Every single thing you need to know about making and baking ginger bread houses is in this blog post. This article will contain tips, techniques and baking secrets that’ll make your gingerbread house stand out from every other. You’ll get my gingerbread house recipe, techniques I learned from baking experts, and easy as pie step-by-step processes you’ll have so much fun trying. I was going to enter into a gingerbread house competition this year but sadly, many things interfered in this becoming a possibility. From pandemic issues to a scarce amount of baking ingredients at stores, I found myself getting creative (and, a tad irritated by the delays I experienced in purchasing supplies for this endeavor).
To be clear, I am no baking expert but have watched hundreds of videos and read baking books as I prepared for this project. Being forced to stay home during this Coronavirus pandemic has allowed me to discover other passions I hadn’t had the chance to do. But time was of the essence and was juggling way too much for me to keep up with the speed of life and pandemic-related delays to meet this year’s deadline for a competition I’d hoped to participate in. Thankfully, it’s annual, so I took this all with a grain of salt and experimented with multiple different ways of baking gingerbread dough, the royal frosting (or, glue) and getting innovative with the decorating: windows, pillars, balcony décor and structures and much more.
Back in the day, I had such an interest in home design and architecture so-much-so that I had toyed with the idea of majoring in it in college. You’ve seen elements of architecture weaved throughout the clothing I’ve designed in coats and dresses. Though I’ve always been fascinated by the three-dimensional aspects of the field, ultimately, all of the math and science turned me off. Despite my decision not to go into architecture as a full-time career, my passion for it stuck around and implemented the craft in other fields of art.
Even as I constructed this gingerbread house, I noticed that being just a hair off in measurements impacted the look and quality of the house. Baking gingerbread houses truly is an art but is so much more–it’s a science, architecture, a fine art, and it takes a long while to develop such skills. I’ve made gingerbread houses in the past that were pretty neat but this was over-the-top creativity for me which took weeks to produce.
Every year, I try to challenge myself to make a more complex design. There is something about tiny houses, especially ones you can bake and render in real life, that really intrigues me. Merely shaping the dough was a task in itself, a really enjoyable one. It was a challenge at first. All it took was getting into a groove, a momentum, and perfecting the skills I had while learning new things along the way.
If it weren’t for this pandemic, I would probably have been able to meet the deadline for this gingerbread house competition. One piece of advice I have for you gingerbread house lovers out there, I’d recommend starting this endeavor in the first week of October or even earlier. I started this in the middle of October and ran out of time. So, I decided to turn the frustration of a possible missed opportunity into an enjoyable project and have fun with it. The things I learned in this process activated my imagination in the greatest way, pushing me to think outside the box and gather inspiration where I could. Now, let’s dive into all these delicious secrets I’m about to divulge which (I think) will blow all of your minds!
This is the gingerbread house recipe I use and it never fails me. It’s quick and you can whip it up in minutes. Before I list the recipe details, there a few incentives I’d like to give you guys first, some tips:
Tip #1: Remember, your goal is to make a sturdy house, not a flimsy cookie. How you prep, mix, and bake the dough will affect the outcome or the sturdiness of the structure. That said, you must, if quality is what you’re seeking, omit baking soda and baking powder at all costs. I read dozens of blog posts by gurus who say, “Just add a little bit of baking soda, just a little.” And, in my experience, I say, “Don’t add even a pinch of baking soda or powder. In fact, completely leave those ingredients out to avoid a puffy texture and shape-shifting while baking.” The last thing you want is to see the pieces you sized, cut and shaped to change or puff out before your eyes. When this happens, your pieces won’t fit together any more and you’ll have to do more sizing, cutting and reshaping immediately after baking. Baking soda and baking powder must be avoided in this recipe for desired results.
Tip #2: There are dozens of gingerbread recipes out there but if you follow a recipe from the big contenders such as The Food Network or All Recipes, you’ll wind up wildly disappointed by how the pieces turned out after baking. As I stressed in the tip above, those recipes will have baking soda and baking powder. It’ll be tempting to use them but trust me, just say no.
Tip #3: After you mix the dough in a kitchen aid power mixer or whatever mixer you have, refrigerate it for at least three hours. Anything less than that, and you’ll struggle with excessive stickiness and extra frustration. The dough will be too sticky and gooey to handle if it is too warm. Refrigerating allows the dough to set and be easier to roll, cut and shape.
