How to Make a Gingerbread House

Making a gingerbread house is no simple task (unless of course you get one of those pre-fab houses, in which case these notes will be of little help). These houses took several gatherings, one to make the dough and the pattern pieces, one to roll out the dough and bake the pieces, one to assemble the pieces, one to decorate. The joy is really in the making, of the coming together to work on all the steps that are required to build a gingerbread house from scratch.

The following are instructions I used with a gingerbread house making endeavor with my young friend Audrey. If you plan on making a gingerbread house yourself, I hope you find them useful.

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How to Make a Gingerbread House

Ingredients

  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1 Tbsp water

Method

Make the Gingerbread Dough

1 Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

2 Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.

3 Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.

 

Create and Cut Out Pattern Pieces

Create a gingerbread house pattern by cutting out pieces of stiff paper (like that of a manila folder) or cardboard. I like cardboard because it's almost as thick as the gingerbread house pieces will be, and you can create a house model easily using the pieces. The following links are to gif images of the pattern that we used to make these houses. They should print out with the correct proportions (1 inch on the pattern = 1 inch in real life), but if not, the dimensions are also given on the pattern so you can use a ruler and create your own.

Roof Pattern
Side and Chimney Pattern
Front and Back Pattern

 

Make the Gingerbread House Pieces

1 Preheat oven to 350°F, with the oven rack in the middle. Have several flat cookie sheets ready, preferably ones that you know will not warp in the oven heat.

2 Divide the dough in two. Spread parchment paper or wax paper on a large flat surface for rolling. Dust the paper lightly with flour. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an even thickness of 1/4-inch. Add a little flour to the surface of the dough, and check for sticking as you roll it out. If it sticks to either your rolling pin or the rolling surface, dust with more flour. If the rolled out dough is very soft, you may want to freeze it for an hour before cutting out the patterns.

3 Rub a little flour over the surface of the dough. Place the pattern pieces on the dough, as many pattern pieces as will fit on the dough. Use a small sharp knife to cut out the pattern pieces from the dough, wiping the knife surface clean frequently. Depending on how soft the dough is, you may need to use scissors to cut the wax paper or parchment paper. You can cut out the patterns through the dough and parchment paper, placing the dough pieces with the paper directly on the cookie sheets. If you are not using parchment paper or wax paper, you may need to use a large metal spatula to transfer the dough pieces to a greased cookie sheet. Space the pieces on the cookie sheet an inch apart from each other. If dough pieces stretch during the transfer process, push them back into shape.

You can cut out a door and window(s) at this point, or you can wait until after baking, soon after the pieces have come out of the oven while the cookies are still warm.

4 Bake in a 350°F oven until the edges are just beginning to darken, 11-15 minutes for the large pieces, 6-8 minutes for the small pieces. Rotate the cookie sheets half way through the baking for more even browning. Remove the sheets to racks to cool, about 15 minutes.

While the pieces are still slightly warm, lay the pattern pieces over them and use a large straight chef's knife to trim off any parts of the pieces that have through cooking spread beyond the pattern.

Remove pieces to cool directly on racks to cool completely.

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Make Royal Icing

Royal icing is not only used for decorating, but it is the mortar that holds the gingerbread pieces together to form the house. The following proportions should make enough icing for both the mortaring step and for decorating for one gingerbread house.

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar, divided

1 Whisk together until smooth the egg whites and 1 1/3 cups of the powdered sugar.

2 If you are planning to eat your gingerbread house, and are concerned about the safety of raw eggs, you can microwave the egg white powdered sugar mixture for several seconds (30-40) until the mixture reaches a temperature of 160 degrees, but not higher than 175°F. You can also use pasteurized dried or liquid egg whites.

3 Add the remaining 1 1/3 cup of powdered sugar to the sugar egg mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until the icing holds stiff peaks. If it doesn't form stiff peaks, add more powdered sugar.

4 Place a dampened clean towel over the bowl of royal icing. Keep this towel over the icing to prevent it from drying out while you work with it.

5 When you are ready to mortar or decorate, fill a pastry bag with the icing. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can make your own with a re-sealable plastic freezer bag, just cut off the tip (a small cut) of one of the corners of the bag. Plastic or metal piping tips are available in supermarkets which you can also use with a freezer bag, for more controlled piping.

 

Construct the Basic House, Mortaring the Pieces Together with Royal Icing

This is where it really helps to have more than two hands working on a house, and why making a gingerbread house is so much more fun with company than alone. If you are working on this alone, it may help to grab some canned goods from the pantry and use the cans to help prop up the pieces while the icing mortar is drying.

1 Pick a solid base for your gingerbread house - either a flat cookie sheet, or a thick, sturdy piece of cardboard. If you want, line the base with aluminum foil or wax paper.

