The holidays will soon be upon us, and that means one thing: It’s time to master the art of the gingerbread house! This step by step guide will help you build a gingerbread house like a pro!
Fun, festive and endlessly entertaining, this yuletide craft has earned its reputation as a must-do tradition on many families’ celebratory to-do list.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been honing your skills for years, keep reading. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at the history behind this activity, the technique to master and more!
Also, check out Tips for Creating a Perfect Gingerbread House Party!
What is the Gingerbread House Tradition?
Although families around the world make them now, gingerbread houses first began in Germany in the 16th century.
Before then, elaborately decorated gingerbread cookies were already a holiday staple, made popular during European Medieval fairs. Turning them into fanciful houses was a natural next step. From there, the demand grew when the Brothers Grimm released “Hansel and Gretel”, a children’s story that features a house made of entirely — you guessed it — sweet treats.
How to Make a Gingerbread House from Scratch
Making a gingerbread house from scratch is easier than it looks! Follow our trusted gingerbread recipe, use these cutouts, whip up a batch of the best icing recipe and you’re ready!
- Brown Sugar
- Baking Soda
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth.
Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough.
Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Roll out the dough and use cutters to create the different star shapes.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until crispy. Once the house has finished baking, let it completely cool before building your house.
How to Build a Gingerbread House
Once the house is baked and cooled and you have your icing made, it’s time to build the gingerbread house.
- Use a piping bag and a large round tip like Wilton 10.
- Add icing to the bottom of the gingerbread house and the sides.
- Place it on a cake stand or flat platter and hold for a minute.
- Continue adding the sides to the house with icing and before adding the roof, let the base dry. Make sure you give it a good foundation!
Let the house dry for 10 minutes before adding decorations. You can even do this the night before!
How to Decorate a Gingerbread House
Truly there are no rules to decorating your gingerbread house! However, we have some tips to share that will help you decorate a gingerbread house like a pro!
Icing and Piping Tips
The icing makes a huge difference when decorating a house. This recipe is the best icing for decorating as it’s light and fluffy, easy to pipe but also dries hard.
Divide the icing up and create different colors using food dye. Use the different colors to add designs to the house. We made a light blueish green color and loves the way it looked!
Piping bags and tips are crucial to creating a beautifully designed gingerbread house. Change out the tips to create fluffy stars down the side of the house or a small round tip to add dots and detailed designs.
Make sure you properly set the piping bag up so you can switch out the tips for each bag and color making it much easier. Here’s an article to help!
Using a small round tip, make a fun design for the roof.
For small candy items, like these tiny gold stars, add a dot of frosting on the back and use tweezers to add them to the house.
We love the small star tip for making decorative dots and stars along the frame of the house.
Decorative Candy and Other Items
Candy! It’s all about festive, colorful candy to create a charming house! In addition to candy, here are some other ideas:
- Cinnamon Sticks – Make great logs for your house.
- Star Anis – They look like stars!
- Herbs – Use rosemary and other herbs for trees, wreaths and more.
- Coconut – Add “snow” to the bottom of the platter for a snowy look.
If you make rosemary trees, use hot glue to keep them in place on the platter. Do not use hot glue your house, but to get these trees to stick it’s the best way!
How to Make a Dusting of Snow
After the gingerbread house is fully decorated, give it a dusting of snow! This makes it look like a snowy cottage and is the final touch in creating a beautiful gingerbread house.
Add powdered sugar to a sieve. Hold it high over the house and gently shake allowing the sugar to fall onto the roof of the gingerbread house.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does a Gingerbread House Last For?
Surprisingly, longer than you might think. If you follow the proper storage techniques, you can keep your gingerbread house intact for up to a year!
Does Trader Joes Have Gingerbread Houses?
Indeed! If you don’t want to make one from scratch, you can find a 26.4-ounce Gingerbread House Kit on the shelves of Trader Joes during the holiday season. With colors derived from natural sources and no artificial ingredients, this is one treat you can feel good about sharing with the whole family.
However, if you want one, you’ll have to act quick! These fly off the shelves this time of year.
We still recommend making our homemade icing to help decorate as the ones that come in the kits is usually too hard and difficult to pipe with.
Despite your best efforts to keep it wrapped, a gingerbread house won’t last forever. However, you can extend its lifespan by keeping it covered, cool and dry!
If you want to leave your gingerbread house out in the open without wrapping it, understand that the icing and other accessories will dry out quicker. It will also be exposed to dust and debris. While it will remain technically edible for a few weeks, it might not taste as great!
Keep your gingerbread house in a tightly closed container as long as it’s out on your counter or in your pantry. This way, it will last for a few weeks until going stale. For a more long-term option, you can freeze your gingerbread cake.
If you go this route, be sure to use an air-tight container that’s also freezer-safe to prevent any moisture from entering. Your gingerbread house will last between six to eight months that way and still be edible when you thaw it out!
If you leave it out for decor, you can use a glass dome over a cake stand or platter to keep it fresher.
You’ll need to read the label of each one you buy to make sure it’s edible. However, most gingerbread house kits are intended to be consumed. That means that everything inside the kit, from the gingerbread itself to the candy and icing, is safe to consume.
Yes! Right when it comes out of the oven, homemade gingerbread will be soft to the touch. Yet, it only takes a few seconds of air exposure to harden it right up!
What Does Gingerbread Taste Like?
As its name implies, gingerbread has a distinct ginger taste. However, this peppery spice isn’t the only one you’ll notice. You’ll also taste hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, and cloves. Gingerbread can be soft and thick or thin and crispy depending on your preference!
What Gives Gingerbread Its Flavor?
The aforementioned ginger, combined with rich and decadent molasses, gives gingerbread its rich, festive flavor. In addition, you can also thank molasses for its deep, dark color and its moist texture.
What Kind of Icing Do You Use for Gingerbread Houses?
The icing is one of the trickiest parts about a gingerbread to get right! Basic butter frosting is too crumbly. It also takes a while to harden. This means it will stay sticky for longer, making more of a mess.
What you need is royal icing. This specialty ingredient hardens quickly and is more fast-drying than butter frosting. In addition, if you want to keep your gingerbread house for as long as possible, you’ll want a frosting that’s devoid of any butter, as this can cause it to rot quicker.
Create the Perfect Gingerbread House This Holiday Season
The art of making a gingerbread house doesn’t have to be difficult to master!
By following these simple tips, you can be well on your way toward creating an entire village of your own! So grab your supplies, brainstorm your design and start creating! Need more ideas and inspiration on how to decorate and celebrate this Christmas? Check out our collection of guides!
More Christmas Recipes You’ll Love!
Let us know if you make this gingerbread house by leaving a comment and review below.
We would also LOVE to see your photos by tagging @sugarandcharm on social! Can’t wait to see what you create!
Gingerbread House Recipe
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tbsp water
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth.
- Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough.
- Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Roll out the dough and use cutters to create the shapes of the gingerbread house.
- There is a chart inside the cookie-cutter package that tells you exactly how many cookies to make, 19 cookies total, but I ended up only using 16 cookies.
- Bake for about 10 minutes or until crispy.
- Let the gingerbread house cool before assembling.
- Once the gingerbread is cooled, you can start to build the gingerbread house by piping frosting on the bottom and sides of the house.
- When the house is fully assembled, let it dry for 10 minutes before decorating it!