tips for gingerbread house success

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, All Things Home, Decorating, Food & Fitness, Holiday18 Comments

I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make gingerbread this year because of my healing shoulder.  Rolling out dough that’s been refrigerated overnight is not a one-arm kind of job!  But, my friend, Cheri, volunteered to make gingerbread with me, so she could do the rolling and I could share some of my tips with her.  While I was sharing my tips with her, I thought I would turn the camera on and share them with you as well!

Both Cheri and I made our dough the day before and refrigerated it.  We then got together at her house to make and decorate the cookies and houses together.

Her house is so pretty!  She lives in a split level, which is such a challenging layout, and she did an amazing job making the house flow.  My favorite corner is this space just off her kitchen with a fireplace and an old oak table and chairs set out of the Sunday School room from her childhood church.

Everything is so beautifully decorated, but is still homey and comfortable.

In the video, we talk about dough thickness, using templates, some tips for cutting, making doors and windows, and decorating…

You can find the recipe I use as well as printables for the templates in THIS POST.

A couple more tips that I was reminded about as I was building the houses this year…

  1. Royal icing can get very thick and hard to squeeze after a while.  If that happens, add a little bit of water to loosen it up.
  2. Make two piping bags of icing, one with a small hole for detail work and one with a larger hold for the “chinking” and house assembly.  We were working with two large-holed bags, which was limiting when it came to the details.  (I was very shaky, so I couldn’t do much detail work anyway!)
  3. The configuration of the walls (inside or outside) does matter when it comes to the roof fitting.  It’s a good idea to do a dry fit to see which walls need to be on the inside and outside.  (You’ll see me switch the walls around when I’m constructing the larger house.)
  4. Lastly, just have fun!  Even off-centered windows, crooked walls, and icing applied with a shaky right arm can look charming.

My icing was definitely not my best work!  If you watch the video, you can see my right elbow is practically pinned to my side.  Everything from rolling to icing was quite a workout for me!  I ended up doing one larger house, one small one, and two hearts and that was enough for my arm.  I’ll do more next year!

I am glad I did some gingerbread this year, though, even if it’s a little clumsy.

Cheri’s granddaughter joined us for a while and I loved watching her play with the dough and babble.

When I got home, I was faced with the challenge of where to put the houses.  I had a feeling the cats would like them, so I put the larger house up on a shelf and the small house on a compote in our kitchen eating area…

And I put it under a cloche about a minute after I took this picture because the kitties confirmed my suspicion.

I hung the hearts on the little tree to see if they leave those alone and so far so good.  Cats and kids have resisted.

Here’s how Cheri’s houses turned out…

I love that she created a little village and added the bottlebrush trees.  So cute!

Are gingerbread houses a part of your Christmas traditions?

tips for gingerbread house success

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18 Comments on “tips for gingerbread house success”

  1. Thank you for4 the helpful tips. M daughters and I tried your recipe and used templates. Our house were fun to make and smelled great. But however we truly did not make the most beautiful (like yours shaky and all) Village of houses. We also dressed them up with bottle brush trees and snowman ornament’s.

  2. There have been years where I wanted a gingerbread house for a centerpiece, but with all December was throwing at me, I had very little time. This is the hack I used to cut to the chase for a non-edible but magical gingerbread house: I started with a kit and hot-glued the whole thing together! Then I used royal icing for “snow” and decorative effect, and while it was still wet, I sprinkled the whole thing with iridescent glitter! I also used gum drop type candies on the roof for more sparkle and had a ton of fun “landscaping” it! It was gorgeous in candlelight. Didn’t quite have the homespun experience that you did, but my means achieved my end. Love yours and look to them–and all you do–for inspiration. Merry Christmas!

    1. Lynette,
      Yay! You sound like me. I had always wanted to do a gingerbread house but just couldn’t find time. This year, I bought a small pre-fab gingerbread kit and assembled it. I used candy I had in my baking basket (including some Halloween jimmies that were left over!). Our house looks nothing like the camera-perfect examples that Marian and Cheri show, but I love ours because it’s ours! Merry Christmas!

    2. LOL Lynette…my family would make the gingerbread dough but we always hot glued the house together. Nothing wrong with that.

  3. They are always fun to make. It’s best to use meringue powder instead of raw egg whites if you plan to eat or serve the gingerbread (I use Wilton, sold anywhere you buy cake decorating supplies), Gingerbread always makes the house smell like Christmas!

  4. We make houses with Graham crackers and buttercream icing. We own a gingerbread mold but the kids have a hard time putting those houses together and tears ensue. The kids will be making them this Saturday at my son’s birthday party. It’s funny to watch the decorative candy slowly disappear off of the houses over the weeks preceding Christmas *lol*

    1. Jesse, have you ever tried the trick of forming the graham crackers over school-sized milk cartons? Perfectly sized!They make the cutest gingerbread houses, and give the icing a place to “stick.” Maybe your son and his friends could collect/save them this week before Saturday’s party. Signed, A Former Schoolteacher

  5. So charming! I love the idea of littles on those little pieces of wood rounds perhaps with those battery operated tea lights and shared throughout the house. Together in a cluster or separated into individuals, they are ever so Christmasy. I have eight more working days until our employer grants us holiday leave and posts like these make me want to go home and nest up.

  6. They look lovely! Just remember, snow isn’t perfect and neat, you can say they are realistic!!!!

  7. Marian, You are such a trouper! I love your can-do spirit! I look forward to all your posts. Prayers and good wishes for continued healing.

  8. Wow Miss Marian and Cheri,

    great job on the gingerbread houses! Next year, after our daughter finishes building their house; we will attempt a couple of gingerbread structures. I’m so glad your P.T. is progressing well; post surgical therapy can seem endless. Merry Christmas!


    1. I believe she found it at a thrift store! I know she painted it in Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint Boxwood.

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