2 Pipe a thick line of icing along a short end of one of the side pieces. Press the iced side piece against the edge of either the front or back pieces. Hold in place for a few minutes until the icing is partially set. Repeat with the other side piece. Prop up with cans if necessary. Repeat with the other short edges of the side pieces and the remaining front/back piece. Pipe icing along the seams, inside and outside of the house, to fill in any gaps and to add extra stability. Pipe icing along the edges of the house where it meets the base. Let set for at least an hour before attempting to add the roof pieces.

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If any of the gingerbread house pattern pieces breaks, as can happen easily when working with what are essentially cookies, most likely you can repair them. On my house I forgot to cut out the door and window until the front piece had almost completely cooled. When I went to make the cuts, the piece broke. Fortunately, it was easy to mortar back together with royal icing. We even created a "splint" out of cardboard and used royal icing to hold the splint to the piece. Let harden completely before using the piece for the house construction. When it comes time to decorate, you can pipe icing right over the broken seam and no one will be the wiser.

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gingerbread-house-9.jpg

3 Once the royal icing has dried enough so that the base structure is solid, you can go to work on the roof. Pipe icing all along the top edges of the structure, front and back and two sides. The roof pieces are a rectangular shaped. Place the roof pieces so that the long ends of the rectangle are running along the top of the house. It helps if you have two people working together to place the roof pieces on the house at the same time so that they meet easily at the top center, and extend out a little bit, forming an overhang at each end. Gently hold the roof pieces in place for a few minutes until they are set enough so they don't slide off when you remove your hands. Pipe the top seam of the house with extra icing. Let the house stand for at least an hour, and preferably 8 hours before decorating.

Note: If you have pets in your house, keep them away from the gingerbread house during all phases of construction and decorating. Non-gingerbread-house-building-participating adults and children should be informed to keep their hands off the house as well.

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4 The chimney. The dimensions of the chimney can be a bit tricky because of the angle of the roof. Although you may have cut your chimney out of a pattern, these small pieces likely have spread a bit through cooking, and you may have to use a chef's knife to cut the pieces and adjust the angles of the pieces so they align better with the roof. It's easiest to assemble the chimney first upside down, separate from the house. Pipe the pieces together with royal icing and let set until stable. Then, turn the chimney right-side-up and attach it to the roof using piped royal icing. You can do this either right after the house has initially set (1 hour after assembly) or later, during the decorating process.

 

Decorate the Gingerbread House

This step requires a trip to the candy section of your local grocery store. You can decorate your house with whatever types of candy pleases you. Be careful taking kids along to the store however, as you will invariably buy more candy than you actually need (though they do have the best ideas of what candies would be good for various decorative effects). Red hots are really practical, as are small gumdrops, and candy canes. Audrey used a whole bag of chocolate truffles for the stone wall around her house, and some type of waffle-patterned cookies for roof tiles.

Pipe royal icing to make decorative designs around the walls of the house and roof. Use royal icing to "glue" pieces of candy to the house.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

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That's the way we made our gingerbread houses this year. If you've made a gingerbread house and have photos posted of it somewhere, please let us know in the comments. Happy Holidays!

Instructions adapted from those found in the 1996 Joy of Cooking.

Links:
The complete set of photos of the gingerbread making event on Flickr
Patterns for Gingerbread Houses & Beyond from Kat of KungFoodie
Gingerbread Train by Hank Osborne
Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater house in gingerbread by Ann of My Blank Page
Gingerbread igloo by Rasberri Cupcakes
Japanese gingerbread house with Mount Fuji in the background from LA Fuji Mama
Gingerbread Casbah from Off the (Meat)Hook

106 Comments

  1. Toast

    I just built my first one..(a kit), for my niece and nephew, who are 3 and 5, and were eating most of the candy before I even had the structure started. The house collapsed 3 times, so I read the directions and realized the icing needed to set for awhile…duh.
    I finished it while they were sleeping, and it looks AWESOME!! I can’t wait until they see it, and I want to make a million more! I think I found my new passion! Good luck to you, and your Gingerbread House-making. Toast

  2. Elena Crossman

    Haven’t attempted the house and probably won’t. However, as to your comment about those pre-fab houses being easy — they’re not! The pieces of the house are always hopelessly warped and impossible to mortar together. Always a disaster/disappointment.

    This is a great idea for your site. The photos are delightful.

  3. kungfoodie kat

    Great job Elise! Thanks for sharing the step by step photos. I used an eggless icing recipe this year and I’m pretty happy with it. You basically substitute meringue powder for eggs. I’ve got a ton of house patterns and recipe links on my blog. People are really getting creative and making crazy things with gingerbread these days.

  4. Kare Anderson

    You are a national treasure – my “reward” break from work projects. I just told three of my college friends about your gingerbread homes – so they could look at the photos.

    Two of them are in the COLD northwest with little children, restless inside.

    Now they have a fun project to share. And, like me, they have roots in the fertile Willamette Valley in Oregon. We grew up eating beets in many forms – often at Wed. night church potlucks. So three os us are goign to try your bet recipe this week and compare notes.

    Your blog demonstrates the “high touch” of internet’s “high tech”.

