One of the most fun holiday traditions is gingerbread house making. Over the years, I have made manyyy gingerbread houses ranging from complex to simple. And to be completely transparent, simplicity is definitely the way to go for construction (especially if you’re a beginner). Decorations are where you can let your creativity shine through. So today I’m sharing my gingerbread recipe plus a few tips and tricks to help you make the perfect gingerbread house!
How to Make the Perfect Gingerbread House (and Gingerbread A-Frame!)
Before we dig into the full recipe for this gingerbread cabin, here are a few of my best tips for making the perfect gingerbread house. I hope they help!
Cookie Gingerbread VS. Construction Gingerbread
When making gingerbread for building, it is essential that the cookie is firm. When I make gingerbread houses, I never intend on actually eating them. With that in mind, this recipe isn’t your traditional cookie. Is it edible? Yes, but to what degree is your decision to make. Especially given that gingerbread houses typically sit out for a while on display.
When making a batch of gingerbread dough for construction, I might add a heavy-handed amount of cinnamon and omit vanilla entirely. Cinnamon will provide a great smelling house, while vanilla is expensive and only for eating. Save that vanilla extract for a recipe where it counts, like this yule log!
There will be options in the recipe, but it’s good to know what your plans are with your gingerbread house before you begin. Is this just for decoration or will little helpers be picking at it shortly after construction?
Pro tip: Spend one night baking the gingerbread pieces, then build and decorate the next day so it has time to cool.
Gingerbread House Design
Remember when I said simplicity is key? Well, it is! In years past, I have made the mistake of construction monsters that ultimately don’t hold up and come crashing down. For example, sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it will grab water from the air; this can become a problem when you need stable gingerbread house walls.
To successfully make a gingerbread house, it’s best to design a simple shape (such as an A-frame) that requires little support. Once you know the shape you’d like to make your house, measure it out onto card stock and cut the pieces out. Do this on a solid paper since you will be laying it directly onto the dough.
Having a template means the pieces will be easier to assemble and more consistently shaped.
Gingerbread House Decorations
When it comes to decorating your gingerbread walls, a bit more planning goes a long way. The timeless kitchen rule of Mise en place (everything in its place) will help you avoid many problems, and if you’re building with younger folks, it can prevent some messes, too!
I find it best to lay your gingerbread pieces on a half sheet pan, ensuring there’s enough space to pipe frosting and decorate. It’s also helpful to have your icing in piping bags (or ziplock bags with the corners snipped in a pinch) and all your decorative sprinkles and sugars in small containers on another sheet pan, just in case there are spills.
Pre-mixing colors, selecting your candies, and having them ready to go will save you a lot of time and make cleaning up easy.
Gingerbread House Construction
Once your pieces are decorated and have had time to dry, this is when you want to adhere them together carefully (this could be a two-person job). The key is very thick royal icing!
I recommend starting with the walls if building a standard square shape or with one the back piece and a roof panel if doing an A-frame. Build your gingerbread house on its permanent display surface, so that once it dries, it can be moved easily from your kitchen.
The best advice to ensure success and fun is to plan and give the project the time it needs. This project is excellent for a cozy weekend in!
Classic Gingerbread House Dough
- Parchment Paper
- Half and full sized sheet pans
- Chef Knife and Paring knife
- Icing bags
- Various frosting tips
- Rolling Pin
- Stand Mixer
- 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 3 Tbsp Cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp Ginger
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 2/3 Cup Light Corn Syrup
- 6 Tbsp Unsalted butter Softened
- 2 1/3 Cups AP flour
- 2 Tsp Vanilla extract optional
- 3 large Egg whites
- 4 Cups Powdered Sugar
- Gelatin sheets for windows
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Unsweeted coconut flakes for snow
Gingerbread House Dough
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine brown sugar, softened butter, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and corn syrup. Mix on low speed until smooth. It is important not to over-mix because adding too much air during this step can lead to unwanted spreading.
- Once the mixture is smooth, slowly sprinkle in flour, continue to mix until a stiff dough is formed. Once complete, wrap dough in plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until needed.
Baking and Shaping
- Line a baking sheet with parchment, making sure it fits comfortably. Working in batches if needed, remove the parchment from the baking sheet, dust with flour, and roll the dough onto the sheet. Make sure to leave a small border around the edge. Transfer the dough lined parchment back onto the baking sheet.
- Take your cut card stock and lay the pieces onto the rolled dough. Without cutting all the way through, press along the edges of the card stock to imprint the shape, including windows and doors (they will be fully cut out after baking). Leave a small border around each piece, fitting as many as you can on each sheet pan. Take any large areas of extra dough and trip them away, while still leaving a small 1/4 border around the house shapes. Bunch extra dough up and cover until ready to be rolled out and used for extra pieces.
- Bake the gingerbread until deep golden brown and dry when touched. Check for doneness after 15 minutes.
- Once removed from the oven, using a paring knife or pizza wheel, cut along the scored lines and allow the pieces to cool completely on the sheet pan. If you move them you risk them warping while cooling.
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer, add in egg whites and whip on medium low speed using the whisk attachment until eggs are just starting to foam.
- Working 1/2 cup at a time, slowly add powdered sugar. Use caution when adding the powdered sugar, it does have a tendency to puff out of the mixer if mixed too quickly.
- Once all the powdered sugar is added, the royal icing should move slowly off the whisk. This consistency is good for decorating.
- For construction, add 1 cup more to royal icing to make it strong enough to act as glue. Put what you need for decorating in piping bags, covering the rest with plastic wrap, pressing it against the icing to keep a skin from forming. If adding color to your icing, gel food coloring is recommended.
Gingerbread House Construction
- Lay the various cooled house parts out on a sheet pan and decorate. Allow all the decorative elements to dry before continuing.
- If placing windows in, cut the gelatin sheet to just fit over the window cut outs. On the back side of the panels, fasten into place using royal icing. Flip back over and continue to decorate.
- Working with two corner pieces, apply a generous amount of the thicker royal icing to the seams and press together, allow the pieces to set slightly before moving on. This is a good time to add interior lighting elements like fairy lights.
- Allow the frame pieces to dry before adding the roof pieces. Make sure to build directly onto a base for the gingerbread house. This could be a cake stand or a plate — anything that can easily be moved.
- Once the structure is built, add any touch ups or candy pieces to the exterior. Allow to set completely before moving to its final place for display and enjoy!
Plus, here are a few more gingerbread house ideas:
- For an extra layer of sparkle, add in a strand or two of tiny fairy lights. You can even tuck them inside!
- Extra frosting can be used to make additional decorations like mushrooms and trees.
- Add color and texture with candy
- Use gel food coloring to tint the royal frosting — be sure to wear gloves!
So what do you think of this guide to making a festive gingerbread cabin this holiday season?? I hope you love it and found it helpful!
You might also enjoy:
After the year we’ve had, I decided that this month’s recipe should be a decadent treat that I think we all deserve. A dessert that will delight any crowd: an Orange Spice Bûche de Noël (or if you’re feeling a bit more pedestrian, a Yule log recipe).
Not only is citrus juicy and bright, it can also bring a much needed note of tart acidity to otherwise rich and very sweet desserts. Enter this perfectly balanced and irresistible Winter Pavlova recipe with tangerine curd and salted pistachios. If you’re looking for a special dessert recipe to bring to a holiday party, this is it!