Essential Guide to Gingerbread Houses: Decorating Tips & More

Baking gingerbread houses and then decorating them is a popular family tradition, with a rich 200-year-old history. It is very easy to build your own gingerbread house – just follow the tips and tricks given here. Your kids can build a gingerbread house too—it’s that simple. When they do, be sure to take photographs, because it’s such an awesome accomplishment!

Here are some useful gingerbread house tips and tricks you can use…

Tip #1. Let’s start with the design. Pick a simple design, such as an A-frame house, which consists of a front, back, and roof. Not only is an A-frame house simple to make, it is also quite sturdy. You can also choose a basic house design with four walls and a roof – six pieces in all.

Tip #2. Pick a recipe that’s easy to make. You want a recipe that doesn’t have to be chilled as that slows down the process considerably.

Tip #3. Roll out the dough directly onto parchment paper rather than rolling out the dough, cutting the pieces and transferring to a baking sheet. That would distort the gingerbread completely and even tear it. The resulting piece is likely to be fragile and easy to break.

Tip #4. Bake as much as possible – in fact, you should over-bake when making a gingerbread house. It’s okay to stick to the recommended baking time when baking gingerbread cookies – however that would give you a soft product. You want something stronger and sturdier for a house. That’s why it is important to bake the gingerbread until it gets dark brown around the edges. You can check if it is hard enough by using your fingers to press down on the gingerbread. You want the gingerbread to be firm, not soft like a cookie. Soft gingerbread won’t hold up the candy and the frosting. So, when you bake, don’t stop until the pieces turn really dark.

Tip #5. You should always use Royal Icing. You don’t want to use the frosting from a can. Instead of pre-made frosting, use Royal Icing as it acts as a much better glue to hold up all the pieces of the gingerbread house. The icing is like cement for the gingerbread house. The Royal Icing needs to be beaten well with the mixer to ensure that it is thick enough. Once prepared, it should be covered with a damp cloth—otherwise, it will simply dry out.

Tip #6. Remember, a fully completed gingerbread house will be very heavy. The gingerbread itself is heavy and when you add candy, it gets so much heavier. In fact, a fully completed gingerbread house can weigh up to 5 pounds. That’s why you want a sturdy base for your gingerbread house. You can use a couple of cake boards or Styrofoam as a base.

Tip #7. Allow the house to dry for at least a couple of hours before decorating it. You want to give the royal icing enough time to harden as much as possible. Decorating the house before the icing is totally dry would affect the structure badly. That’s why you need to wait a reasonable amount of time for the house to dry and the pieces to set before decorating it.

Tip #8. Kids love candy, and you cannot have enough of it! Have candies of all types, colours and shapes available—the more the merrier. Just go crazy with the decorations, and don’t stop until you run out of candy and other decorative pieces.

Tip #9. Baking the gingerbread takes a lot of time. Plus, it’s a complicated process and a lot of things can go wrong. And what your kids really love is decorating the house; they don’t really care much about the baking part of it. That’s why it makes sense to buy pre-baked gingerbread house kits from Gingerbread Traditions. This way, you spend more time decorating and less time baking, and the kids will have so much more fun!

Gingerbread Traditions, based in Oregon, delivers the most delicious gourmet gingerbread kits, shipped direct to you. Gingerbread house kits make fun and creative gifts for friends and family members of any age. Buy your own pre-baked gingerbread kits online today!

Decorating Tips

Gingerbread houses are a lot of fun, and kids really love them. However really, baking the gingerbread can be such a pain the neck. Who really wants to do that? Don’t you wish you could just skip ahead to the decorating?

Pre-baked gingerbread house kits make building gingerbread houses as easy as it gets. They let your kids get down to what they really want to do, which is to decorate the whole thing. So let’s talk about how to decorate a gingerbread house.

What You’ll Need

Candies…plenty of them, as many as you can get. Gumdrops, red licorice, chocolate kisses, hard candies…the list goes on! Unwrap them all and place each type into separate bowls. The last thing you want to do is to unwrap the candies while the royal icing starts hardening.

What You Need To Do

Set the house on top of a box or large book while you’re decorating it. You should be sitting, and the house should be at your eye level, while you decorate your gingerbread house.

Gingerbread House Decorating Tips

Roofs – Use gum drops or vanilla wafers. Mini cookies and Frosted Mini Wheats serve the purpose as well.

Shutters – You will need wafer cookies, mini candy bars, and perhaps sticks of gum.

Fences – Consider pretzels – both chocolate-covered pretzels and regular mini pretzels. You may want to add mini gingerbread men as well.

Trees and bushes – Try green spearmint leaves.
Smoke – Use cotton balls or quilt batting.

Snow – Use confectioners’ sugar. There’s also something called edible glitter, which is available at some stores. You may want to use that as well.

Logs – Try mini Tootsie Rolls – they fit the part perfectly.

Finally, for added effect, use foil-wrapped chocolate toy soldiers, snowmen and Santa.

Once you have all of your candies, you’re ready to start decorating! Here’s what to do next…

Fill the Pastry Bag with Royal Icing

Once you’ve decided on your candy decorations, fill up a pastry bag with Royal Icing. Keep the tip of the bag covered with a damp paper towel to prevent the icing from hardening.

Let’s get started with the decorations!

First, cover the seams of the gingerbread house with candies. Use green-colored spearmint leaves to form trees and bushes at all four corners. Decorate the front door with cookies; use unwrapped Andes mints to form the steps and form windows and shutters with the icing.