    Thank you for adding so much to this season
    – Kare, SavvyHer

  5. Kate

    My mother-in-law does them with graham crackers and canned icing, and they are always wonderful. The year my son was 8 he made one with a slippery sidewalk by thinly smearing icing, and at the end of the sidewalk he placed a gummy person face down in a pile of ‘snow’. It looked hilarious and he was so proud.

    Those look fantastic, just like the candy house in Hansel and Gretel. And what a great memory for Audrey!

  6. Kristen

    Oh what fun! Your gingerbread houses look amazing. Think of the wonderful memories you are making!

  7. Mels

    I love the way the house looks and would love to try it! (I love your site by the way! – this is my first time posting a comment!) – for those of you who mentioned that the pre-fab ones are difficult – Trader Joe’s has one this year that is awesome – I used it with some of my pediatric clients (age 6+) and they managed to assemble the majority of it themselves. Very easy and fun. Though I hope to make the one you’ve featured here for us! Thanks!

  8. Jennifer

    I used to make normal-sized gingerbread houses every year, but you can’t really do much with them – when my sisters and I got old enough we really didn’t want to eat all that cookie-and-icing-and-candy, the houses stopped. Then I started making small ones as gifts.

    They’re only about 4 inches tall at the roof-peak, and have a cookie base as well so I can fill them with candy or cookies or whatever. The first couple years I cut them out with cardboard templates as you did, but got bored when my gift list exceeded 20 and made cookie cutters out of tuna-fish cans with both top and bottom cut out. I have a cutter for the ends, one for the bottom, one for the roofs, and a small rectangle that makes the door and the side windows; I use a test-tube for the end window.

    Often (when I have the time) I break up hard candies (plain LifeSavers are excellent) and spread them in the windows; they melt nicely (but be careful they don’t burn) and I have stained glass windows.

    Because the house is so small, the cookies don’t need to be baked quite so hard, but they still keep and are quite tasty by Epiphany (January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas). Or longer, but that’s when I usually eat mine. Thank you for reminding me – I didn’t make my small houses last year, but I’m going to try to do it this year. A whole week to go!

  9. Hank Osborne

    Elise,

    As usual, you have provided a wonderful HowTo post. We made a gingerbread train at our house this year and it was so much fun. We will probably do the train again next year since my boys love trains, but certainly can use some of your ideas. Thanks a bunch!

  10. Andrea

    Elise, this looks wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing. My boys aren’t quite old enough to attempt this with them yet, but maybe in a couple years. For now we’re going to stick with making graham cracker houses. More fun for them and less frustrating for Mom and Dad. :-)

  11. Laryssa

    Thank you for posting this! I actually baked the gingerbread pieces last weekend, but they’ve been sitting around, waiting for me to assemble them. Now I have no choice but to tear myself away from the computer and make that royal icing. Very inspiring!

  12. Cabnolen

    Hi there, thx for this website! I am a gingerbread house first-timer and thx to your site, I successfully pulled it off and now my neighbour has a beautiful house they are showing off with :)
    Just wondering if you could add how much your “serving” is, as I sat here and wondered for a while as to whether I needed to make as much as you have listed, but ended up making a big house anyway so just enough!

  13. Valarie

    Love your how to and wonderful pictures. I’ve been making houses for competition since 2002. You can see my houses at http://www.valariespics.shutterfly.com the password is gingie

  14. Anonymous

    Wow! My mom enjoyed the gingerbread house we made so much that she decided that we are going to have a gingerbread house contest at my school! So excited!!! They are all going to use this recipe.

  15. Miranda

    Greetings from South Africa, my sister and I decided not to do a Christmas cake this year instead we wanted to try Gingerbread houses. Your instructions were great and because of the hot dry weather here the construction dry in about a 1/2 and hour and we could decorate straight away and they looked wonderful. We also cut out various sized stars in gingerbread and stacked them to make trees which the children decorated, these will be given as teachers presents.

  16. katie

    I was just wondering if you could replace the ground ginger with ground chocolate or oreos? But it sounds and looks good now.

  17. Jessica

    He’s too young to make a ginger bread house with me yet, but I’m already thinking about it because I’m a baking fiend. However David, our baby boy, is allergic to eggs. Any idea how to make an eggless royal icing? Rather, how to make a mortar that is as effective as royal icing but egg-free? A head-scratcher, to be sure.

  18. Julia

    A great gingerbread house project for little kids is to used graham crackers and caned frosting. Take two small, empty, milk cartons (like the ones kids would get in school) and glue them together. Viola, a frame to frost the graham crackers too.

    Kids can spend all their time on the fun, decorating stuff, and you don’t have to worry about the whole thing collapsing. My first grade teacher was a genius!

  19. Lola

    Can the cookie dough be frozen for longer than 3 days?

  20. Melanie

    My mother & I have made gingerbread houses together since I was a little kid. It is a wonderful family tradition. Last Christmas I received a mold from Lee Valley and this Christmas I made my first chocolate “gingerbread” house. It was so easy! I would highly recommend it (see http://www.leevalley.com/gifts/page.aspx?c=1&p=43793&cat=4,104,53214&ap=5). Plus, I’m sure it will be super tasty (we always wait until New Year’s Day to start eating it).

