How to Make a Gingerbread House from Scratch•
Posted on December 20 2021
Building a gingerbread house is a labor of love. It is definitely more labor-intensive than simply baking shapeless cookies, but it's a lot more fun! A gingerbread house construction site is one where family memories and kitchen messes are made. Keep in mind that while you can certainly eat a gingerbread house, they exist more for aesthetics and holiday spirit than for their culinary merits. Nonetheless, gingerbread houses are great fun to bake, construct, and decorate! They make the house smell like Christmas, and they gather the family all in one place for a festive treat. Below we've provided steps to accomplishing this very underrated Christmas activity!
Gingerbread House Dough
- 6 cups (828g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (170g) butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups (284g) packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup dark molasses
- 1 tablespoon water
You can either buy frosting at the store, or make your own with these ingredients:
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar, divided
Making the gingerbread dough
First, whisk the flour and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Set the mixture aside for later.
Next, make the butter, sugar, egg, and molasses mixture. Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses, and water until mixed evenly.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients slowly, adding half of the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and blending well before adding the rest. The dough should be soft and malleable.
Sprinkle flour lightly on a workspace and then knead the dough by hand five or six times until the dough is smooth and even and somewhat firm. If the dough is too soft, add more flour.
Now let the dough chill. Divide it in half, pat it into disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
Time to get crafty
While the dough is chilling in the fridge, it's time to get crafty. First, decide what kind of gingerbread house you'd like to make. Will it have windows? A chimney? Will it be rectangular or square? Will it be a mansion or a cottage? When you have a vision of your perfect gingerbread abode in your mind, it's time to start building the template. The easiest way to do this is to find one on Pinterest.
Print out the template and trace it on hard paper or cardboard. Sometimes the templates print in a smaller scale than the actual intended size of the gingerbread house. If you'd like your gingerbread house to be bigger than the template, simply use a ruler to draw the template on a larger scale. Then cut out the pieces.
Cut out the gingerbread pieces
Take the dough disks out of the fridge and let sit for 10 minutes in room temperature before rolling. In the meantime, start preheating the oven to 350°F. Spread parchment paper on a flat work surface and sprinkle with flour.
Grab a rolling pin and start rolling until the dough is an even ¼ inch thick. Add flour to the surface of the dough and check to make sure it's not sticking to either the parchment paper or the rolling pin. If there is too much sticking, add more flour to the paper or to the surface of the dough. You want the pieces to hold their shape when you cut them, so if they're too soft, put them in the freezer for a bit before cutting.
When the dough is ready, place the cut out templates on the surface of the rolled out dough. Use a sharp knife to cut the pieces smoothly, avoiding any dough build up.
Transfer the gingerbread pieces onto a flat metal cookie sheet that has been greased, taking care not to damage the shapes. You can either cut windows and a door at this point, or wait until immediately after pulling them out of the oven.
At 350°F, the larger pieces may need 11-15 minutes to bake, while the smaller pieces may only need 6 - 8 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheets halfway through for more even baking. You'll know they're ready when the edges begin to darken.
When they're done, let them cool for about 15 minutes and then place the templates over the corresponding gingerbread pieces. Use a knife to trim off any renegade areas that may have grown beyond their bounds due to baking. Then let cool completely.
Brick and mortar
Now that you have your gingerbread house pieces, how do you make them into a whole house? You use mortar, of course! And in this case, the mortar is delicious frosting. You can either buy frosting at the store or make your own. We've listed the ingredients for the frosting above, now here's how you make it:
Whisk the egg whites and 1 1/3 cups of the powdered sugar together until smooth. Pour in the rest of the 1 1/3 cup of powdered sugar to the sugar egg mixture and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the frosting forms stiff peaks. If it doesn't form stiff peaks, you can always add more powdered sugar! You want the frosting to be stiff so that it will hold the walls of the house together and stay in place when used as decoration.
Note: If you are making the house to be edible, consider cooking the mixture. Place it in a double boiler until it reaches a temperature of 160°F, but not higher than 175°
Putting the pieces together
Empty the bowl of frosting into a pastry bag. If you don't have a pastry bag you can use a freezer bag with a small hole cut in one of the corners to squeeze the frosting through.
The frosting will now become the glue that holds the structure together. Squeeze the frosting onto the edges of the gingerbread pieces that will meet other pieces. Apply the frosting on all of the wall edges as they will become corners and will have to hold up the roof. Connect the base and the walls together first, then add the roof. Be gentle when fitting the roof together at the tip, putting frosting where the two pieces of the roof come together. Fortify the place where the roof meets the top of the walls with more frosting to hold it in place. If there are any additions such as a chimney, add those last or follow the instructions that come with your template.
Now that all your hard work is done, it's time for the fun part! Draw shingles or molding or snowflakes with the remaining frosting. Then add candy gumdrops or candy canes or any sweet treat that will make your gingerbread house look festive and taste delicious!