Simple truth: I can’t think of anything more magical, more whimsical, or more lovely than a gingerbread house at Christmastime.
One of my favorite childhood memories is of my Grandma Alice carrying a large, ornate gingerbread house to the center of her kitchen floor during a family Christmas gathering. All of the children – the cousins – screeched with joy as she laughed and encouraged us to rip it apart, to eat it, to smash it!
After that, I was hooked. Every Christmas since then, I’ve decorated a gingerbread house. Prior to this year, I’ve always purchased pre-baked houses and focused my energy on the candy shopping. The Dollar Tree is THE place to go because it is one of the few stores (that I’ve found) that still sell individual rolls of Necco Wafers, which are of course, absolutely essential for gingerbread house roofing.
Homemade Gingerbread House
- 1/2 stick unsalted, softened butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
- 1 TBSP ginger
- 1 1/2 TSP ground cloves
- 1 TSP baking soda
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 2 TBSP water
- Cream the butter, sugar and molasses together in a large bowl.
- Sift in the spices, flour and baking soda. Stir in the water.
- Wrap the dough and chill for at least 1 hour.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Using your gingerbread house cutters, cut 2 of every shape. Transfer dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
- While the cookies are cooling, prepare the Royal Icing which will be the “glue” of your gingerbread creation.
Royal Icing by Necco
- 3 large egg whites
- 4 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 TSP cream of tartar
- Place egg whites in a bowl and add cream of tartar. Sift sugar directly onto the egg whites.
- Beat 4 minutes with an electronic mixer on high-speed. When finished the mixture should be the consistency of mashed potatoes. If icing is too firm, add 1 TSP of water to it at a time until it has reached desired consistency.
- Store in an airtight container.
Making a gingerbread house with your child could be the perfect way to teach him/her about patience. You see, the house has to be completely put together and hardened before you are able to get to the fun part. Honestly, it’s always hard for me to wait too!
Tomato paste cans help with support. We built our gingerbread house right before bedtime, so the frosting could spend the night hardening. That night while we slept, our Elf on the Shelf, Pokey, got into our gingerbread house candy! Colin and Owen were furious with him when they found him in the morning!The next day . . .
Each boy, true to their personalities, had a different decorating style. Colin was very thoughtful, precise and had much attention for patterning and symmetry. Owen took a bite out of each candy he chose, dipped it in icing, and plopped it randomly onto the house (notice the nibbled peanut butter cup and the licked Necco Wafers in the photo above!).
They did a beautiful job, didn’t they? Much to my surprise and delight, there was no bickering during this process! This house was truly a collaborative project, and even after numerous baths, it seemed that Colin and Owen’s hair smelled deliciously of gingerbread and frosting for the remainder of the week. NOTHING is better than snuggling with gingerbread boys!
Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
Gingerbread Mouse by Katy Bratun
Jan Brett’s Snowy Treasury by Jan Brett