  21. Lady Amalthea

    That looks gorgeous! Unfortunately, I never did have the patience to make a gingerbread house; I just wanted to eat the gingerbread myself! So I may very well just make your recipe for gingerbread and icing and make myself some gingerbread sandwiches. Actually, that sounds very tempting…

  22. Joanne

    The little houses are so cute. My son and I have been decorating gingerbread houses for a couple of years now, but last year we cut and baked our first one – such fun! I think gingerbread houses are a wonderful holiday activity for kids. Here’s our page on decorating:
    http://www.forkandbottle.com/Kids/holiday_cooking_kids.htm

  23. Amanda @ Little Foodies

    I love this! We’re going to make a gingerbread house this weekend. The slide show was really helpful. Great tip for what to do if you break a piece.

  24. eco

    My sister and I made a gingerbread house last year that had some intricate structural components. We found that cutting the pieces out before baking made it difficult to assemble. The pieces had “risen” to different shapes in the oven and the edges were no longer straight. This year, we’re going to try baking the gingerbread as one sheet and then cutting out pieces after it’s baked. We’ll have to work quickly.

  25. Georgia

    Hi i was wondering if the patterns for the roof etc are measured in inches?
    Love the website!
    Gg

    Note from Elise: Yes! Good point. Inches they are.

  26. Marianne

    I LOVE gingerbread houses! We make one every Christmas Eve. Here is 2006’s house from start to finish!

  27. Teresa Walker

    Last year I got as great tip from a friend. To hold the pieces together, we put several cuts of sugar in a heavy pan and melted it. You just turn on the heat and keep stirring. When you are ready to put your house together, simply dip the edge in the melted sugar and join it to the other wall. It sticks so tight and there is no waiting for it to set. It’s awesome! Give it a try.

  28. veronica

    I don’t have baking powder can I use baking soda?

    In general you cannot substitute baking soda for baking powder, they have different chemical make-ups (baking soda is a pure base, baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and a dry acid) and react with the dough differently. That said, I have no idea what would happen if you did switch out one for another in this recipe. If you try it anyway, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  29. T Hartwig

    Thanks for all the tips. We used the house kits (no icing or decorations, just the house itself) from IKEA, and they were delicious! I had trouble with the icing recipe from Joy of Cooking as it is so dense, but the kids had a great time. Will try your icing recipe this weekend. Thanks again. And we’ll be going the ziplock bag route too, the pastry bag kept gooping out half the icing through the top.

    Happy Holidays to you.

  30. diana

    I have made the dough and plan to cut and bake the house pieces tonight. Will I be able to make two houses with the 6 cups of flour recipe?

    This recipe makes one house. ~Elise

  31. Lise

    My house collapsed heaps of times the first time I did it, but my friend and I held it for ages! Why is this?

    We propped our house up with cans and left it overnight. The longer the better. ~Elise

  32. Xydexx

    Thanks Elise for the great gingerbread house recipe! I wonder if it would be possible to substitute other types of cookie dough for gingerbread? Oatmeal raisin would probably be too crumbly, but perhaps sugar cookie would work?

  33. Ghast Craft Five

    Unfortunately, I think sugar cookie dough might be too brittle to use? I recently made some sugar cookies and some of them almost broke when I was taking them off the cookie sheet.

    It sounds like an interesting idea, though. Perhaps I will give Elise’s sugar cookie recipe a try and report back with my results. Worst case scenario I just end up with tasty cookie debris. :)

  34. Diana DiPaolo

    How many houses can you get out of this recipe?

    One. ~Elise

  35. Kathy Nickler

    I have made Gingerbread Houses for years up North. Now I live in Florida and the humidity is something else. The dough does not dry out after baking, it just bends. I have had to make cardboard pieces and glue, with frosting, each piece onto the cardboard so the walls won’t bend. Any suggestions for humid areas??

  36. Natalia

    Thank you so much!!!
    I live in Chile, and here no one does gingerbread houses, so I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere.
    You realy, realy saved me!
    I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be awesome when I do.
    Again, thank you very, very much!

  37. Ragna Kristmundsdottir

    Hi from Iceland! My kids and I made your house today and it worked like a charm! I actually got a ton of gingerbread cookies out of the rest of the dough, totally could have made a second house. I did not need to prop the pieces up or hold them for very long, my icing dried really quickly. Thanks for the recipe and very clear instructions!

  38. Sylvie

    Ever since I saw a gingerbread house on a kid’s show when I was 4 I’ve wanted to make a gingerbread house. I’ve just graduated from high school now and so for the first time have had time to make one! It’s turned out really well. The icing dried pretty quickly as I’m from Alice Springs, Australia and it’s very hot at the moment! Thank you very much. After 13 years I’ve finally made one!

