How to Build a Gingerbread House
Where to buy them and tips for enjoying it!
Like most Gingerbread Houses, ours began its existence months before the holidays, in some cold, efficient factory where its individual pieces were baked, wrapped, and packaged in boxes to be shipped to Amazon.com and grocery stores across the country. However, it did not begin its "real" life until it was carefully unwrapped and tenderly assembled by enthusiastic children in our family. After that, it lived out its stunning single week of life sitting on the dining room table in the heart of our home.
This is a fun family activity that you can do with your children or grandchildren any time of the year. Before you read the tips below, you may want to order a kit from Amazon, using the link below.
How to Build a Gingerbread House
In order to put our Gingerbread House together, we had to start with a base. This was the area that would become the "lawn" for our little home. For our base, we started with a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. In the center of our base, we placed the little set up tray that came with our kit.
The icing that was to serve as our construction mortar came in a little plastic pouch. We were instructed to carefully knead the pouch before opening it, in order to be certain that the icing was thoroughly mixed. Then, we cut the corner off the pouch to make a small opening. We squeezed the icing through this little corner and used it to glue the parts together.
Now we were ready for construction. We carefully applied a line of icing around the perimeter of the set up tray. Then, we applied an additional line of icing to the inside edges of the front and back walls of the gingerbread pieces. We started with the front wall, by holding it in place on the set up tray, and attaching one of the side walls. Then we added the remaining two walls. We used cans to hold everything in place. Then, we had to wait patiently for 15 minutes so the icing used for that phase of construction was able to dry.
The final step in construction was adding the two roof pieces. We added more icing to the peaks of the front and back walls. We applied the roof pieces one at a time, holding each one in place for a few minutes until the icing began to set. Once again, we used cans to hold up the roof pieces, while we gave it another 15 minutes to partially dry.
Decorating Our Gingerbread House
Once the construction was complete, our Gingerbread House, like any good home, needed to be decorated. This was even more fun for our grandchildren. We let each of them decorate a different side, which is one reason that it did not end up with a symmetrical design. However, Gingerbread Houses are meant to be whimsical, so why not let them indulge their creativity?
The kit we purchased came with four little bags of candy. We decided this was not enough to allow for all the decorating we wanted to do, so we supplemented our supplies with a bag of M&M's and little marshmallows. Other choices might have been sprinkles or any other little candies that appealed to us.
Decorating the house was not the end of things, however. Like any great home, our Gingerbread House also had to have a landscape plan, with Christmas trees and shrubs set around the yard. It soon became obvious that landscaping was going to require additional icing!
Gingerbread House Icing Recipe
Fortunately, the company that produced our kit foresaw this problem, and they provided a simple recipe for more icing. Here is the recipe they suggested:
2 egg whites
2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp. Cream of tartar
The instructions were to beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, and then slowly begin adding the powdered sugar. They recommended a total of about 5 – 7 minutes beating time.
However, in the interest of efficiency, we simply used a commercial icing that we purchased in the grocery store at the same time I bought the kit. I had suspected all along that it would be wise to have some extra icing on hand. I bought the type of icing that comes in a tube with an assortment of cake decorating tips. This allowed my grandchildren a full range of decorating possibilities.
The Life of a Gingerbread House
Once it was satisfactorily constructed, decorated and landscaped, the Gingerbread House was ready to bask in the limelight for a week on our dining room table. The kit recommended that the cottage be consumed within two weeks, so it could have survived a bit longer, if we had been patient. However, how long could I realistically expect eager grandchildren to wait before they begged to taste their little confection?
During that week, the little cottage was the focus of lots of "Oohs" and "Ahhs" as it was admired by the children who as made it, as well as visitors to our home.
Demolition of our Gingerbread House
Our little Gingerbread House had begun life on Christmas Day, after the presents had been opened, and breakfast had been enjoyed. In fact, having breakfast first was probably the one reason that the children were able to construct it without immediately begging to eat it and all the decorative candies.
On New Years Eve, we decided it was time to consume the cheery little cottage. First, however, I removed it from the formal dining room table and put it on the kitchen counter where any mess could be easily cleaned up. Then, I tried to break it apart, which turned out to be more difficult than I had expected. The pieces of gingerbread where quite firm, and the icing held the pieces together as well as any mortar might do! After realizing that I could not easily simply pull it apart, I brought out my demolition equipment. No, I did not have a wrecking ball and bulldozer. However, I did have a heavy butcher knife that I plunged through the roof of the cottage, much like a bolt of lightening striking a roof.
After that initial blow, it was much easier to begin pulling the remaining pieces apart. The gingerbread was still a bit harder than the typical cookie. However, dipped in a cup of milk, it was quite delicious. Greedily, we all picked apart the tiny cottage, removing the candy decorations, and licking icing off our fingers. Finally, all that was left was a rather forlorn looking pile of rubble ... and some very full stomachs!
If you decide that you want to build a gingerbread house of your own, I recently noticed that Michael's Arts and Crafts Stores have classes which they hold on weekends to show you and your children how to build a gingerbread house. However, I don't think most of you will actually need to take a class in order to create the gingerbread house of your dreams!
If you have young children in your life, you may also be interested in some of these articles:
Here's a Kit you can buy from Amazon.
It is available the year around.
Amazon Price: $58.47 $17.49 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 27, 2016)
Use this pan to make your own Gingerbread House
Just bake and decorate it yourself!
Amazon Price: $31.95 $19.49 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 27, 2016)