Not Martha

Partridge In A Pear Tree, In Gingerbread

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Ultimate Bakers Dozen Cookie Exchange

This project is part of the Baker’s Dozen Ultimate Cookie Exchange. Thirteen bloggers are joining up to share cookie recipes, and there are six giveaways sprinkled among the posts so be sure to visit them all.

I decided to take a literal interpretation for my Christmas cookie project, and I also wanted to try making a cookie that stands up on its own. A partridge in a pear tree was just perfect.

The good news is that I have found you one kick ass structural gingerbread recipe. The bad news is that while it’s technically edible, you wouldn’t want to eat it as it’s very tough and could potentially do some damage to your teeth.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

I’ll be honest here, I wish I could do this over. It was my first time working with serious royal icing and I didn’t quite get the hang of it. After way too many batches of gingerbread that couldn’t hold up under it’s own weight I ran out of time and the icing technique suffered.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

I made separate pears and used royal icing (recipe below) to glue them on.

Besides the pears there are only three pieces:

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

I’m trying to show how they fit together:

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

The tree pieces fit together to hold everything up, and the bird perches on the branch that extends out front. The tallest part of the tree is just over nine inches tall.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Here is an overhead view:

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Gingerbread recipe, printable pattern, tips, and many, many pictures when you click MORE.

I have created a zip file of four PDF pages of patterns for you to download. Print it on cardstock, if you have any, and cut out to use templates on your dough. One of the pages has 3-inch pears which you can make using a more edible gingerbread recipe (this gingerbread cookie recipe at is delicious) and serve next to your pear tree.

Download the zip file by clicking right here.

This makes thin and fantastically stiff and strong dough. The recipe is Loreta’s Favorite Gingerbread Dough, with a few changes made by You can double the recipe for more dough. To make it more fragrant double the spices and use Blackstrap molasses.

Favorite Gingergread Dough for Making Things

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons molasses
1 egg, beaten

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine flour, salt, and spices. Mix with a wisk to combine. Put the dough hook on the mixer.

In medium saucepan, melt shortening on stove over low heat. When shortening is half melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until completely melted. Add sugar, molasses and beaten eggs. Mix well and quickly (to prevent eggs from cooking). Add molasses mixture to flour mixture, running mixer on low speed. Dough will be soft. Divide into two halves, flatten into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, overnight if possible.

When dough is firm enough to handle, remove from refrigerator and let sit until room temperature (about an hour). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prevent aluminum foil from slipping, wipe counter with wet sponge then smooth aluminum foil over damp counter. This will prevent the foil from slipping while dough is being rolled out.

Working with one half of the dough, roll onto aluminum foil that has been sprinkled with flour. Sprinkle dough with flour to prevent dough from sticking to rolling-pin.

You’ll be first cutting out the two tree pieces and baking them at the same time, then roll out and cut the partridge and pears to be baked together as they won’t need as much time in the oven.

Roll dough to about 1/8” thickness. Sprinkle more flour on the dough. Place the two tree pattern pieces onto dough and cut-out dough pieces. Remove excess dough pieces, knead together and wrap in plastic, you’ll be using it in a moment to make the bird and pears. If your pattern has stuck to the dough at this point, refrigerate for 15 minutes, it should be easier to remove the pattern pieces. Lift entire piece of foil and place on large cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in fridge for 15 minutes to allow dough to firm up again.

Place cookie sheet in oven. Check frequently to prevent burning. Bake until golden brown. Large pieces may bake as long as 14 minutes. Smaller pieces might take 6 – 7 minutes. Unused dough may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks (bring to room temperature and knead briefly to use again). For the Partridge In A Pear Tree I baked the large tree pieces for 16 minutes, and the bird and pears for 8 minutes.

When dough pieces are done baking, remove baking sheet from oven. Make sure the slots are still straight, fixing them now if needed while the dough is soft enough and still on the cookie sheet. Quickly lift foil from baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool. If pieces have curled up during baking, while still warm, gently push edges down to lay flat. When gingerbread pieces are completely cool carefully peel the tin foil off the bottom.

I did my best to get photographs of making the gingerbread, but photographing shiny things on top of shiny things in the weak Seattle winter light was a challenge. Here goes.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

I gathered rolling pin, pattern pieces, tin foil, all-purpose flour, 1/8th inch rubber bands for my rolling pin, a pairing knife, and (not essential) a small flat-head screwdriver (carefully cleaned) and a blunt pattern marking tool.

