Easy Gingerbread House Tips
While it is possible to build very large and complex gingerbread houses, our contest encourages smaller and simpler houses. The most important thing is to have fun designing, building, and decorating your house. Plan to make your house over the course of several days so that you allow time to bake and cool, a day to assemble the base of the house, and the following day to add the roof and decorate.
For this contest, children under 16 years of age can build a house of any design, the typical Hansel and Gretel candy decorated house or a barn, a cottage, or any shape building you desire. Ages 16 and over are asked to build a gingerbread model of a historic building but it can be a much more simplified design.
- Decide on the style of building you want to create. Make a simple sketch of the building outline.
- Create a paper or cardboard template. You can find ideas online but remember to keep in mind the size of the cake board you will use to display your gingerbread building.
- If you are making your gingerbread dough from scratch, use a gingerbread house dough recipe and not a gingerbread cookie recipe. Tip: I used an easy Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cookie Mix (bought at Target in Orange City). Most cookie recipes are too soft for building but this dough has worked very well.
- Mix your dough then refrigerate for an hour or even overnight.
- Roll out your dough on a cookie sheet. Keep it thick! I used at least ¼” thickness because you want your house to be sturdy. Tip: Do not cut out windows or doorways before baking because they will distort during baking. After rolling, use your template to cut out your walls and roof pieces. Remove the additional dough and save for other gingerbread pieces to add to your creation!
- Bake your gingerbread pieces on the same cookie sheet. Tip: I followed the recipe and baked at 350 for 15 minutes, then I lowered the temp to 200 and baked for another hour! After removing from the oven, carefully cut out window and door openings. Once the gingerbread cools, you will be able to trim up any rough edges. Allow to cool completely.
- To assemble, you will use royal icing. There are plenty of recipes online. Tip: Assemble ON your display board! Start with two adjoining walls. Use royal icing to connect them at the corner and ice them to the board along the “floor” if you want. You can use jars or drinking glasses to support the walls until the icing dries and hardens. Wait at least an hour. Then add the final walls, prop up to hold them in place, and leave to dry overnight.
- The follow day you can add the roof. Once the icing is dry, you can decorate with more royal icing, candies, cookies, crackers, pretzels, licorice, anything that you like. An inverted ice cream cone makes a nice tree!
Christmas in Bloom Gingerbread Contest
Here are some additional videos with tips for larger and more detailed gingerbread construction projects. Sara Eicher, a consistent winner in the Jacksonville gingerbread extravaganza, outlines in very helpful detail, the Planning, Construction and Decoration steps to her wonderful creations.