Wreaths make for festive decor and cookies are tasty treats, but gingerbread houses give you the best of both. Add in the pinch of the nostalgia you get remembering the first time you got to make a gingerbread house with your grandma and it’s a recipe for a fun-filled Saturday afternoon. No one knows that better than Pam McMurty. When she’s not performing holiday diva duties on BYU Sirius XM Radio 143 or writing books like A Harvest and Halloween Handbook, McMurty loves making gingerbread houses with her children and grandchildren. Whether you’re resurrecting a tradition from years ago or just want to make your edible decor look a little different this year, this guide of how to make a gingerbread house will help get you back in your groove.
What You Need
McMurty uses a gingerbread house kit to save time (NESTLÉ has great ones you can find at your local grocery store). Then, go to town filling your shopping basket with candy.
“We buy extra colored candies like Starburst, Skittles, gumballs and sometimes ribbon candy and the old-fashioned cut rock candy,” McMurty said.
McMurty has seen the true DIY mavens add inverted ice cream cone trees covered with green frosting and candies and walls made of candy pebbles. If you’re a beginner, “don’t let that intimate you,” she said. Cake decorating supplies like sparkling white sugar flakes and pearl nonpareils, candy canes and small plastic festive decorations work just as well. Another must for McMurty: Christmas music to set the mood.
What to do
1. Before you begin to make your gingerbread house, put out materials and grab a couple of cans of food, florist foam or weights to hold the walls in place while the frosting dries. Build the house on a cardboard or another sturdy base so it is portable. “Some people cheat and use a hot glue gun on the inside where it doesn’t show. Don’t do this if you are planning to eat the house later,” McMurty said.
2. Put the candy in bowls, and gather wet and dry towels for your hands. Make up the royal icing included in the kit, and keep it moist by placing a damp cloth over the bowl. “It should have the consistency of a viscous toothpaste.”
Pro Tip: Decorate the roof panels and walls first. “The pitch of the roof makes it hard to keep round candies or gumballs from slipping off. Just add the sparkles and nonpareils while the frosting is wet so they adhere, but make sure the roof is dry before placing it.”
3. Assemble the walls by squeezing an L-shaped toothpaste-style line of frosting on the base for the first two perpendicular walls. Place the cans to hold the walls while the frosting dries. “You may want to place the side wall behind the front or gabled wall so the seam doesn’t show from the front of the house.”
4. When the first walls are stable, repeat step 2 with the remaining walls, using cans to hold them in place. “We often end up with a can inside the gingerbread house holding the roof in place. I remove it when we demolish the house after the holidays.”
5. If you haven’t already decorated the walls, grab the candy and go all out. “If you are decorating with a committee, try to come to a stylistic consensus or turn everyone loose and celebrate an eclectic aesthetic.” Start with the focal points first such as doors and windows. Do the edges last.
6. When the frosting is dry enough for the walls to hold the weight of the roof, add the roof panels. To make icicles, place the tip of the frosting bag on the edge of the roof and squeeze as you draw the bag downward.
7. Dust the entire confection with sparkling sugar flakes or powdered sugar and allow the gingerbread house to dry. Place it on a pedestal cake stand or tray. “Give yourself a big pat on the back, after you wash your hands of course.”