Why aren’t we using a silicone baking mat? Mostly because we don’t want to nick it with the paring knife when taking care of small details and risk cutting through to the glass fibers inside.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

The sewing pattern marking tool is like a very small, not sharp pizza cutter. This is not essential but was really handy to have as I made about six versions of this tree. I found it at Joanns, I think it’s made by Dritz, and there was another one in the usual blue plastic as well.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Use a generous amount of flour to keep the dough from sticking, you cannot overdo it here. I used a small strainer to dust the flour, again not essential but fun and gets less flour under your fingernails. Roll the dough out onto tin foil. I made a few versions rolled out onto parchment and found that the parchment allowed the dough to bubble and curl as it cooked. Not sure why, but tin foil worked great.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Before you put down the pattern pieces sprinkle more flour. It’s really frustrating to have everything cut out and discover your pattern pieces are stuck down. If they do get stuck, refrigerate for a while, it should be easier to lift off.

I found I could fit both tree pieces fit onto the first piece of rolled dough. Cut these out and bake them together.

A note about the tree pattern: If you decide to make a fancier tree I do recommend using the slot sizes I’ve created here, they work nicely together and I went through a bunch of trial and error to get the right sizes that didn’t create a tree that wiggled too much. Let me do the hard part for you.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

The pattern marking tool in use. I used the paring knife for smaller places.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

The screwdriver is not essential, but it was handy to use to get the end of the slots nice and square.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Pull the excess dough off the foil while the pattern pieces are still down, this helps keep the shape of your cookie from distorting. Ball up this dough and wrap in plastic, it’ll be enough to make the bird and pears.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

I used a dough cutting tool to square up the slots and the bottoms of the trees. Pay extra special attention to making sure the slots are straight.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

I mainly used the paring knife to cut out the pears and the partridge. Use the paring knife to straighten the birds legs.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

You can use the dough left over from the tree pieces to make the partridge and the pears. If the tin foil is too large to fit well onto your cookie sheet trim it down with your kitchen scissors.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Once the tree pieces are out of the oven, quick, use the dough cutter to make sure the slots are straight and wide enough (1/4 inch). You can also square up the bottoms now. Ok, now you can slide it onto the cooling rack.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

When the pieces are cool, overnight if possible, it’s time to decorate. I used this royal icing recipe from

Royal Icing

1 pound confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons meringue powder
scant 1/2 cup water, more if needed

With an electric mixer on low speed, beat ingredients until fluffy, 7 to 8 minutes. Use immediately, or transfer to an airtight container (royal icing hardens quickly when exposed to air) and refrigerate up to 1 week. Stir well with a flexible spatula before using.

Thin icing as needed by stirring in additional water, one teaspoon at a time. For piping designs, add just enough water that icing is no longer stiff; for floodwork, add water until icing is the consistency of honey.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

Decorate one side of the large tree and the partridge, and both sides of the branch piece that will hold the bird. Be careful not to use too much decoration over the areas where the pieces connect or you might not be able to fit them onto one another. After so much work it will be very upsetting. Just trust me on this one.

I wish I had a chance to do the icing over. The pears and leaves didn’t have as much contrast as I hoped, and I’d rather do the bark detail in a lighter color.

And, yes, I know actual partridges don’t have the little curly thing on their heads. But when I was drawing the shapes out I was thinking of a quail Scott and I came across when hiking on the Marin coast once. It was adorable.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

I used these small squeeze bottles with a coupler to create the designs. It was easy to create detail but I discovered too late it was nearly impossible to get the icing back out to thin it later for filling in color. And I didn’t make enough colored icing to use in halves. Don’t do this. However, if you’re only doing line decorating, or only doing one color, it’ll be fantastic. Like so:

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

This was a trial tree. In just white icing it was a bit boring on it’s own but I like it when surrounded by color.

Partridge In A Pear Tree In Gingerbread

update: I nearly forgot to mention the very perfection of a partridge and pear tree cookie that is this linzer cookie creation from Dessert First:

Partridge In A Pear Tree linzer cookie from Dessert First

Now, go and see what other cookies are part of the Baker’s Dozen Ultimate Cookie Exchange, the others are probably actually edible.

· comments [74] · 12-9-2009 · categories:christmas · links ·

74 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Susan // Dec 11, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Bravo, Megan! I’m going to use the dough and royal icing recipes to make sheep cookie ornaments for our tree this year. I think they will look beautiful with just white icing but where did you get the small bottle you used for the decorating?
    Thanks for the beautiful post.