Tip #4: Sprinkle flour on your template pieces. I highly recommend not skipping this step. You want to measure, shape, and cut pieces out of cardboard or stiff Bristol paper (I used Bristol paper and it worked!) You must nail down the height and width of every single piece from the walls to the windows and door measurements that your gingerbread house will need. Once you’re ready to cut the pieces, sprinkling flour on the cardboard or paper will ensure the pieces don’t stick to your dough.
Tip #5: In baking, always end with your dry ingredients, not wet. In the mixing and blending process, don’t let the last ingredient you add to be a wet ingredient otherwise you’ll be stuck with useless flimsy pieces you’d rather eat. I followed a recipe on YouTube and this baker ended with milk and that ruined my house. I followed her recipe to the nines and the first couple of pieces caved in even after they cooled to room temperature.
Tip #6: Just enjoy yourself and let go of the need to be perfect. Make something you can enjoy for months to come!
Gingerbread House Recipe Below:
1 Cup: 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter by Land O’Lakes Brand
1/2 Cup Molasses
1/2 Cup Corn Syrup
1 Cup Granulated White Sugar
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup of Milk
8 Cups Flour (recommended amount for less gooey dough).
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tsp Ground Cloves
To your mixing bowl add Butter, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Granulated White Sugar, Brown Sugar and Milk. Mix and blend until thoroughly creamy.
Then, add in the ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground cloves.
Blend and mix again until all ingredients are well combined. Sift in your 8 cups of flour.
Scoop out the dough, form discs and then wrap them in plastic saran wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator for three hours. It’s the perfect amount of time so the dough won’t be so cold that it’s too difficult to roll. Three hours of refrigeration is the perfect amount of time for the dough to sit.
The Royal Icing Or “Glue”
Two Egg Whites
Four-Six Cups of Powdered Sugar
Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
To your Kitchen Aid Power Mixer bowl, add in the egg whites following up to six cups of powdered sugar.
On low, mix the ingredients for ten straight minutes, pausing once and again to even out the mixture.
Follow the above tips I gave you, and you’ll coast through this baking endeavor smoothly with easy-to-handle dough and plenty of it.
Ideas for making the windows:
- Gelatin Sheets are fantastic ways to render the look of windows. This video shows you exactly how awesome this looks!
- Melt clear Jolly Ranchers or clear hard candy with your dough pieces in the oven for a glassy effect if you can’t get your hands on gelatin sheets.
- Another window rendering option you could try are Spring Roll Rice Paper Wrappers. Simply soak them in scalding hot water until they are crystal clear and let them sit for a while after.
ROLLING THE DOUGH
At this point, the dough should have had its three hours in the fridge. Take it out and lie it down on a smooth silicone mat. I found parchment paper to be extremely annoying to work with during this step as it created creases and wrinkles in the dough. Plastic keeps it smooth and easier to handle. If the rolling of the dough is too difficult still, wait about a half hour for it to soften a bit and try rolling again. I have no upper body strength and I had to do that!
Measure, shape and then cut your pieces directly on your silicone mat. Doing so will keep the shapes from shifting as you lift the mat onto a baking sheet. The silicone will keep it all in place, which is what you want.BAKING DIRECTIONS
Set your oven to 375 degrees. I bake on this temperature because I want these to be hard and extra sturdy.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Let sit for two hours after baking before attempting to glue pieces together.
The construction of the house:
This is THE most enjoyable part of the process! Assembling, gluing and watching your design come together and look like a house. Use piping bags for clean edges. Use cans of soup or whatever you’ve got in your pantry as stabilizers to hold the pieces up while the glue dries.
I made a winter resort scenery; a ski lodge and edible slope out of Marshmallows and a ton of the royal icing. The ski slope consisted of six bags of marshmallows. I compiled a bunch of the marshmallows in the shape of a slope, gluing the individual pieces together and then caking on the royal icing the way you would ice a cake. For the chimney, I chopped up these crackers that reminded me of stone texture. I used the same crackers for the front walk-way.This gingerbread house was the most creative art project I’ve ever done. I really wanted to achieve the effect of snow on uneven grounds and to give it an Aspen, Colorado-like appearance. Since I’ve taken you through this process, now you can check out the final finished house and the scenery made all out of edible foods!
Thanks for reading this post! If you try this recipe, do let me know how it goes! I had loads of success, as you can see! If you’re new to making gingerbread houses, start with a simpler structure and work your way up. It’s such a fun challenge and you’ll learn a lot about baking and architecture! It’s a project you can really get creative with and push the limits of design, construction, and the baking itself! I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving and is finding ways to make life less stressful and more enjoyable! If you followed this recipe, tag me on Instagram@TessaKollerArt and I’ll share it!
Photography by: Tessa Koller of Tessa Koller Art