Saturday 13 December 2014

How to build a Gingerbread House (and what not to do)

So I shared some photos of my gingerbread masterpiece (ahem) the other day, but I thought I’d do a how to, too. My gingerbread house wasn't perfect, but I felt it was charming in its own way. And, hopefully, if you're making one for the first time this year, I can help you avoid any potential problems.

You can download gingerbread templates online – previously, I’ve used this one and I found this one on Pinterest – but it’s just as easy to design your own. The best way to do it is to mock it up in card first. I wanted mine to be a little different, and I liked the idea of it being slightly narrower at the bottom than the top. You might struggle to go too stylised as the gingerbread has to be able to stand up, but it’s all about trial and error.

And while I’m on the subject of trial and error, if you make your own template make sure you make the roof wider than the house. It needs to overlap the house structure on all sides – I originally made mine the same width and the house couldn’t support it. I had to make a new roof. Fun times! So I was originally going to put up my template for download, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it! Also, making a cut out for the window weakened the structure, and it was really flimsy. So don't do that.

I use this one from BBC Good Food, and it’s easy peasy. I recommend making the gingerbread a good few hours before you plan to decorate so it completely cools – the best way to do it is over a couple of days so you can allow time for all the decorations to set, too. I popped my pieces in the fridge to set, which sped up the process massively.

250g butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger

Royal Icing:
2 egg whites
500g icing sugar

1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won’t quite come together, add a tiny splash of water.
2. Cut out the template (see below to download). Put a sheet of baking paper on your work surface and roll about one quarter of the dough to the thickness of two £1 coins. Cut out one of the sections, then slide the gingerbread, still on its baking paper, onto a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the trimmings, until you have two side walls, a front and back wall and two roof panels. Any leftover dough can be cut into Christmas trees or gingerbread men, if you like.
3. Leave until completely cooled.
4. For the royal icing, put the egg whites in a large bowl, sift in the icing sugar, then stir to make a thick, smooth icing.

Royal icing
Chocolate fingers
Oodles of sweets
Edible silver balls
Candy canes

1. If you are doing lots of decoration, you may find it easier to decorate before assembling the house – that way at least gravity is on your side!
2. Spoon your royal icing into a piping bag with a small or medium nozzle, and decorate as desired, using the royal icing as glue to stick sweets and other pieces to the gingerbread.
3. Leave to set for a couple of hours or pop in the fridge for 30 - 60 minutes.
4. When all the pieces are set, you can assemble. Switch your piping nozzle for a medium or large one and pipe generous snakes of icing along the wall edges, one by one to join them together.
5. If you have one, use a small bowl to support the walls from the inside, then allow to dry, ideally for a few hours or in the fridge.
6. Once your house is dry, remove the supports and fix the roof panels on. The angle is steep so you may need to hold these on firmly for a few mins until the icing starts to dry. Dry completely, ideally overnight (I so recommend in the fridge). If you have anything you can put underneath the roof to hold it up, all the better (all my jars were a little too wide)
7. Once it’s all set, transfer carefully to the presenting dish you’re using (I recommend a tray or chopping board covered in foil) and pipe royal icing along the base of the house to secure it in place.
8. Finish decorating your tableau – make a gumdrop path, a chocolate finger fence, add gingerbread men or gingerbread trees (or both) and finish with a dusting of icing sugar.
9. Your gingerbread house will be edible for about a week, but will last much longer.

Enjoy! It probably took a lot of blood, sweat and tears (mine did - that roof problem seemed like the end of the world about 10pm on Sunday night) but isn’t it worth it in the end? Plus, you get to eat loads of sweets when you're making it!



  1. Your gingerbread house looks absolutely delightful :) If I ever attempt to make one I'll take your tips onboard xx

    Ioanna |

  2. I'll be round in ten to try some Sarah!


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