We quilt makers are a crafty bunch. Most of us have a lot of skills and at Christmas we get to put them all on display. Sewing, baking, decorating, wrapping, giving, cleaning, and making do. Most importantly is the skill of loving. So, here’s a project to delight your loved ones.
A fast and easy Gingerbread House. A real one that makes your house smell good and makes you look like a cake decorating pro.
With my method, you pour Gingerbread batter into a jelly roll pan and bake a thin cake. Then cut out the shapes and let them dry out. Like soft bread gets stale and hard, your Gingerbread shapes will get hard and stay that way. Traditional method Gingerbread shapes begin hard but get soft and roofs collapse. I know!
I’ve included lots of tips to make sure your first house turns out just perfect for your holiday table. I’ve included a free printable pattern of the shapes with the ingredients needed. Get it here and follow the tutorial below. Keep scrolling down to see all the steps pictured for your convenience.
One week ahead – assemble ingredients.
Tip: Buy an extra box of Confectioners Sugar. It’s always good to have a bit more on hand in case your icing needs help.
Tip: Enjoy shopping for colorful cellophane and foil wrapped candies. All candy, except the spearmint leaves and spice drops, will remain in their wrappers. Unwrapped candy may look pretty but it gets sticky and messy when exposed to air. It will bleed into the white icing or fall off. I know!
Tip: Plan to have a Gingerbread House Party or share your candy “stash” with friends. Like many quilt projects, your first gingerbread house will be a bit expensive. You only need one Hershey Kiss but you have to buy a whole bag to get it. Once purchased, you will have enough to make many houses.
Tip: You can build your house on any firm portable surface. I like to purchased 12″ cardboard cake circles. You can cut your own cardboard but buying a pack from the craft store is worth it for quality and convenience. Yes, you only need one but I guarantee you’ll find a use for the extras.
Tip: Disposable decorator bags are great for easy clean up. Only two tips are necessary. I used a #18 star tip and a #5 round tip from Wilton and a coupler set. You can use any medium sized star and writing tip. The coupler makes it easy to switch between the two tips as you build your house.
2 to 3 days ahead — bake the Gingerbread and cut out the shapes.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare the Gingerbread according to box instructions but use a bowl to mix the batter.
Pour into an ungreased 11″ x 17″ jelly roll pan. Tap on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake 9 minutes. Some bubbles may still be shiny. Remove immediately if cracks appear. Let Gingerbread cool completely in the pan.
Print out pattern and trace shapes. Print on “actual size” printer setting. Do not use the “scale to fit” printer setting. Using a sharp knife cut around shapes using the cutting layout guide.
Carefully lift out the soft shapes with a spatula and place on a cookie sheet. If cracks exist or a shape breaks, don’t worry. Just “smush” them back together.
After cutting out the house shapes, you will have scraps.
Tip: Gingerbread scraps! This is the only part of this house that you will want to eat. The whole house is edible but it doesn’t taste very good. These scraps, however, are delicious! Eat them now while they are soft and moist.
Place cut shapes in a warm dry place to dry out and become hard. This may take a couple days. Humidity in your home will affect the drying time and is the enemy of Gingerbread Houses. Shapes will shrink in size as they as they dry out. If cracks appear while drying out, push them back together.
Tip: You can hurry up the process in a 200° oven (about 4 hours) but be careful you don’t burn your Gingerbread shapes. It is possible to bake the Gingerbread in the early morning and build your house in the late evening. I know!
Make the Royal Icing and build your Gingerbread House.
Tip: Cover your cardboard circle with shiny, foil-like gift wrap. Goofs can be lightly wiped away with a damp cloth.
Tip: Elevate your house on a stand or upturned pot so it’s easier to rotate as you work.
Tip: Take your eggs out of refrigerator in the morning so they are at room temperature. They will whip up better. But, if you forget, you can use them straight out of the frig. I know!
Make the Royal Icing right before you begin your house.
Tip: Beat the egg whites on high speed about 20 seconds until they resemble the foam on beer. Then add the Cream of Tartar and beat again on high about 30 seconds until whites are frothy.
DO NOT OMIT THE CREAM OF TARTAR. It makes the icing turn into cement and dry hard. Find it in the spice section at the grocery store or your grandmother’s spice rack. I have never tried meringue powder alternatives so I have no advice for using them.
Tip: Turn off mixer before adding Confectioners Sugar or you will have sugar flying everywhere. Add about 1/3 of the box at a time. Mix on highest speed until stiff peaks form. About 6 minutes.
Tip: Press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the icing to keep it from drying out. Keep icing covered this way through the entire decorating process.
Tip: Keep icing tip inside a damp dishtowel when not being used to keep it from drying out and clogging.
Tip: Conserve icing in the beginning. You don’t need much to glue your house together. You want to have plenty left for “snow.” If it looks like you will run out of icing, you can make another batch, or spread the snow thinly around the base with a knife instead of the thick star tip.
Tip: Don’t eat the icing. It tastes awful because it does not have vanilla extract in it. The raw egg whites are questionable too. If you plan to build your house with small children around, have some mini marshmallows on hand to offer them. Say they are Gingerbread House “snowballs.”
Follow the tutorial photos below to build your Gingerbread House.
Tip: Hold the roof section in place and count to ten before letting go.
Follow along each of the steps adding elements in progression.
Tip: Trim bell so it fits flush against house. Hold in place several seconds until icing sticks. Trim excess plastic wrap from one end of the candies so they sit snugly in the snow.
Tip: Practice using the different tips.
Tip: Add the door. It is open for a reason. Air is allowed to circulate in the house and keep it dry.
Tip: I always add a shiny gold coin to my Gingerbread Houses. I look for coins that say “IN GOD WE TRUST” because this is the reason for the season after all.
Tip: Keep of dish of candies nearby so someone does not eat your pretty house. The Hershey Kiss on the chimney is always the first to go. I know!
Enjoy your Gingerbread House and have a Merry Christmas.
I hope you enjoyed my Gingerbread House tutorial. Let me know how you liked it.
Here’s the link to the pattern again. Gingerbread House Pattern