Gingerbread houses are a beloved holiday tradition for many families, and they're a fun project to do with children. While traditional, ornate gingerbread houses are popular, you can also make gingerbread houses with a modern or whimsical twist.
How to Build a Gingerbread House
You need a few things to successfully make a gingerbread house: the right equipment, a good recipe, and a trustworthy pattern. If you have all of those things, and a bit of patience, you can make a gingerbread house to be proud of, and have a lot of fun doing it as well.
Getting Started: Equipment for Making Gingerbread Houses
Most of the equipment you need will be things you likely already have in your kitchen:
- Measuring cups and spoons (or a kitchen scale if you want to be even more accurate in your measurements)
- A sharp knife for cutting the gingerbread shapes
- Cookie cutters in the shapes of your choice
- A board to assemble the house on. A cutting board works well for this.
- Icing bags and tips
- An offset spatula
- Mixing bowls and spoons, or a stand mixer
Tried and True Gingerbread Recipes
The other thing you'll need is a good recipe. The recipes listed below are all highly reviewed by people who have actually used them.
Perfect Gingerbread House Patterns
A bad pattern will send your gingerbread house tumbling down before you even get a chance to decorate it. The patterns below are highly rated by home cooks, well-written, and attractive.
- Simple, sturdy gingerbread house: This pattern from SugarGeekShow is perfect for beginners, and very well reviewed by those who have made it.
- The Kitchn also has a pattern that is perfect for beginners and experienced gingerbread house makers alike. This house features a simple roof and provides ideas for making doors and windows without a bunch of complicated cutting.
- The Flavor Bender offers a cute gingerbread house pattern that features lots of windows; perfect for if you'd like to try your hand at making stain glass windows and lighting your gingerbread house from the inside.
- This adorable gingerbread house from SimplyRecipes gets a little more complex, with a chimney, multiple windows, and a graceful, steeply-pitched roof.
Gingerbread expert Christina Banner, who won the Food Network Gingerbread Challenge in 2005 and wrote the book How to Build a Gingerbread House, offers this advice about following a gingerbread pattern: "One mistake people make is to not pay enough attention to the pattern. You will need a pattern copied on heavy paper or poster board that you will use to cut out the dough into wall and roof pieces. I always recommend cutting out your paper pattern, and then putting the paper pieces together with tape. If your pattern will not work, then the baked pieces of gingerbread will not fit together either. It is much easier to fix a paper pattern than to try to fix hard baked gingerbread walls."
You'll want to let your gingerbread cool completely before you attempt assembling your gingerbread house. Once it's cool, you can put the house together, using royal icing as the "glue" that holds it all together.
Decorating Your Gingerbread House
This is where you can let your imagination run wild. Decorating a gingerbread house can be as neat and simple or as elaborate as you wish. Consider adding frosting, colorful candies, cookies, candy canes, sprinkles, cookie decorations for the landscaping -- you're only limited by your imagination here.
Making Gingerbread Houses With Children
Banner also has some helpful advice for making gingerbread houses with children: "When building a gingerbread house with a child, make sure that your house is assembled and the icing is thoroughly dry. If you let the house dry overnight, it will be very sturdy and will be able to withstand lots of candy and icing piled up on it! Colorful cereals are a great item for children to decorate with. Butterscotch candies placed close together make cute windows, as do square pretzels."
The most important thing is to have fun. Don't worry about making it perfect. Banner adds, "Remember to allow your children to use their imagination! I am always amazed at the creative ideas that children have when they decorate their houses."
Once your gingerbread house is done, it should last three to four weeks, as long as conditions aren't overly humid.
A Fun Way to Make Holiday Memories
Gingerbread houses bring so many activities together: baking, constructing, and decorating, not to mention the fun of finding a pattern you love and deciding what you want your house to look like. More than anything, it provides you with a fun activity to do with your family during the holiday season.