During December of 1994 our kitchen in North Chattanooga experienced an unparalleled disaster: my Mom and I made our first ever attempt at assembling and decorating a gingerbread house. We were unprepared, disorganized, and downright stupid. The gingerbread house collapsed halfway through decorating and we both shed an embarrassing amount of tears as our dog ran rampant around the room, on a mad sugar high from all the candy that we had dropped. In the end, an enormous pastry bag full to the brim of thick, sticky royal icing exploded right onto my face and hair. We found tiny bits of crusted icing for weeks to come.
Fortunately, there is a way to actually have fun making gingerbread house! All it takes is a little bit of foresight—and perhaps a hot beverage and some Christmas tunes. The following video artfully demonstrates the steps that are more specifically outlined below it …
Look at pictures online and see what kind of house interests you. Start a Pinterest board of ideas.
Keep your design simple and medium-sized. Decorating the details of a tiny house is tedious, and decorating a large house can take too long. Adding steeples, atriums and porches may sound like a cool idea, but the less pieces that can fall off, the better! If you’re interested in creating a more complicated design, consider making only the facade and propping it up on the mantle.
Invite friends and stockpile your candy! This will give you more options and cut your costs.
Roll out the dough on top of floured parchment paper so that you can easily transfer it to a cookie sheet. Use a ruler and a pizza cutter to slice your pieces.
Make gingerbread in advance and give it a couple days to harden.
Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce! Use a sturdy base, such as a disposable cake board. Don’t be afraid to “cheat.” Purchase a box that is roughly the same size as your design and hot glue the sides of the gingerbread house to it.
Keep a moist towel over your extra icing so it doesn’t dry out.
“Straightjacket” the icing when it’s in the pastry bag: roll it in plastic wrap before going into the bag and tie it off tightly with a rubber band at the top.
Use paste food coloring. Liquid dye will thin out the icing.
Remember gravity! You can decorate your pieces first and then assemble. Let them dry for at least 24 hours first.
The best decorations are versatile ones. My favorites include: shredded coconut, pretzel sticks, sticks of gum, red hots, gum drops, mini M&M’s and sugar cones.
You can preserve your house by spraying it with polyurethane 24 hours after decorating. Make a “do not eat!” sign as a reminder.
Have you ever made a gingerbread house? What kind of crafts and/or baking do you like to do this time of year?