Gingerbread Houses

Assembling and decorating a gingerbread house is one of the sweetest traditions of the season.

With our tested recipes, easy-to-follow template, and decorating suggestions, it’s not so difficult–just gather your supplies, get creative, and have some fun!

Children's Gingerbread House

Photo by momma Beth

Planning and Building

Supplies:

  • House template
  • Gingerbread dough and royal icing: double the recipe
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie sheets
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plywood base or heavy cardboard, doubled to support the house
  • Pastry bags and decorating tips
  • Butter knife, palette knife, or flat sandwich spreader
  • A damp cloth for quick clean-ups
  • Glue gun (optional)

Helpful Tips:

  • Allow a weekend to complete the house
  • Have all supplies ready
  • Read all instructions before you begin: you will need to double the gingerbread recipe to have enough dough
  • Allow the gingerbread to cool thoroughly before assembling
  • Make icing ahead of time
  • Keep icing covered with a clean damp cloth (touching icing) and plastic wrap at all times to prevent it from drying out
  • Adjust the consistency of the icing by adding more egg whites if the icing is too dry or more powdered sugar if it is too wet. It should be thick and stiff
  • Prepare the base for your house by covering plywood or heavy cardboard with several layers of foil
  • Use canned goods from the pantry to stabilize the walls during assembly; remove them before adding the roof
Children's Gingerbread House

Photo by Padudu

The House That Jack Built

  • Visualize the “yard.” Will you have a walkway? Trees? A fence? Set the house at an angle for a pleasing presentation
  • To assemble, apply a generous amount of icing to one side of the joint and press an un-iced side to the edge and hold until set (See step-by-step articles for more photos)
  • Apply icing-glue to the bottom of your pieces for more stability; adhere them to the foil/plywood base
  • Allow 30 minutes for the front, side walls, and back of house to dry and firmly set before adding the roof
  • You’ll need an extra pair of hands when adding and securing the roof
  • Allow house to dry completely before decorating: a minimum of 4 hours, preferably overnight

Problems?

  • Don’t worry; you’ll be able to fill gaps and cover errors later with more icing and decorations
  • A fool-proof assembly method, if you’re not going to eat the gingerbread, is to use a glue gun. Use icing to finish the look
  • Icing can be kept at room temperature overnight. Be sure it is well-covered with a damp cloth and plastic wrap

Decorating Supplies:

  • Royal icing
  • Pastry bags and tips
  • Cookie sheets
  • Assorted candy
  • Butter knife or flat sandwich spreader
  • Tweezers
  • Knife
  • Super glue (for adult use only; do not use if you will be eating the gingerbread house or candy)
Children's Gingerbread House

Photo by mari

Helpful Tips:

  • Have a plan for decorating. Think about how you want your house to look and what candy should go where
  • Have candy and decorating supplies ready
  • Save time and make accessory items ahead of time: snowmen, trees, carts, candles, and fences can be made while you’re waiting for the house to dry
  • Apply candy decorations by putting a small dab of icing to the underside of the candy and hold it in place until set
  • Use extra dough scraps for decorative cut-outs
  • Keep the tip of your pastry bag covered with a damp cloth in between decorating to prevent hardening
  • Use tweezers to adhere small items to the house
  • You may need super glue to adhere top-heavy items, like lamp posts

Storage

  • Moisture is a decorated cookie’s worst enemy: display the house in a cool dry place
  • Cover at night to seal out moisture and dust; lightly drape a clean trash bag over the house and base
  • Gingerbread houses can last up to a year, if you choose not to eat them. Spray with a clear lacquer for maximum protection
  • Cover with a plastic bag and store in a box with some Styrofoam “peanuts” to protect house from damage

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