Next, decorate the back of the gingerbread house with as many candies as you can get your hands on. Just go crazy here!

Now, let’s start filling up the base of the gingerbread house with more candies, held together with Royal Icing snow.

What about the roof of the gingerbread house? Spread a thin layer of Royal Icing evenly on the roof. Add cookies and gum drops here.

That’s it! The decorating is done. Now allow the gingerbread house to stand for an hour before letting the kids have their way with it! Mmmm…what a tasty house!

Gingerbread Houses Decorating Tips
Image: Pexels

Using Pre-Baked Gingerbread Houses

The act of decorating gingerbread houses is a popular family tradition in America, loved by parents and kids alike. However if you are short on time and would rather skip the baking process and begin the decoration of a gingerbread house right away, picking up a pre-baked gingerbread house kit really makes a lot of sense.

Pre-made gingerbread house kits are easy to assemble, and often come with candy and icing. You also get detailed instructions. There are many highly popular pre-baked gingerbread house kits for families – no baking needed, start decorating the pre-baked gingerbread house that comes in attractive variations right away.

Why are pre-baked gingerbread house kits so popular? Almost nobody likes the hard work involved in baking gingerbread in the precise way required for construction of a gingerbread house. It takes a lot of time and many things can go wrong. A pre-made gingerbread house kit is so much easier to work with. In fact, the kids can start decorating it straight away, and it’s a lot more fun this way. The gingerbread houses-kits serve as classy gift ideas for Halloween, birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine’s Day.

Here are a few tips you can use after buying a pre-baked gingerbread house kit

Before you start assembling the house, check all the pieces. There could be slight variations in the shapes of the gingerbread pieces. Just make sure that the edges are as straight as possible.

Use a ruler and a knife to trim the bottom of the pieces and the inside edges so that they are perfectly aligned when assembled.

You don’t have to assemble your gingerbread house when first. You can, decorate the sides of the house while the unassembled pieces are lying on a flat surface. This ensures that the decorations don’t fall off when you assemble them later because of gravity.

If you do decide to assemble the house before decorating, do so a day before. This way the house has enough time to set up. Thereafter, you can start decorating it.

Assembling the Gingerbread House

Start building the house. Join one side wall to one peaked wall; Join the panels so that the sidewall connects with the inside edges of the peaked wall; Pipe the icing along the bottom and inside of the peaked wall as well as the side wall; Press all the sides together and attached to the base. Once held in place for a while, the icing begins to set.

Next, attach the roof panels. Pipe the icing along the sides of the roof panel as well along the top of the walls. Position the roof sections so that they connect with the peaked wall and the side wall edges. Make adjustments so that all sides are evenly pitched. Press and hold the house in place for a few minutes to allow the icing to set properly.

Different types of pre-baked Gingerbread Houses in Kits

At Gingerbread Traditions, there are three types of pre-baked Gingerbread House Kits available for sale: full kits, just the pre-baked parts and the already constructed kits.

The full kits come with parts for the gingerbread house, instructions, and base, white icing packet as well as candies and decorations; Just the pre-baked parts kits include unassembled gingerbread house parts only, and you don’t get candies and decorations with them. If you need anything extra, you’ll need to order separately.

The third type is the already constructed kits, which include a fully assembled chocolate gingerbread house, instructions, base, white icing packet, candies and decorations.

History of gingerbread houses

Decorating a gingerbread house is a popular family tradition around the world. Gingerbread houses are loved by both parents and kids. What you probably didn’t know is that this is a tradition that is more than 1000 years old!

So what’s gingerbread? According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, “Gingerbread generally refers to one of two desserts. It can be a dense, ginger-spiced cookie flavoured with molasses or honey and cut into fanciful shapes (such as the popular gingerbread man). Or, particularly in the United States, it can describe a dark, moist cake flavoured with molasses, ginger and other spices.”

Fascinating! Now, although no one is sure about the exact origin of the gingerbread house, here’s what we do know. The ginger plant (the root is the part that is used) originated in China and was known widely throughout Asia. Gingerbread was probably introduced to Europe by an Armenian monk in the 10th Century. Apparently, he taught the art of baking gingerbread to Christian priests in France.

The familiar Gingerbread Man has its origins in England. The English claim to be the first to bake and sell gingerbread, and they introduced the idea of the Gingerbread Man. In fact, gingerbread was a much loved treat in festivals and fairs in medieval Europe. It was shaped and decorated to look like many attractive things – birds, animals, flowers and armour. Gingerbread fairs were universally popular in those days.

Indeed, the young ladies in those days offered their favourite knights a piece of gingerbread to wish them luck before competitions. There was also a tradition of young women secretly eating a “gingerbread husband” in hopes of finding that special someone.

It is interesting that the word “gingerbread” has come to mean different things over the centuries. Any kind of preserved ginger was called gingerbread in medieval England. The French used the term gingebras for gingerbread, which was derived from the Latin word, zinzebar. It was only in the 15th Century that gingerbread was associated with baked, ginger-flavored cakes.

Gingerbread has also long been considered to be a medicine used to cure stomach cramps. As one 16th Century writer by the name of John Baret wrote, “[Gingerbread is] A Kinde of cake or paste made to comfort the stomacke.”

In fact, gingerbread was so popular that The Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, wrote about it in a play – “An I had however one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy ginger-bread.”

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