  39. Suzanne

    This is the first gingerbread house I have ever attempted and found this recipe and directions the best! I decided to do a Train Station, so I made the station and 2 trains out of gingerbread. It was definitely a fun project, but amazingly time consuming. Thanks for the advice to make templates first! To see our train station, check out http://www.smooredezine.com/images/train_station.jpg :)

  40. Elisabeth

    I just revisited this site after having made 2 of these houses last year — a first time attempt after always wanting to make them as a child. Now, I’m so excited to do it all again in just a few days! Thanks for a great recipe and set of directions.

  41. Laura

    I used a very dark Jamaican molasses, and it wasn’t sweet enough at first, but I added more brown sugar to the dough and it came out well. The pieces came out a little warped so I think I should have cut the pieces out of a large sheet of baked gingerbread while it was still soft and warm. Still, it had a good flavor.

  42. Dean Pomerleau

    Gingerbread houses can be frustrating for kids and adults when they fall apart before the frosting set to hold the sides together and the roof on. The trouble is that kids often don’t want to wait long enough for the frosting to harden.

    Here is an quick and easy solution for making a rigid, sturdy, gingerbread house without having to wait more than a couple minutes.

    The key idea is to use a cardboard box to frame and reinforce the interior walls, and a bent piece of cardboard to hold up the roof.

    It works great, is totally invisible, and best of all, lets the kids start decorating within 15 minutes of starting the project!

    –Dean

  43. Cherylk

    I used to make the cutest gingerbread houses and the pattern was almost exactly like yours. It was so much fun. Gave them as gifts to friends and family. I think I’ll do it again, this year but don’t know where my old recipe or patterns are so I’ll use yours! Thanks!

  44. Michelle Grisewood

    I used to make gingerbread houses for my children twenty years ago.
    This year I’m going to make one for my grandchildren.
    I used to place a boiled sweet in each of the windows and it melted in the oven and filled the window. The windows looked gorgeous – like stained glass.

  45. Jamie

    I made a gingerbread house from a kit last year and let’s be honest….it looked like a bad car accident. LOL

    I bought another kit this year, five small houses instead of one big one. Now all I can think about is how I can make bigger houses out of the kit I purchased! :)

    I did a search on gingerbread houses to find great instruction, alot of inspiration and a whole lot of prayers to make this year a great one for the family. I found your information and feel like there is hope.

    Christmas is a hard time for us as my stepson was killed in Iraq three years ago on December 19th. He loved the Holidays and I have done everything I could to bring back joy to this time of year, for him and for all of us who still miss him.

    THANK YOU. Your information on this site has given me all of the above and more. I feel like every year because of wonderful people like yourself, we, as a family get stronger, closer and more blessed with each year.

    My gingerbread houses might not be perfect but they have alot of love. Much thanks to you for your information and please, have a wonderful holiday!

    Jamie Thomas

  46. Talley

    Fun! We are actually sitting down today to make this year’s gingerbread house. I like the waffle pieces for roofing.

    We’ve had success using sliced almonds for the roof. And like Jennifer above, we put broken life savers into the windows before baking for the stained glass look (remember to put parchment paper underneat or it can be hard to remove from the baking sheet). Then when you put a votive candle inside, you can get a nice glow through the windows!

    You can see pics and tricks from our gingerbread houses here.

  47. Mars Mountain

    Living in Sweden, I’m happy to see this is a family tradition in other countries as well. I see many have problems with houses falling apart while the frosting is drying. Common practice here is this: Melt (while stirring with a wooden spoon) 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar in an ordinary cast iron frying pan. Take it off the heat when all sugar is melted. Now you have the superglue of gingerbread houses ready, so work quickly. Simply dip the edge of one wall at the time and qickly put the pieces together. Use the wooden spoon for applying some sugar at the top edges so the roof sticks. Then you finish it off with frosting for decoration. Merry christmas!

  48. Tiffany

    Thank god I stopped over here before starting! Guess which twit didn’t realize that even a gingerbread house needed a blueprint?
    This twit.

  49. ageekymom

    I used to make gingerbread houses as gifts (my high school advisor still has hers, and I’m 47!) I used a yardstick, broken in half, as a guide for the rolling pin, to make sure that the dough was a uniform thickness. Lay the yardstick pieces parallel to each other, with the dough in the middle and roll the dough with the rolling pin resting on the yardsticks (if that makes any sense!)
    I also remember using a dough recipe that was really stiff and set up hard as bricks. Not very tasty, but worked well. :-)
    Maybe I’ll try one of these for my SIL who’s hosting Christmas dinner this year.

  50. Diana

    Last year we started a tradition with my husband’s family of doing a gingerbread house competition. We made our own and everyone else used a kit so we totally swept the votes!
    http://dianasaurdishes.com/12/judge-our-gingerbread-house-competition/

    Ours was a chapel with stained glass windows and everything, directions are here:
    http://dianasaurdishes.com/12/how-we-made-our-country-chapel-gingerbread-house/

    Our next competition is Saturday and this year EVERYONE is making theirs from scratch. It’s hard core now!

