I would love to be able to say that gingerbread decorating was a decades-old family tradition of mine, but in reality I think the only gingerbread houses I ever decorated growing up were the cheater kind made from some slabs of graham cracker and canned icing. While that was still a total blast to me as a kid, I also dreamed of doing something more elaborate one day. Last year was the first year I tried making houses from scratch and while it ultimately worked out, the process was anything but smooth and carefree.
Thankfully I was able to learn from the bumps of last year and give it another go this year. I ended up deciding, probably against my better judgement, to not only do it all again but also to do it on a larger scale with several guests included. It ended up being an absolute blast and I think I’ve got the process all figured out now. Read on below for the details and a full photo gallery.
I used the King Arthur Flour recipe for construction gingerbread.
I used the template included in their gingerbread guide. However, last year I found that when made as originally designed, one batch of dough was not quite enough for one whole house. STRESSFUL. This year, I made the a few modifications to the house to make it smaller and fit the amount of dough.
To modify the size of the house, I reduced the height by removing an inch from the bottom of each of the gabled ends and sides of the house template pieces. I also reduced the width of the two long side template pieces by 0.75 inches on each side (so 1.5 inches total width removed).
With these modifications, I ended up with a bit of leftover dough but this is a good thing because you will want insurance in case one of the pieces breaks.
I added a cute little arch to the top of the windows by cutting out the arced shape with the wide part of a pastry tip that was the right diameter to fit the window.
It’s not like we’re going for flavor here so I recommend letting the baked house pieces sit out on a wire rack overnight to get a bit stale.
For assembly of six houses, I made a double batch of stiff royal icing and it was just the right amount.
My preferred consistency for construction purposes is the recipe as written plus one more tablespoon of water and that’s it.
I bought standard size foam boards (20×30 inches), cut them into quarters, and covered them in foil secured with clear packing tape on the bottom side. In the past I used candy striped duct tape to line the edges for a cute festive look but didn’t have any this year so just skipped that.
If making more than one house at a time, match up the house pieces before you start building. Even if you make them all using the same template, there is bound to be some variation during baking, etc. Find two gabled ends that pair well together, two sides, two roof pieces, etc. Then match the gabled ends to side pieces with nearly the same exact height. Roof piece sizing mattered less.
Build the four sides of the house and let dry well (at least a few hours) before adding the roof pieces on top. This helps maintain the structural integrity while you build.
Don’t overthink the candy selection. Just go to your drugstore’s candy aisle and have a little shopping spree. Kids will find a way to be creative with pretty much anything you give them so there is no need to overcomplicate things or look for any fancy decorative items.
I made another batch of royal icing for the kids to use and made it a bit thinner than the icing I used for building the houses. You want it thin enough to be easy to pipe, but not thin enough that it would drip.