  • 2 Alyssa // Dec 13, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Beautiful! So what if its not edible… its a perfect party centerpiece! How fun.

  • 3 Today: Fun on the run. « On Tap For Today // Dec 14, 2009 at 7:42 am

    […] Bake a partridge in a (gingerbread) pear tree […]

  • 4 Jenny // Dec 17, 2009 at 11:39 am

    This is beeeyoutiful! I am so impressed! It’s a feat of confectionary engineering. And as someone who has pretty much given up on homemade dough for cut-out cookies, I think maybe the inedible is inevitable.

  • 5 Sean // Dec 18, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I can’t get over the amazing design sensibility of this. The grain on the tree bark is stunning, and the graphical quality of the pears, leaves and partridge are amazing. It has a lovely midcentury modern feel. Kudos to you!

  • 6 DeniseB // Dec 20, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Very clever indeed! So many neat details!

  • 7 one more II « time will tell // Dec 21, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    […] lovely, DIY gingerbread tree […]

  • 8 I kid you not « Basil Exposition // Dec 22, 2009 at 10:40 am

    […] out the full madness/genius here. Tagged with: Gingerbread, Not […]

  • 9 Kristen Rask // Dec 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    wow. that’s amazing megan!

  • 10 Lisa // Jan 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Wilton has a plastic Fondant Cutter/Embosser for less than $5 (cake aisle of Michaels/Jo Ann’s) that is easier on a cutting mat, if you don’t want to use a dull fabric cutter.

  • 11 a tiny gingerbread house that perches on the edge of your mug - NIPA-art // Mar 7, 2010 at 2:30 am

    […] the time I was making a bunch of gingerbread recipes trying to find one that would hold up for my partridge in a pear tree cookie, so a gingerbread house was on my […]

  • 12 Kathy // Nov 19, 2010 at 8:50 am

    My husband and I make gingerbread houses from a recipe and pattern from MSL, of all things. Lots of together fun.

  • 13 Candy from Candied Fabrics // Nov 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Fabulous fabulous FABULOUS!

  • 14 tasteofbeirut // Dec 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I am in awe of your talent, creativity and beautiful photography. Love the last shot of the cookie with the partridge cutout. So elegant, so Martha. :)

  • 15 Daily Funny story » Sunday Sweets: Oh, SNAP! // Dec 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    […] I am thoroughly enamored with this fun edible centerpiece: Submitted by Kimberlee G. and made by not martha […]

  • 16 recette tiramisu // Apr 21, 2011 at 11:59 am

    that’s beautifull

  • 17 Sarah // Nov 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Honestly, you’re brilliant! Excellent website, love the ideas.

  • 18 Wiebke // Dec 7, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! I’m planning to make a gingerbread village as a centerpiece this year and will use your Partridge in the Pear Tree in the middle of my little village.

  • 19 Cirri // Dec 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Muy original! Felicidades!

  • 20 Jessie J // Dec 20, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    What a great idea! I’ve been looking around for some last minute Christmas crafts and this is perfect. It’s going to be hard to resist eating it though. Even if it is teeth breaking hehe

  • 21 sandie fletcher // Dec 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    wow..that is just glorious.. as is the house and the tree.. thanks for the inspiration! the decorating alone makes me want to rush off to kitchen!

  • 22 Partridge In A Pear Tree, In Gingerbread by Megan Reardon // Dec 24, 2013 at 3:15 am

    […] delicious-looking partridge in a pear tree Christmas cookie project is made by Megan Reardon. She made it by following a structural gingerbread recipe and royal icing. Megan is not a […]

  • 23 Jane Dexter // Jun 4, 2014 at 4:22 am

    Hello. I am looking at your photo of your pink small metal cutting wheel. I can’t find one anywhere that isn’t spiked or plastic. I am used to using a scalpel but that drags the icing sugar so I want a title metal cutting disc. Where did you get yours and what is it called. Hope you can help thanks Jane

  • 24 megan // Jun 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Jane – This is a pattern marking tool found in the sewing section of a Joann store. It’s a blunt, flat metal disk that works like a pizza wheel but won’t cut through parchment or mats. The pattern marking wheel is less than 1″ in diameter and works really well for cutting dough like this. It’s far thinner than a plastic fondant wheel cutter and is larger than a metal fondant wheel cutter – meaning it can clear cookie dough that’s been rolled out 1/4″ thick. Fondant isn’t meant to be that thick so the fondant cutters don’t need to be as large.

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