All the mouthwatering recipes in our series “The Main Ingredient” have one thing in common: They all contain cookies. This gingerbread “cookie” bread pudding combines gingerbread man cookies with leftover bread, dates, and orange zest for an unbeatable Christmas treat.

For some people, the holidays are a visual time, filled with lights and tinsel and foil-wrapped gifts. For others, it’s all about the auditory — Christmas songs and ringing sleigh bells and the excited chatter of shoppers. And for the cooks and bakers, the olfactory is what gets them into the spirit of the season.

My seasonal joy is sparked not just by enticing aromas in general but the smells you might find in Christmas markets in places like Gothenburg, Sweden. Strolling through the cobblestoned Haga Nygata, for instance, where spruce boughs decorate the doorways and spreads of pastries fill outer walls of shops and vendors, the spice of gingerbread — with an undercurrent of candied fruit, sugary frosting, and evergreen tree needles — assails your senses.

I replicate this unmistakable holiday scent in this bread pudding recipe, which marries large pieces of Buttercream Frosted Gingerbread Man Cookies with leftover bread, chopped dates, and orange zest. As the bread pudding bakes, it emits the culinary equivalent of a Christmas carol from the oven.

All you need to add is a tree for the pine. The pudding — frosted while it’s still warm and topped with pieces of Gingerbread Crispy Pops, if you really want to make it sing — takes care of the rest.

Gingerbread ‘Cookie’ Bread Pudding

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Assembly Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes



  • Preheat oven to 375° F.
  • Grease an 11-x-7-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread evenly throughout the dish.
  • Remove the gingerbread men from the tops of the cookies, and reserve them. Then, break the cookies into large chunks and add them evenly over the top of the bread.
  • Scatter the dates on top of the bread and cookies.
  • In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk, and pour the mixture over the bread, cookies, and dates. Wait for the egg mixture to be absorbed completely by the bread. (Note: If you do not use stale bread, your dish will be too eggy and turn into an omelet on the bottom.)
  • In a small bowl, mix all the spices. Dust them evenly over the top of the bread and cookie mixture.
  • Sprinkle the orange zest over the top of the mixture.
  • Place the gingerbread men decoratively on top (or reserve them to garnish the pudding after baking and icing).
  • Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for another 5 minutes or until the pudding is puffy and golden brown on top.
  • Remove the pudding from the oven and let it rest for 8 to 10 minutes. Ice it with the cream cheese frosting while it's still warm enough for the frosting to melt into the pudding and make a glaze. Optional: If you want to add a touch of chocolate and texture to the pudding, garnish the frosting with the chopped pieces of Gingerbread Crispy Pops. Slice and serve.

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Jen Karetnick is a Miami-based food writer, dining critic, and author of 20 cookbooks, guidebooks, and more. She co-writes the garden-to-table newsletter "Dishtillery" with her sister.

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