One of the shops in our town is hosting a Gingerbread House contest, so I decided to put some my baking to the test and create a gingerbread house (more of a gingerbread scene). The last time I had made a gingerbread house was some time when I was a teenager, and I don’t remember making it!
My original intention was to make a Wyoming gingerbread log cabin, with a stream and outhouse to boot, but…the idea didn’t look as good as I had thought so I went more traditional. My gingerbread scene still has pond with Swedish fish and candy rocks : ) Maybe I can try the log cabin idea again next year!
The gingerbread scene took me a couple afternoons to make, between making/baking the cookie walls and then assembling and decorating it. The photos didn’t turn out quite as well as I had hoped, but all in all the gingerbread scene was pretty cute!
Here are some of the recipes I used and some helpful hints for making your gingerbread house easier to make! The recipes are not allergy-friendly or healthy, but since gingerbread houses aren’t really made for eating (they just look pretty and get stale), this wasn’t too big of a concern. I really needed structure, so I didn’t attempt to make these recipes without eggs.
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1Tablespoon ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, blend together shortening and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses, and vinegar.
- In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Blend dry ingredients into shortening mixture.
- Chill dough for at least 3 hours. (Note: if you are impatient, like me sometimes, you can make these without chilling first. The dough is easier to handle when its cold though).
Helpful hint: parchment paper is your best friend when making roll-out cookies! Waxed paper may work, too, but parchment is what I used and works like a charm. Cut out your cookies, leave them on the paper, remove the excess around them, put the paper and cut-outs on a baking sheet, and bake!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place a portion of the cookie dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness. If your dough is cold, this is much easier and shouldn’t stick. Peel off the top piece of parchment paper and set aside.
- Cut your shapes, cookies, or gingerbread house parts out of the dough. Peel off the excess pieces of dough from around the cut-outs, leaving all the cut-outs on the parchment paper (you may need to move them apart a little bit for even baking). I used card-stock for my gingerbread house templates, so I sprinkled the dough with a little bit of flour to keep the card-stock from sticking to the dough.
- Once you have cut out your shapes and removed the excess dough, move the entire piece of parchment paper (shapes and all) to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 8-12 minutes (depending on the size of the shapes).
- Let cool on a wire rack completely before decorating.
Candy “Glass” Windows:
You will need hard candy, any color (I used Jolly Ranchers)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place your baked cookie onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper.
- Crush some hard candy and sprinkle a generous amount into the window cut-out of your cookie. Bake for 5 minutes until the candy is melted and fills the cut-out
- Let cool completely before removing from waxed paper. The waxed paper will stick to the candy glass, so don’t set your heart on tasting it! If you want to keep the paper from sticking to the glass, you could try parchment or adding some cooking spray on the paper to keep it from sticking (I haven’t tried this so I can’t guarantee the outcome)
This stuff is amazing; it’s basically food-grade cement! This dries quickly and keeps everything in place. Since it really isn’t that tasty, don’t worry about adding flavorings if you are only using it for decoration.
3 egg whites (use pasteurized if you plan on eating this; note that carton egg whites may not work here)
4-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Optional: Food coloring or flavor extracts
- Beat egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar and salt with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer on medium-low speed until blended. Add colors or flavors if desired.
- Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is triple in volume, about 7-8 minutes. Cover tightly and store at room temperature for up to 6 hours. makes 5 to 6 cups.
Using an icing bag and piping tips, pipe generous amounts of icing to join 2 gingerbread pieces at a time when building the house.
How to make pine trees: Set aside some of the royal icing and dye green with a few drops of food coloring. Turn over a sugar cone (open end down) and pipe tiny icing “leaves” all over the sugar cone until covered completely. These look amazing when they are finished! I don’t have any photos of these because I didn’t have time to make these for my gingerbread scene – I cheated and used a big lollipop Christmas tree!
Helpful hint: If you don’t have a decorators icing bag or a piping tips, you can use a ziploc bag in a pinch. Just snip off a tiny piece of the corner of a ziploc bag, fill with icing, and pipe away!
Helpful Hint: Some of the gingerbread house pieces will puff out a little bit and the sides will not be completely flat, making it a challenge to put together. Just use a long microplane to “sand” the cookie pieces flat on each side!
Decorate your house to your heart’s content! I used chocolate rocks for a path and around a blue gel pond (with Swedish fish!). I decorated the house with Skittles and pull-and-peel Twizzlers. The roof was made out of layered sour licorice rips. I spread some icing on the ground and sprinkled shredded coconut all over to make snow.
Gingerbread Cookie recipe and Royal Icing recipe from the “Christmas Cookies” book by Gooseberry Patch