefers her cookies in the shapes of hearts, stars, and bells, gingerbread men can be traced back to Queen Elizabeth I. The 16th-century monarch was known for her elaborate dinners, where a designated royal gingerbread maker would create cookies modeled after foreign dignitaries and people in her court.