  51. K. Garrett

    We actually build an entire gingerbread city every year. Our firm designs a new master plan and then invites other architects and building industry colleagues to design and build the structures. The full built out city remains on display at our office for a few days and then the lots are donated to local community and charity organization.

    See pictures from this year’s event on Facebook…

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-DC/GINGERTOWN/110430739597

    That’s impressive! ~Elise

  52. Daphne

    I made a “gingerbread” house with my ‘nieces’ (daughters of a very close friend). I say “gingerbread” in quotes because I actually used cardboard, since it was a spur-of-the-moment we-have-too-much-leftover-frosting decision. It worked great! I’ve made them from scratch and that’s lots of fun too. But in a pinch, cardboard (and bandaids, if you can’t find any tape) works pretty well and you still get adorable results.
    http://never-travelled.blogspot.com/2009/12/recipe-for-happy-imperfection.html

  53. Julie Marcinkiewicz

    I have a question before I attempt the house. What do you do with the remaining icing while the first parts are hardening to make sure it doesn’t harden? Does it stay soft and gooey if when left in the pastry bag/plastic bag?

    Great question. Cover completely with plastic wrap (no air touching the icing). Or just make smaller batches of icing. ~Elise

  54. Scentsy chef

    Love the canned goods idea to hold up the sides… I tried making one by myself today (which led me to this blog)and had a difficult time! *bookmark!

  55. Jill

    Thanks for the tip on making a cardboard template!

    Here is the one made this year, which I just posted: http://jillbert.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/gingerbread-house-2009/

  56. Shelley

    Does anyone have a recipe for EGGLESS Royal Icing that doesn’t use Meringue Powder? My son is allergic to Eggs and he is also allergic to many other things so this is a dairy free, gluten free, rice free, egg free, yeast free, oat free, coconut free etc gingerbread house in the making.
    THANK YOU!

  57. Mark DeCarabas

    Wonderful page!

    I used this to make a lovely two level gingerbread house in a Victorian design, boarded up and defending against the zombie horde of Christmas…. Was very well recieved at a charity auction and raised a very nice price. *grins* (Though the whole thing took six days to decorate, less if I did it in my free time, and charity auctions do get comically high at times.)

    So think of this page giving me the inspiration to make a house, and raise $178 for cancer research at the Childrens hospital. Three cheers.

    Excellent! Hmm, zombie horde. Have you read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by any chance? Loved that book. ~Elise

  58. Astrid

    Elise,
    I made my own gingerbread house today! Come see it, it is on my blog!

    Nice job! ~Elise

  59. Amy Clarke

    We have had a competitive gingerbread house competition for years. It takes place on Christmas Eve and the winning house gets to be the centerpiece at Christmas dinner.

    We use the following mold from Lee Valley.
    http://www.leevalley.com/gifts/page.aspx?c=1&p=43793&cat=4,104,53214

    One year we do the log cabin, one year the Victorian house. Everyone gets the same house and the same selection of candies. That way it is fair. Everyone’s house still looks very different. We have had nativity scenes, churches, a car on blocks on the front lawn, beach resorts, graveyards, you name it.

    I must warn any first timers to not lick your fingers because the sugar gets to you (or maybe its the alcohol). We have had houses where Santa fell of the roof and broke his leg, shark attacks, suicides, terrorists, hurricanes, etc.

  60. Rieva

    Hi, I was wondering first timer trying to make a gingerbread house and I bought a premade one well box kit and how long does it take for it to go bad? Are you able to eat the house after if you want?

    I suggest you check the instructions on the kit. The gingerbread house described here in this post is edible. The one you see was slowly devoured over a week by my nephew. ~Elise

  61. Kerry

    Any suggestions on making a larger sized house? Can’t wait to give it a try!!

  62. Anonymous

    Hi. Thanks for the recipe. I’m not sure if it was intentional for the dough to be very stiff? It was very crumbly and I had a hard time rolling it out. Eventually had to microwave it on half power for a minute or so to soften and even then, it was very crumbly esp around the corners. In comparing your recipe with others, I noticed that yours has ALOT of flour. Any advice? (Turned out but it was sure hard and took a long time)

    Let the dough sit at room temp until it is pliable to roll out. I does need to be stiffer than regular cookie dough because you are using it to build a house. ~Elise

  63. Kit H.

    For Jessica

    There’s a recipe for Vegan Royal Icing (posted by a mom with a child allergic to eggs) here: http://www.grouprecipes.com/31155/vegan-royal-icing.html

  64. Alexandra

    I make one (well this year 7 actually) every Christmas. Please have a look!

    http://fotki.yandex.ru/users/uvat-2/view/233406/?page=0

    Wow, that’s impressive! ~Elise

  65. greyeagle

    Perfect directions, didn’t print to scale but was easily solved, gingerbread was great and we have a totally cool house!
    Thanks much!

