The pressure of making your first gingerbread house can be immense. Baking and decorating a standing structure out of flour, water and sugar hardly seems possible. But I assure you, it is. It’s not about being overly fancy or complicated – it’s all about having fun with your family. A gorgeous house to gawk at over the holidays is just, well, icing on the cake. Here are a few tips and techniques I’ve figured out along the way about how to approach your first gingerbread house:
- Kits Aren’t a Bad Idea: I buy gingerbread house kits a lot. With a toddler running around, there is only so much time I have to dedicate to measuring gingerbread templates. Don’t feel bad about picking one up for your first go around. This way you won’t have to worry about the most basic part of the project and you can skip ahead to the fun part – decorating!
- Build a Strong Foundation: Since it’s highly likely your gingerbread house will be transported around your actual house, it’s a good idea to build it on a strong piece of plywood that is wider and longer than the gingerbread house by at least 4 inches. Wrap the board in aluminum foil and before proceeding any further, make sure it can hold the weight of the house. Or, you can build it on a tray with handles for easy carrying.
- It’s All About the Icing: When assembling your house, remember that the icing is your glue. Your cement. Follow the directions very closely – you don’t want icing that is too thin or the house won’t stay together.
- Let it Dry: Once the icing is on, be sure to dry it well. The rule is to dry the structure for at least 24 hours before decorating it. It may be hard to resist, but you want your icing to be rock-hard like cement before proceeding.
- Divide and Conquer: Be wary of having a formal plan for your house d’cor. While you may want gumdrops to line the walkway, your little ones may have other ideas in mind. Remember, it’s all about fun. Also, it’s a good idea to put the candies in individual bowls to make it easier for little kids to grasp (and stay somewhat organized).
- Dry and Dry Again: After decorating the house, let it sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours. The drying time for the icing is absolutely essential. After that you can move your house freely around the room, always taking care to handle the base with two hands.
- Snack time! Most gingerbread houses are perfectly safe to eat, though you should check with the kit or recipe you use to be certain. The candies are especially fun to snap off and eat over the course of the holidays and it’s safe to do so. But be forewarned that the structure might fall apart if too much of the icing at the seams is removed. Of course, take precautions around small children in case of choking hazards. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!