Gingerbread houses aren't just for Christmas anymore — just ask Hansel and Gretel. You can find DIY gingerbread house kits pretty much anywhere you buy Halloween decorations. But whether you make one from scratch or use a kit, here are some ideas to inspire your own Halloween gingerbread house construction.
- 1 gingerbread house from scratch or from a kit.
- Royal icing (I like Royal Icing II, which uses meringue powder instead of raw egg whites)
- Base for the house - A large platter or sheet pan would work. (I covered a square sheet pan with brown paper)
- Pastry bag with medium writing tip and large star tip
- Small Halloween decorations and toys
Making the gingerbread house from scratch is typically spread over several sessions:
- Mixing the dough and letting it rest
- Cutting out the pieces, baking them, and letting them cool completely
- Icing together the sides of the house and letting the icing harden
- Adding the roof and letting the icing harden
- Make the dough. (I doubled the recipe for Children's Gingerbread House.)
- Roll out the dough and cut pattern pieces. (Just Google "gingerbread house templates: and you'll find tons of downloadable patterns.) I find it easier to work with a small piece of room temperature dough at a time, wrapping the rest of it in plastic to keep it moist. I roll it out to about 1/4" thickness on parchment, then use a sharp paring knife and scissors to cut the pattern, parchment and all. This keeps the pieces from stretching out when you transfer it to a baking sheet.
- Bake following recipe instructions. Let pieces cool completely on a rack so they'll firm up.
- Make royal icing, add food coloring if desired. (I colored mine orange.) If you're not using it right away, cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down onto the surface of the icing to keep it from crusting over.
- Construct the house following recipe instructions.
Now comes the fun part:
- I find that it's easiest to glue the decorations using the pastry bag with a medium writing tip.
- The pieces don't have to fit together perfectly; a thick dab of icing will fill in any gaps.
- If your icing gets a bit too stiff to squeeze through the decorating tip, loosen it up with warm tap water, stirring it in a teaspoon at a time.
- Who says you have to decorate using only candy? I found miniature trees at a craft store, and cut up an inexpensive pumpkin necklace to make "lights" to hang in the tree. My ground cover is black beans. And crumpled foil made a pond on the side of the house. I just wish I could have found a miniature Hansel and Gretel.
Here's my best tip: You put a lot of work into decorating your gingerbread Halloween house, so don't just toss it out. Redecorate it for the holidays instead. A generous coat of white icing and a few new embellishments will easily transform your gingerbread house from witchy to winter wonderland.
Get tips and recipes for baking gingerbread cookies.
Here are more tips and tricks for constructing gingerbread houses, including storage tips if you want to store your Halloween house until you redecorate it for Christmas.