Gingerbread houses have become a passion of mine over the years. It is a fantastic creative outlet that can explore many different mediums. And with a plan and a few recipes you can turn an ordinary gingerbread house into something extra special.
It is a good idea to draw your plans out on paper which you then can cut into patterns for the house.
I like to use finger painting paper as it really stands up well when working with the gingerbread dough. You can find it at any craft store. Regular paper will work fine, though you will notice it becomes a bit greasy from the shortening in the gingerbread.
For FBC Headquarters the measurements are as follows:
- The side walls are 5 inches tall x 7 inches wide.
- The front and back walls are 7 inches wide x 5 inches to where the peak begins and 4 3/4 inches to the peak.
- The roof pieces are 5 3/4 inches tall by 8 3/4 inches wide. The design instruction for the roof pattern are below.
- You can make the door and window(s) any size you prefer.
Once you have your plans drawn out your next step is the gingerbread dough.
I use a construction grade gingerbread which is nice and strong and is best for serious builds. You can eat it, it tastes exactly the same although it is quite crunchy.
Construction Grade Gingerbread
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 2 eggs
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and eggs. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Divide dough into thirds and wrap in plastic wrap.
*To make this non construction grade - add 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.
A good tip for making gingerbread walls is to use cookie sheets that have no edges. It makes for much easier removal when you can slide them right off.
I lightly spray my cookie sheets with a non stick spray and roll the dough directly onto the sheets. Roll the dough to a cm thick. Place the pattern on the dough. Using a ruler and a sharp knife cut out the walls.
Place the cookie sheets into the refrigerator to chill for 25 minutes. This helps prevent the walls from spreading.
Bake at 350° for 10-14 minutes or until lightly browned.
When done remove immediately to a cooling rack.
Once your walls are done you can get ready to do the siding. I chose to do siding for the FBC Headquaters as it is the thing I am most asked about. This is where you can really have a lot of fun with color choices.
I make my own fondant, not only is it very easy, tastes fantastic, it also costs less then $4.00 a batch. You do need a stand mixer to make your own fondant. It is not something you can do by hand or with electric beaters. If you do not have a stand mixer you can buy pre-made fondant.
- 1 bag of mini marshmallows
- 2 tsp of flavoring of your choice
- 2 tbsp of water
- 2 pounds of icing sugar (approx. 7 cups)
- gel food coloring
- 1 cup of icing sugar mixed with 1 cup of cornstarch
Grease a large bowl or measuring cup. Place marshmallows, flavoring, coloring and water in greased bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, if not completely melted microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted.
Place 5 cups of the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pour melted marshmallows over sugar and using an electric mixer with the dough hook, mix on low speed until half of the icing sugar is incorporated. Turn up speed a bit and incorporate as much of the remaing sugar as possible. The mixture will be stiff. Turn out onto a surface dusted with a 50/50 icing sugar/cornstarch mixture. Knead fondant until it has a smooth texture. If it is sticky knead in more icing sugar. Once the fondant is smooth, lightly coat with shortening and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest.
Dust the surface with a combination of the icing sugar/cornstarch and roll out a third of the fondant. Using a ruler measure 1 1/2 cm pieces for the siding. Using the ruler cut the siding strips with a pizza cutter using firm but steady pressure.
We attach the siding to the walls using Royal Icing. This is the glue to our complete project.
If the house is for display only, use a raw egg white royal icing. If you are building with children or plan on eating the house use a royal icing recipe using meringue powder.
Starting at the bottom of the wall lay down an inch wide spread of icing.
Now start layering the strips of siding. I like to have a glass of cool water near by with a clean soft bristle paint brush. I lightly brush down each strip once it is placed on the house. It makes the next strip stick well and also cleans the siding of any residual sugar and also gives the house a nice sheen.
Once all the walls are covered set aside to dry a bit. If there are any windows I like to trim them with white. It gives them a nice finish.
To make the shingle pattern on the roof I simply use a ruler to make the impression in the dough. You do not want to cut through, just push down hard enough to leave nice bold lines.
Once baked I like to paint the roof with a black food coloring paint to not only make it pop but it lends itself to making it look as if it is real.
A great tip if you have any old containers of gel coloring that is stiff and unusable. Top up the container with vodka or even any liquid flavoring and shake well.
Now it is time to build your house!
Building Your Gingerbread House
Get a handful of cans to use to prop up your walls while they dry.
Starting in one corner of the house, put icing on the bottom and outside edge of the wall. Now do that as well with the back wall of the house. One those walls feel stable go ahead with the next side wall. And again with the front wall. Allow all to dry for an hour minimum before putting on the roof.
Before putting on the roof be sure to have everything you need within reaching distance. You may need to hold on to the roof for up to 10 minutes to be sure it is attached and will not slide. I like to use cans, books or whatever fits to help hold the roof pieces in place.
While that is drying you can work on the landscaping.
I love making my trees from cereal. I have used both corn flakes and rice krispies.
I just melt marshmallows in the microwave, add a touch of coloring and the cereal. I form that into trees and potted plants and allow it to dry and harden.
Once dry I use a dark green food coloring paint to make the trees nice and green. Then while wet I sprinkle them with dark green sugar to give them a nice sparkle.
I also like to add little things like light posts, or say......parking signs.
There are many great ways to finish off your house. I like to add a lot of snow, not only does it make it pretty, you can also cover up mistakes with it as well! Using a nice small tip is a great way to make icicles. Just take your time and allow everything a good amount of time to try.
Be creative and look for candy in colors you love or try looking at foods you have in different ways.
And most important, enjoy yourself and have fun!
Our Gingerbread House Tutorial was written and photographed (and created!) by FBC Member Redawna Kalynchuk, from Grande Prairie, AB. Redawna's passion for food started early and has found its way from garden to kitchen. She's a self-taught cook and baker with a love for chocolate work and candy making. To date, she has raised over $2000 with her gingerbread house creations!
She runs the blog Nutmeg Disrupted and is also a Field Editor for Taste of Home magazine. Her soon to be published cookbook, Everyday Delectable, will be available on-line next week. You can find her on Twitter @Redawna