Hello there, folks! I hope you’re having a lovely holiday season so far. This year, I was feeling rather ambitious in my preparations Christmahanukwanzakaa (as my multicultural friends and I call it), and I resolved to attempt the daunting feat of building my very own gingerbread house. A gingerbread house, after all, is an edible craft, a creative snack, a delicious decoration, and an imaginative way to enjoy Christmas candy and cookies all season long! Have you ever made a gingerbread house before? If so, post some pictures or tips in response to this post!
Here is my finished product. (You can also find it on FaveCrafts.com).
It’s surprisingly easy. Somehow, I thought that constructing a house out of cookies and candy would be difficult, but I built the whole thing and decorated it in one evening.
Some people will tell you that you have to buy a kit or cookie cutters, but I found that lightweight cardboard makes an excellent stencil. I had never made a gingerbread house before, so I experimented with some different shapes and styles by cutting shapes out of a clothing box. Instead of a basic six-piece house with a plain pointed roof, I decided to play around with different roof shapes. Once I had a shape I liked, I labeled all of the pieces and taped them together to make sure that they would fit properly, like so:
I had to re-size and cut out some new pieces as I went along, but it’s best to do this in the cardboard phase so you don’t have to go back and bake new pieces. Once I has completed my cardboard house, I took it apart and began looking for dough recipes.
Because I wasn’t planning to eat the house, I opted for a sturdier structural dough without the traditional spices instead of the classic gingerbread cookie recipes used for Christmas cut out cookies. If you want to eat the house, you can use a recipe like these Gingerbread Cut Out Cookies for Christmas, but you will have to be very careful because it won’t be as hard or solid as the structural dough and will crumble more easily. The ingredients and recipe are listed below. If you want the house to smell like gingerbread, add some allspice, ginger, and cinnamon to taste.
- 2 cups dark corn syrup
- 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cups Crisco
- 9 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for flouring surfaces)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- allspice, ginger, and cinnamon (optional)
- Combine flour, salt, and spices (optional) in a large bowl.
- Combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and Crisco in a medium-sized microwaveable bowl.
- Microwave corn syrup mixture, stirring every minute, until sugar had dissolved and Crisco has melted. Be careful not to overheat or burn the mixture.
- Pour corn syrup mixture over the flour mixture.
- You can stir it together to combine it if you wish, but it’s a really tough dough, and I had a lot of fun squishing it around with my hands until the consistency was smooth. If you’re working with kids, they’ll love this part; just make sure the mixture is cool enough for them to handle without burning themselves.
- Combine until the consistency is even and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add more flour if it’s too sticky. At the end, you should be able to mold it like playdough, or put a smiley face in it like I did. It’s happy to see you!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Store dough in a gallon-sized plastic bag and set aside.
Next, I laid out some parchment paper and floured the surface and a rolling pin. Though this wasn’t in the original recipe, it will make things SO much easier later on.
Once the dough has cooled to room temperature, roll it out on the parchment paper to about ¼-inch thickness. Make sure the dough is smooth and even because it does not rise much and will retain any flaws after it has baked.
Flour your stencils (this is important—the stencils will stick to the dough and peel off the top layer if you skip this part) and lay them on the dough. I used a pizza cutter to cut out the pieces because it made cutting straight lines much easier, but a knife works if you don’t have one. Lift the stencils off of the dough and set aside. Set out a few ungreased cookie sheets, preferably without edges.
In order to make the transfer to the cookie sheets easier, I removed the excess dough from around the pieces of my house and then used scissors to cut the parchment around the individual pieces, so that each piece was on its own square of parchment. Be sure to leave about an inch around the edges of each piece so that you can grab the edges and gently slide or lift it onto the cookie sheet.
I didn’t have any incidents of breakage, but I’m usually a bit of a klutz, so I made a few extras of the larger pieces just in case. I still had leftover dough, so I made some dinosaur cut out cookies too!
If you want to reserve some for another house or something else, you can just toss it into a Ziploc bag until you’re ready to use it again. Don’t refrigerate it—it may get too hard to manipulate.
I baked the pieces of my house for about 12 minutes, just until the dough had set and had barely browned at the edges.
While the pieces were cooling, I prepared my royal icing cement. Here’s a great recipe for Royal Icing from RecipeLion.com.
For that, you’ll need…
- 3 egg whites
- 2 lbs confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl.
- While beating the mixture in the bowl, gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating 1-2 minutes at a time, until the icing forms stiff peaks.
- Cover the icing bowl with a damp towel until you are ready to use it.
Next, I prepared a construction surface. I used a sturdy tray so that I could create a “yard” for my house, and I set out I set out my pieces and assembled them, beginning with the walls.
Fill up and icing bag and set it tip down in a tall glass. Placing one wall flat on the surface, pipe a line of icing along each side of the flat piece. Hold the two adjacent walls in place until the icing has hardened enough for the walls to stand on their own.
At this point, you can stand the pieces up, or you can top them with the final piece, attaching it to the edges of the two adjacent walls to make a complete square wall. I wish that I had done the latter, because I attempted to stand the walls up too soon. They fell apart, and I had to slather more icing on and wait for it to dry. This is fine, but excess icing makes the house look messier.
Once the house is standing, position it on the tray and add the roof pieces, holding each one in place until it can stand on its own. If your pieces start falling apart, stiffen the frosting by mixing in a little more confectioners’ sugar.
While the icing on the house dries, gather candy for decorating. You can use anything you want, but I looked around for recommendations and made up some of my own. Below is a list of all of the items I used and their purposes.
- Stick gum for roof tiles and the front door (I used two colors to give it a more complex and festive look.)
- Hershey’s chocolate bars and graham crackers for the front porch
- Starburst for the chimney (I assembled the chimney before I attached it, sticking the pieces together with frosting and letting them dry before I attached it.)
- Pull-and-peel Twizzlers for window frames
- Regular Twizzlers to line the rooftop and create columns and part of the porch banister
- Cheez-Itz for window panes (If you don’t want to incorporate cheese crackers into your sweet treat, you can melt hard candies and make “glass.”)
- Small licorice squares for a row of bricks around the back of the house
- Thick pretzel sticks for a woodpile and thin ones for the porch banister
- Skittles or M&Ms for Christmas lights and a doorknob
- Sparkly white sugar for snow on the rooftop
- Shredded coconut for snow on the front yard
- Gum drops to line the walkways
- Green fruit slice jellies for a bush or tree
- Sugar Babies for cobble stones
You can also make a mini marshmallow snowball pile or a marshmallow snowman, a sled of graham crackers and a licorice strand, or pine trees and people out of cookies. I had a blast getting creative with all of my decorations, so relax and have fun with it! Happy Holidays!
Check out the 23 Gingerbread House Designs and Recipes eBook for more gingerbread-related craft projects, gingerbread house templates, and tasty candy and cookie recipes for Christmas. Here are some more great gingerbread craft projects from FaveCrafts.com!
Questions? Comments? Tips? Post your ideas in the comments below!