It is the holiday season and that means, its time to make and decorate gingerbread houses. Building gingerbread houses has been a holiday tradition for hundreds of years and is great past time for family and friends. But, Before you start rounding up the kids and grand kids for this fun holiday activity, here are some of the most important gingerbread house tips from our expert bakers to help get you started.
1. Baking Fresh Gingerbread vs Using a Pre-Made Gingerbread Kit – The Most Important Decision
Now, before you start decorating your gingerbread house, it’s important to figure out which route you will take, either baking your gingerbread from scratch or purchasing a pre-made kit. There are many advantages and disadvantages to both.
Baking You Gingerbread
The benefit of baking your gingerbread houses is that you have more flexibility in design and control of how your house will look and feel. This allows you to make a smaller or much larger gingerbread house.
Generally speaking, making your own gingerbread house, if done correctly, will lead to a more stable house compared to most kits which could have broken gingerbread. This means, making your gingerbread house will be an easier feat and more enjoyable. Lastly, once its time to eat your gingerbread house, it will taste one hundred times better than any store-bought kit.
The main issue of making your own house is that it requires more time and preparation. You must purchase the proper baking ingredients for your gingerbread house. This can add a few more hours to the process, which could be an issue; especially if you have younger and eager decorators.
Also, you will need to make sure you have the proper molds or templates for the gingerbread house walls, doors and base ready to go. If you have more time and patience, we highly recommend making your gingerbread. If you have children who just want to decorate and enjoy the activity, think about getting a kit.
Using Gingerbread House Kits
In short, gingerbread house kits are the best option for kids and those who just want to decorate. All the supplies are included and the gingerbread is pre-made. The only issues are that some kits can have broken gingerbread pieces and the candy and gingerbread have a tendency to be stale.
2. Choosing a Theme – Where to find Inspiration
Choosing a theme is a very important step to think about before you start decorating and constructing your gingerbread house. The most popular and common decoration ideas can be found by doing a quick search on Google, Pinterest or this article about the most popular gingerbread decorations ideas. Why it’s important to find a theme before decorating is ensure that you have all the needed supplies, plus this will shape how you will make your gingerbread house (if it’s from scratch)
Common gingerbread themes include:
- Winter wonderland
- Classic Gingerbread House
- The Log Cabin
- Christmas themes with green, red and white accents.
3. Finding a Template or Pattern Before You Create (Recommended)
There are many gingerbread templates and patterns that are available online. Once more, do your best to choose a template that will fit your gingerbread theme before you bake your gingerbread. These templates can range from the popular Victorian style pattern to the more classic style gingerbread house. Each template should come with walls, doors, roof and window outlines for you to follow.
4. Selecting Candy and Decorations Ahead of Time
Once you have your theme and template chosen, its time to think about the candy and decorations that you would like to use. The most common gingerbread house candies include Hershey kisses, m&ms, and dots. To make sure your candy fits the theme you may want to choose specific colored candies.
For example, a class gingerbread house would include, red, green and white. In this instance using red M&Ms, green dots and white royal icing would be encouraged. For more advanced themes, like a log cabin, keep to darker more rustic looking candies and decorations like Hershey kisses.
Additional decorations like Santa and reindeer cutouts can also be added to give the gingerbread house a special touch. These cut out and edible decorations can take your gingerbread house to the next level by adding more of a holiday theme that cannot be done with traditional candy.
5. Building A Gingerbread House with Proper Foundation
Before you start constructing, know that a gingerbread house with the best foundation will make the activity. This means that before you start putting your gingerbread walls up, do your best to have thick royal icing on hand, plus thicker gingerbread to make the house more stable.
6. Decorating Walls and Doors Before You Build
Most beginner gingerbread house makers, decorate after the house has been built. This is one of the most common mistakes in gingerbread houses. To get a cleaner and better design, we highly recommend that you decorate each piece of gingerbread individually, on a flat surface. This allows for now just a cleaner design, but a more cohesive looking house. This tip is highly recommended if you have children decorators. It tends to be easier for them to build their houses this way compared to when the house is already built.
7. Additional Structural Support
Once you start putting up the walls and doors, an easy trick is to use any type of canned food as a way to prop up your gingerbread. While it’s propped up, use additional icing to make sure the doors, walls and roof stick. Make sure you hold gingerbread together for 15 seconds after you apply the frosting
8. Using More Than Enough Frosting
We will say this one more time, use more icing on the corners of each piece of gingerbread before you connected them is highly recommended. Make sure to make plenty of icing ahead of time.
9. Being Patient
Patience will pay off when building and decorating your gingerbread house. For the best outcome, take your time while decorating and constructing. It can be difficult to re-decorate a piece of gingerbread, so take your time. Which leads us to our next tip.
10. Bake Additional Gingerbread
Have additional pieces of gingerbread on hand if you are baking. Do you best to have at least an additional set of gingerbread as a back up just in case there are any broken pieces. You can store your fresh gingerbread in a tin container for up to 7 days as a back up.
11. Keeping the Tradition Alive
Lastly, keep this holiday tradition alive. This is a great opportunity to bring family and friends together. By making gingerbread houses an annual tradition, you will be able to have a set day every year to rekindle relationships.