  66. Emily

    this works it was great

  67. onefatherslove

    Hello,
    Thank you for the easy to use instructions. My son and I made a Ginger bread house as a father/son project. I used Gram crackers instead of ginger bread. It worked out and we cut the crackers with a bread knife and sort of pretended we were building a real house! My son loved it and thank you for helping to make our day.

  68. mariah

    Can you eat it or is it just for decor?

    Depends on how you make it. If you make it will all edible ingredients, then yes, you can eat it. Both of these gingerbread houses pictured were eaten. Or you can use them as decor. ~Elise

  69. Jane

    I also swear by using melted sugar as glue instead of royal icing. You can construct a large, elaborate house very quickly (the sugar hardens in ~5-10 minutes). It’s probably not the best thing to be using around kids (there’s no burn worse than a sugar burn; I speak from experience), but it will decrease the time they have to wait before decorating it. It would also be vegan, for all those people concerned with using raw eggs.

  70. Angela Arroyo

    What if I don’t have dark molasses. Can the gingerbread be made without it?

    This particular recipe uses molasses, it helps make the batter a dark color, and helps give the gingerbread its unique flavor. ~Elise

  71. Jo White

    Had been making g.b. houses for about 17 years with my best friend and our 6 children. Now our kids have kids and last year I ‘hosted’ a g.b. house construction day, the day after Thanksgiving, with all 10 of my grandchildren (ages 1-11). My three daughters and my two step-daughters were the construction foremen with lots of laughter and lots of memories. The dining room was a wreck, but who cares…the kids will remember the day spent at Nana’s house. For some reason, none of the houses stood up long, even though I had cut and baked them a month earlier so they would be well dried by the time the kids got there. I thought the kids would be so discouraged, disappointed, and never want to do THAT again, but as each one of them left they were talking about ideas on how they wanted to do theirs next year. We had a ball and I plan to use your ideas next year…plus some cardboard for support. As far as eating them, the kids don’t seem to be too interested in the cookie, but love looking at the house and nibbling on the candies.

  72. Elina (Healthy and Sane)

    This is fantastic info! I’m going to a gingerbread house making party tomorrow and it’s the first time for everyone. I printed your templates and am ready to go :)

  73. Lisa

    I made these with 120 Middle School Students in my Home Economics class and it was a success!! The kids had a great time making and decorating the houses. This year, gingerbread lanterns!

  74. Gail Wrightson

    Hi I love your site. I have been making gingerbread houses most of my adult life. Throughout my daughters childhood, who now is 22 yrs old and now with grandchildren, ages 8, 8, and 11. They can’t wait every year for me to make it..They talk about it the whole year.LOl I never keep them, the Gkids get to take it and burst and cut what they want of it on Christmas afternoon.. but I love doing it.he sight of what I have created is amazing to me each year.
    This year the Gkids as if i could make a castle..LOl well the test is begun, I am going to give it my all..Wish me luck since the pattern is coming only from my mind..Thanks again and merry christmas..

  75. Tonya G.

    Thank you for the great ideas! Your site helped my family and I create a WONDERFUL gingerbread house!!! This was our first one and we plan on making this a tradition in our family! The pictures were great and the information was very helpful. I would also like to thank the people that suggested using melted sugar as “glue” (we did this and it worked quite well.) When creating a gingerbread house with younger children, speediness is a must! Also, thanks for the idea to use a cardboard house underneath the cookie for support.The recipe we used for the gingerbread made pieces that were terribly soft, so without the cardboard underneath our house never would have worked. Again, thanks for the great ideas. Merry Christmas!

  76. Joy

    Great grandson announced, tonight, that he wants to enter Reading Mich Old Fashioned Christmas G.B. house contest day after tomorrow. I will make your dough tonight, bake and possible assemble tomorrow, he can decorate after school. Wish us luck. Thanks for great instructions, and all the helpful comments.

  77. Joanie

    This is an awesome recipe and set of instructions! It’s no more difficult than making “Christmas cookies”. Wow! Thanks.

    My 5.5 and 3.5 year old daughters loved making this house. This may just be a new tradition for our family.

  78. Jackie

    I have never made gingerbread anything before in my life. This post got me so inspired and intrigued that I had to try it. My goal was to make a gingerbread train and station, and a golf clubhouse and sleigh holding a golf bag. I didn’t want to deal with full sized things, so I scaled the templates down to half size and used the recipe as written. I had enough to make 4 complete houses, a train engine, 3 sleighs, with extra pieces of everything except the houses, and several gingerbread people, reindeer, even three guitars! I found cookie cutters for the sleigh and the people, and I made sure that when I made two of something to later be assembled into one thing, to flip one so that the “outsides” would match. I used the royal icing recipe from here and it worked great. I had my 10 y.o. neighbor helping me, so I made the dough Thursday, baked them Friday, built them Saturday and decorated them Sunday. We used everything from mints and m&ms to gummy wreaths and frosted mini-wheat cereal for roof tiles. We had a blast! I am so pleased!! Thanks for another great inspiration, Elise!

