I’m here to talk to you about one of my favorite holiday traditions: Gingerbread Houses. My fascination with these fun little structures began soon after I was married. I started dreaming of the traditions I wanted to begin in my new little family and I knew this would be lots of fun year after year. Gingerbread houses are fabulous! They double as décor and baking delight and can be the highlight of your creative outlet for the holiday season. What only adds to the fun is making a party of it! Every year I host a Gingerbread House Party and invite my favorite people for a confectionary extravaganza that turns out simply unique and beautiful houses. If you’ve never made one of these beauties, this is the year! I’ve got a great recipe for gingerbread dough and icing and a step by step tutorial to get you from baking to decorating in no time flat. Let’s get started!
Start with making the gingerbread house dough. This recipe makes about 2 houses the size of the template we have provided:
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, soda, and allspice. In the bowl of your mixer, beat vanilla, butter and sugar for about five minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy. Mixture will not be completely smooth. Beat in molasses and egg until blended and scrape down the side of the bowl once. Beat in flour mixture on low speed until well blended. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and flatten each piece of dough into a circle. Wrap pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.
*Now let me insert here that I don’t eat my gingerbread houses. They are purely decoration. This being said, I use margarine instead of butter when I bake them. If I were going to make these into cookies I would use butter. But since I am making a good dozen and a half houses every Christmas, I go for the cheaper butter alternative and use margarine.
Mix all ingredients together until thick and firm. Scoop into frosting bags with rubber spatula. This will fill one frosting bag very full. (You can get disposable frosting bags at your favorite craft store in the cake decorating aisle. You may also use a ziplock like I did in the beginning, snipping off a corner. Be aware that you may end up with blowouts from the ziplock popping apart midway through decorating. Otherwise, these can be a good alternative in a pinch.)
Please note, you want your frosting to be very thick and cement like. You will get a VERY thick frosting from this recipe. If it is thinner, you will have trouble getting your house to stay together without holding it in place for a long time. If you would like your frosting to be a bit thinner, you can play around by adding more egg whites or sugar depending on the consistency you want.
If you want the standard cut outs, proceed as specified. If you would like some windows, let’s say, then you will want to line your cookie sheets with parchment paper, cut out the window shape you want, crush up some hard candies like lifesavers or jolly ranchers into teeny tiny pieces and sprinkle them evenly into your window cavity. Then proceed as indicated. The sky is really the limit here. Do whatever the inner architect in you is yearning for.
Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease large cookie sheets or line them with parchment. If you’re doing the candy windows, please use parchment paper. My first time I didn’t and the windows stuck to the pan. It was a mini tragedy.
Once your pans are ready, remove plastic wrap from one piece of dough and place it on a heavily floured surface. Roll out the dough with a thickly floured rolling pin to 1/8 inch thickness. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated until needed.
Gingerbread house template
Click on template for printable version.
Now use the template we included or one of your own design to cut out all your house pieces. If you’re using my template, you’ll need two of each piece. I would print out the template on cardstock, cut it out and then place it directly on the dough and cut out the shape with a paring knife. Using a spatula and careful hand, place shapes onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for ten minutes or until golden brown. Let pieces stand on a wire rack until cooled completely.
I recommend baking the day before you build and letting your pieces cure at room temperature so their nice and firm for building with.
When you’re ready to begin building, make up a batch of Gingerbread House Glue.
When building your house, you want a medium sized hole in your frosting bag. When piping on icicles, you want a smaller hole. Start small when you snip your frosting bag. You can always go bigger.
Now let’s build! I like to stand my house on my favorite cake plate. You can use a cardboard cake round from the craft store, an upside down paper or plastic plate, or any other flat surface for standing your house. Just be sure you stand it where you want it to stay! These do not transplant well.
Using your frosting, squeeze a line of frosting on the bottom edge and sides of your first side piece. Lay this down on your cake plate and do the same with one of your peaked front/back pieces.
Now stand these at a right angle as shown. Hold for a moment to let them adhere. Don’t worry if your house shapes are imperfect and don’t line up completely. That’s what frosting is for, and I personally think the imperfections add to the charm.
Continue building by lining the bottom and sides of the last side, and then the final peaked front/back piece. All your pieces should be firmly adhered and standing without support. Don’t continue to the roof if your pieces are having trouble standing. If your frosting is dripping down and runny, squeeze it back into your mixing bowl, add more sugar and thicken before trying again.
When your walls are built, you’re ready for the roof. Run a line of frosting all along the top edges of your standing structure. Now place your roof top pieces atop the walls and peaked sides pressing them gently into place. They should adhere easily and stay in their position.
When these are secure, use your frosting to fill in any gaps or uneven edges. Run a line of frosting right down the ridgeline of your roof as well.
Viola! Now you’re ready for the fun part! Grab your favorite holiday candies, cereals and pretzels and get to work. You can go for Candy land look like this one I made using the template we’re providing.
Or you can go all out like the larger model shown and make yourself a wintery wonderland. Either way you’ll end up with a fun decoration that you’ll enjoy admiring throughout the season.
Thanks again Jamielyn for letting me share this fun tradition with you and your readers. I hope it becomes something you enjoy from year to year. Merry Christmas from the WhipperChicks!
Wow those are amazing!! We always got the cheap kits from Costco… and now I know why mine never turn out that good! I will definitely be making them HOMEMADE this year!! Thanks for sharing!
Jamielyn Nye is the creative director and founder of I Heart Naptime. She is also the author of the I Heart Naptime Cookbook. When she’s not creating in the kitchen, Jamielyn loves to chase her four little monkeys and snuggle up on the couch with her man.