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How to make a gingerbread house | Gingerbread recipe
Homemade Gingerbread House Recipe and Building Instructions
What better way to savor the holiday spirit than to build a Gingerbread House? Gather the family, recruit the kids, and get ready to make your very own holiday molasses mansion. Hard hats are optional.
Gingerbread is famous for its classic dark, sweet yet spicy flavor. German-style gingerbread cookies bake up crispy and hard - perfect for building houses. Royal icing is the tasty mortar that holds the house together.
More delicious food construction ideas
Before you crack the eggs, get your blueprints ready. Plan out the house and use sturdy cardboard to build a prototype. When you’re happy with the structure, use the cardboard pieces as templates to cut the cookies.
It's not a bad idea to take out an insurance policy for your house: make a double batch of dough. If a disaster strikes, you can easily whip up a replacement part. Leftover dough can be used to make porches, fences, even a gingerbread family.
Looking for a shortcut?
Skip to the Cheat section!
Classic Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
This recipe makes a double batch.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1-1/3 cups molasses*
- 1 cup butter
- 4 eggs
- 8 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground allspice or ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*Dark molasses makes darker cookies and has a stronger flavor than light molasses.
Cream the butter and brown sugar, then add the eggs and molasses. In a separate bowl, mix 1-1/2 cups of flour with the salt, baking soda, and all the spices.
Combine the sugar mixture with the flour mixture and, stirring by hand, slowly add the remaining flour. The dough will be stiff.
Split the dough into two pieces and work one at a time so it is easier to handle. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and chill for two hours or overnight.
No time to bake from scratch? No sweat. Use refrigerated dough, or buy a pre-mix in a box. Remember that the cookies need to be hard and crispy, so you may need to keep them in the oven longer. Each brand is a little different, so check the directions.
You'll know they are done when they are firm to the touch. Don’t worry if the edges get too brown; icing will hide any flaws.
Royal Icing Recipe
Standard frosting will not dry strong enough to hold your cookies together. If you are not planning to eat the house, craft glue will do the trick. But what’s the fun in that?
For a completely edible gingerbread house, the best option is Royal Icing.
- 2 pounds powdered sugar
- 6 egg whites*
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
*Buy pasteurized eggs if you are worried about using raw eggs.
Sift the cream of tartar with the sugar, then carefully blend in the egg whites. Using an electric mixer set to high speed, beat for five minutes or until the icing is is heavy any forms stiff peaks. If you need to add a little more sugar to get there, that’s ok.
Don’t let the icing dry out. Keep it covered with a moist cloth and plastic wrap until you are ready to use it.
Let the dough set at room temperature for 10 minutes while the oven preheats to 350º. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper while you wait.
Roll the dough on a floured surface until its 1/8" thick. Using your cardboard prototype pieces, cut out the shapes. Difficult shapes can be cut after you have moved to dough to the cookie sheet to keep them from breaking while they are handled.
You can wait until after the cookies are baked to cut in windows and doors if you choose; just don't wait until they are cool and brittle.
Leave 1 inch of space around the gingerbread pieces on the tray. Once the cookie sheet is full, chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes, then bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks. Now is the time to trim away any areas that spread too far while baking.
Essential Candy Decorations:
Need some ideas? Get started with these:
Mini Candy Canes
Wrap plywood or very heavy cardboard with tinfoil. This will be the base.
Once the cookies are completely cooled, it’s time to start putting up the walls.
Be generous with the royal icing mortar. Using a piping bag or a zip-top bag with one corner cut off, pipe the icing along the edge of the first wall. Press the second wall against the first to make a corner. Be sure the angle is correct! Hold the walls firmly for a few minutes until the icing begins to set.
Repeat this process on each wall. If you need to prop them up, grab some soup cans.
When the basic structure is ready, pipe icing along the bottom edges. This is the foundation. Set the house firmly on your foil covered platform.
Take a minute to fill in any gaps along the seams of the walls. Before you move on to the roof, let the house set for hour or so. The icing is setting, but it needs that extra time to dry nice and hard. The framework needs to be good and sturdy before adding the extra weight on top.
Assemble the roof the same way as the walls. Don’t spare the icing! An extra set of hands at this stage is very helpful.
Let the finished house set for four hours (or overnight) before you decorate it in a frosting and candy frenzy. Don’t worry about the icing; it will keep overnight at room temperature as long as you keep it moist and covered.
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How to make a gingerbread house