How to Create Gingerbread Houses




Introduction: How to Create Gingerbread Houses

While it's technically "that time of year" again, I think that gingerbread houses are fun for any holiday. I started having gingerbread house parties last Christmas as my way of bringing a family tradition (thanks Aunt Denise!) to my new digs in Los Angeles. It was so much fun I did gingerbread houses again for my Halloween party (they were haunted houses, geddit?), and now I'm working on my second winter gingerbread party. I've been asked how to put together houses so that others can host their own parties, and I'm happy to share the fun!

Step 1: Day One: Shopping

If you're working, going to school, or are just busy, you're going to want to start preparing for your party a few days in advance.

Go over your recipes and take stock of what's in your kitchen. If you're not a big baker, and if you've never made gingerbread before, it's likely you don't have some of the essential tools and ingredients. If you do like to get busy in the kitchen, make sure you have enough of everything. It'll save you 11th hour trips to the store (or save you from having to beg your boyfriend to go for you).

Here's what you'll need for one batch of gingerbread. Each batch will make about two 3" x 5" houses, so plan accordingly.

1 C. (2 sticks) margarine
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. unsulfured molasses
3 eggs
8 - 9 C. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tblsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Spice Mix:
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger

(NOTE: I've found that the below frosting recipes were enough for 7-8 houses.)

Royal Icing (the "cement" icing):
Meringue powder (from bakery or craft stores)
1 lb. powdered sugar

Buttercream frosting (the colored decorating frosting):
1/3 cup of butter or margarine
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
milk (until you get the desired texture)
food coloring

Some of these tools are simple, some are unexpected. Some are also recommendations, but not necessary.

Kitchenaid mixer (nice if you can get it, but it's not necessary)
multiple pastry bags / tips
mixing bowls
cookie racks
paper plates (large, sturdy plates for houses)
Saran Wrap
cookie cutters (if desired)
cookie sheets
oven mits
electric mixer
serving bowls
paper towels
measuring spoons
measuring cups
Ziploc bags
rolling pin
cutting board
long sewing straight pins w/ plastic balls on the ends
candy, sprinkles, etc. for decorating

Once you have everything you need...

Step 2: Day Two: Making the Dough

You're going to want to make several batches of dough, and then leave it in the fridge overnight to chill. This step, depending on how many batches you make, can take several hours to a whole evening.

Just follow the recipe below...

Gingerbread dough:
1 C. (2 sticks) margarine
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. unsulfured molasses
3 eggs
8 - 9 C. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tblsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Spice Mix:
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger

Cream margarine and sugar until smooth. Add molasses and eggs. Beat until smooth. Sift 3 cups of flour with the baking soda, salt and spices. Gradually beat into the egg mixture. Add 5 to 6 more cups of flour, beating until just mixed (access to a good stand mixer like a Kitchenaid is extremely helpful!). Dough will be heavy and stiff. Form into 2 rectangles, wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours (or overnight, in this case).

I also like to roll the gingerbread into sheets and stack them in the fridge for easy re-rolling and cutting the next day. Be very careful to wrap it thoroughly in Saran Wrap so that it doesn't dry out.

Step 3: Day Three, Pt. 1: House Templates

Using the picture below as a guide, cut your house templates out of stiff paper or cardboard. Make several sets in order to save time rolling dough; you can use multiples to squeeze in as many pieces as you can from one rolled batch of dough. Be sure to label each template because they look very similar, and be sure to count how many pieces of each you're cutting out. You don't want to end up with five houses but three roofs!

(Note: picture below does not have the same measurements as depicted. Please use this as a guide for your own template; don't just print it out.)

Step 4: Day Three, Pt. 2: Cutting and Baking Pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or use vegetable spray on your baking sheets.

Roll out dough directly onto your workspace to 1/8" thick. I like it on the thick side; it makes for softer, chewier gingerbread and it's easier to build into a house. (If you're doing more advanced gingerbread architecture you'll want to go for the thinner gingerbread, but for now we're keeping it simple.)

Fit as many templates as you can onto the rolled-out dough, and cut them out with a knife. Very carefully transfer the cut pieces onto your baking sheet with a spatula. Make sure the pieces are far enough apart so that they can spread a little while baking.

Bake pieces for 10 to 15 minutes until slightly browned around the edges. Gingerbread will be soft so let it cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove baked pieces carefully from pan and cool completely on a rack.

Take any scraps of dough, mush them into a ball, re-roll the dough, and continue on. If there's not enough dough left for another house, I like to make a few cookies.

Step 5: Day Three, Pt. 3: Royal Icing

Time to make the royal icing, the icing that's going to glue your pieces together. It may be hard when it dries, but it's definitely edible... Not terribly tasty, but whatev.

Follow the recipe below:

Royal Icing
1/2 cup cold water
1 lb. powdered sugar
5 tbsp. meringue powder

Combine ingredients and beat until mixture is consistency of firm marshmallow cream; about 7 to 10 minutes.

Scoop icing into a pastry bag with a medium tip and set aside.

Step 6: Day Three, Pt. 4: Building the Houses

Once the gingerbread has cooled, it's time to build.

Get your sturdy paper plates out, and make a pile of pieces on each. Make sure you have a front piece, back, two sides, and two roofs.

Put the roof pieces aside for a moment. Arrange the front, back, and two sides like in the first picture below.

Keep your pastry bag with royal icing nearby. Now, using the straight pins, place two pieces upright and pin them together. Pipe icing into the seam on the inside and outside. Repeat until all four pieces are upright, pinned, and iced.

Pipe a little bit of icing along the bottom of the walls to cement the house to the plate.

Wait about 20-30 minutes for the icing to harden on the walls.

Carefully place the roof pieces on top of the walls, then pin and ice into place.

Cover in Saran Wrap and let dry overnight.

Step 7: Day Four: Party!

It's the day of the party! Yay!

Lay out your candy and other decorating goodies. Make sure you have plenty of non-sweet snacks for your guests as well.

Unwrap the houses and remove all the pins.

And finally, make your decorative icing. Follow the recipe below:

Buttercream Frosting
1/3 cup butter or margarine
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Food coloring

In a mixing bowl beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in the 1/4 cup milk and the vanilla.

Slowly beat in the remaining powdered sugar. Beat in additional milk, if needed, to reach spreading consistency.

Divide the white frosting into separate bowls, and tint each bowl with different food coloring. Beat until the color is mixed.

Place on the table with your other decorating treats, and wait for your guests to arrive!

Have fun, and don't fall into a diabetic coma!

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    Duct Tape Dude

    I might make a gingerbread Companion Cube! Its been a week after beating the game and im still thinking with portals XD!!!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    We're making these in foods class! My group is making a castle. :-D

    yummy;) i hope that my schools foods class lets the students take some "home" then i'll get some in geometry class


    14 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet! (no pun intended) I made lots of gingerbread lately but never had the idea to actually build a house. I'm wondering whether it would be possible to bake the gingerbread in a "house" shape instead of assembling with royal icing. Some sort of support structure would be required. I thought it might impress some of my civil eng friends.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    I've always had more fun building gingerbread houses compared to eating them... which lead me to discover just how fire retardant these things actually are :p


    14 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice and creative. Great instructable on how to cook it and cut it out! My sister cheated last week and made little redneck trailers out of icing and graham crackers complete with clothes line, car on blocks, and couch on the front porch!! Endless possibilities!!