Making A Gingerbread House: The Complete Guide

This recipe is adapted from Simply Recipe. I think the adaptations I made to the recipe were critical. I thought they were also missing some crucial pieces of information, which I’ve included here after taking the recipe out for a test drive. And plus my pattern is more accurate in terms of measurements.

I’ve provided the patterns here. It isn’t to scale, but the measurements are provided so that you can either print and use as is or use it as guides to draw out your own patterns. This one has a broad, steep roof design so that you can really showcase a well decorated roof, which I like. It also comes with a chimney that you can choose not to include. Make the cutouts before or after making the dough, definitely before rolling the dough out to bake the pieces. And while you’re at it, cut out a 12″x12″ base for your house out of cardboard and cover it with foil, taping the edge on the bottom. This will be the platform on which you assemble, decorate, and display the house.

The following recipes include: gingerbread dough and baking and assembly instructions. royal icing for decorating and how to use it, and candy choice ideas.

Gingerbread Dough

(Adapted from Simply Recipe)

6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tsp ground ginger
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, softened
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dark molasses
1 Tbsp water

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. That means waiting (2 minutes at least) until there are not lumps of butter sugar mixture. When it’s ready, the mixture be spread along the bowl in one smooth layer. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.

Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Remove the dough from mixer and kneed until well combined. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll into ball and flatten. This will make the warming up and rolling out out later much easier. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time.

Each batch will make 3 houses. Make another batch if you need more houses.

Baking the Gingerbread Houses

Pre-made gingerbread dough
Pre-cut and mounted house stencils
Cookie cutters shaped like gingerbread men, trees, whatever you want

Preheat oven to 350°F, with the oven rack in the middle. Have several flat cookie sheets ready, preferably ones that you know will not warp in the oven heat. Line with parchment paper.

Let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before rolling out. Roll out the dough on cool surface or parchment paper, liberally sprinkling flour between the dough and the pin. Rotate the dough a quarter of an hour after several rolls of the pin. Flatten dough til about 1/4″ thick and cut out the big pieces using a pizza cutter or a sharp pairing knice, as many as you can, using the pre-cut and cardboard-backed stencils.

Remember that the house sides, roof, and front/back pieces need to be cut out twice. Only cut out the door once per house. Cut out windows too if you like. From the remaining pieces of dough, cut out the smaller chimney pieces and figures using cookie cutters if you like.

Bake the large pieces together for 15 minutes. Bake the small chimney pieces and figurines for 6 minutes.

Leave on cooling rack to cool completely at least 1 hour.

Assembling the Gingerbread Houses

A lot of gingerbread house recipes call for royal icing used as the mortar, but it take too long to dry and it’s very brittle. Instead, use melted brown sugar: it dries almost instantly with just enough time to spare to made adjustments. I learned this trick from my friend Laura. She’s my fountainhead of the gingerbread house party.

Assembling the Gingerbread House

Cooled gingerbread house pieces
2 cups brown sugar, melted on small pan
Pre-foiled bases

Melt 2 cups of brown sugar on a small pan in medium heat stirring constantly. When the sugar is completely melted, reduce the heat to lowest setting to keep the sugar from cooling and solidifying.

Using a front and side piece, dip the sides into the hot sugar and stick together and place on pre-foiled boards. Grab another side and the back and do the same. Using the wooden spoon used to stir the sugar slather on some sugar on the other sides and assemble the two L’s together to form the walls.

Take two roof pieces and stick the two together along the roof ridge. Set on it’s side while applying more sugar on the top edges of the sides. Be generous with the sugar. If it gets a little messy, no worries. It’ll get covered in royal icing and/or candy anyway.

Set roof on top of the walls, adjusting the angle of the roof for a good fit.

Assemble the chimney so that the angled edges face upward. Dip the entire chimney into the sugar and attach to the roof.

Don’t worry about fixing the house to the board. People like to move their houses around the board depending on their landscaping needs, at which point they can fix the position of the house using royal icing.

Finito! Now your house is ready to decorate with royal icing and candy.

Royal Icing

6 egg whites, room temperature
8 cups icing sugar
Large Zip-Lock freezer bags (or icing bags with tip if you have it)

This couldn’t be easier. In a mixer beat egg whites and add half of the icing sugar until blended. Add the rest of the icing sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form. Takes about 3 to 4 minutes.

Scoop about 1 to 2 cups of icing into a freezer bags (1 per person is most convenient) closing the bag with as little air in the bag as possible. Cut a small hole in one corner and use it like a icing piping bag.

If you want, you can color the icing using food coloring before putting into bags.

Have a cup or two put into bowls with tea spoon for those who want to cover large areas with the icing. Keep the icing covered with a damp paper towel to keep the icing from drying out to quickly.

Now you’re ready to decorate!

Candy Ideas

Of course, you can use whatever candy you want. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Think about color. The more colors the more fun.
  • Have different shaped candy: rings, disks, laces, pellets, cubes, cylinders, bears, beans, spheres, etc.
  • Ju-jubes, M&Ms, candy canes, and marshmallows are fairly standard. Bulk candy places are really great for getting ideas. Check it out.
  • You can cover entire walls with color using fruit roll-up candy.
  • Cotton candy applied to the chimney looks like smoke coming out. But this look will only last for a few hours. The cotton candy is hydrophilic and will absorb the water in the air, eventually becoming little drops of hardened sugar. So take your pictures early.
  • Don’t forget about the landscaping! This happens to be my favorite part of gingerbread house decorating. Rock gardens, cacti forests, palm trees, ice skating ponds, patios extending from the houses, fences, vegetable gardens–all things to think about and possibly include along with the house itself.
  • In the midst of all this home building and grounds keeping, you might overlook the inhabitants. Whether it’s a holiday bunny, the stray raindeer, or a neighborhood rascal, don’t forget the characters that live in your fabulously sweet world.

3 thoughts on “Making A Gingerbread House: The Complete Guide

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