  79. Michelle

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! Usually we just make the houses with graham crackers. I can’t wait to try this new recipe!

  80. Rani

    How many houses does this dough recipe make usng your templates?

    One. ~Elise

  81. Daniel Strawn

    I just used this recipe to make a eurofighter typhoon; premier fight jet of the German Luftwafte. It looks awesome, but now I don’t want to eat it because I’m too proud it. :(

  82. MD

    I made little gingerbread houses for a preschool party I hosted today. I made the same style house you posted as a template, only about half the size. It made 4 houses per recipe above (I doubled, and it made 8). I followed your recipe to a T, and they came out perfect. Your tips were the most helpful I found. Thank you! Because these houses were for five year old boys, I substituted the meringue powder you find at Michael’s for the egg whites. Worked great, although I did have to add an extra t. of water b/c of substitution.

  83. Monique

    Thanks! My 6-year-old and I had a blast making this, our first ever gingerbread house! We used a round pedestal cake stand for the base, and not only is it beautifully displayed that way, but we could spin it around on the table as we were putting it together and decorating it, very convenient! We used a pizza cutter to cut out the pieces, then transferred to parchment paper with a metal spatula (make sure everything is floured well, )worked great! The printouts were not to scale, so I had to make my own. Thanks again!

  84. Aimee

    I just made my first ever gingerbread house and thanks to your fantastic instructions it went beautifully. However I am a little confused – and wondering if anyone has struck the same thing – the recipe made more than twice the amount of dough that I needed to make the house perfectly well (and there’s no way on the planet that the walls could have been any thicker).

    Also I found that sticking the chimney on immediately before decorating was not a wise idea as it did try and slip off a few times!!

    I also made it initially with blackstrap molasses – didn’t realise there were several kinds – and the dough tasted foul. So I started again and instead of buying more molasses, I used a mixture of treacle and golden syrup – it still has a really beautiful tangy gingerbread taste.

    Lovely, lovely lovely recipe – it smells GORGEOUS and looks stunning if I might say so myself.

    It’s one AM – off to bed after a night of stickiness.

  85. Lotta

    Thank you Elise for the great post and your amazing blog!

    I also only use melted sugar as glue -it’s a little tricky, because is does solidify so quickly, but you can start decorating immediately, if you want to. It is also stronger than the frosting. The hardest part is keeping kids away -there is a real threat of burning yourself with the sugar.

    A couple of tricks that work well with houses (especially, if you don’t plan on eating it): use less leavening, so your pieces stay in their inteded shape better while baking. Add extra spices, and the house will smell stronger for longer (I love it, when I can get a whiff of the gingerbread house, when I walk by).

    My aunt also makes colored “stained glass” windows on her gingerbread houses by placing a piece of candy in the cut out before putting the pieces in the oven. The candy melts in the oven, and makes a sheet of “stained glass”. She usually makes a castle or tower that is open at the top, and fills them with candy/treats.

  86. Nichole

    Thanks a bunch, this is my first time here! I’ve only made a gingerbread house once in elementary school and now I am going to try to make this recipe for a Christmas Eve party I’m having. I want to build and decorate at the party… I think it will be fun! Thanks so much for the great step by step instructions :) Will be bookmarking!!! Merry Christmas!

    You’ll want to make the house forms beforehand, so you can build and decorate at your party. ~Elise

  87. E&E Music Factory

    Alright, so, my girlfriend and I tried this recipe. The gingerbread pieces came out alright, even though we cut them free-handed, without layout pieces. We set up a piece of cardboard and started to ice the edges and hold them together for 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes… 20 minutes goes by and now we’re yelling at each other because not only won’t the icing stick to the gingerbread or the parchment paper (on the cardboard), but now almost 3 hours later the icing is just beginning to harden — except on the places where we didn’t want it to be, on the walls, the pots and pans, on the laptop and the table, in these places it’s harder than stone. We tried adding sugar, we even tried holding the damn house up with pink tape, but it kept falling apart and now most of the pieces are broken. This was a disaster. We followed the recipe and instructions to the letter. What could we have done wrong?

    No idea. Royal icing firms up very quickly, and becomes really really hard. Don’t know why it is working for you in some places and not in others. ~Elise

  88. Tilmann

    Wow this recipe is amazing I made it with my mum and it worked great. Thankyou so so so much for posting this recipe and I had a lot of fun making it. Tilmann!

  89. Jackie

    This is a follow up post…here are pictures of things I made from two batches of this gingerbread recipe, done at two separate times. (Beach scenes, train, golf clubhouse.) I had a blast and am hooked! Thanks again, Elise.
    http://www.midfloridamilers.org/gingerbread%202010/

    Those are great, what fun! ~Elise

  90. joe meyer

    I’m a first timer with GB houses, my son has been asking for years and I kept saying no because I thought it would a lot of work and a hard project. I finally gave in this year and I have to say it’s been pretty easy and been a lot of fun for the two of us. Thank You Elise!!!!!!!!!!!

    I made a half of a batch of the icing with heating it in the microwave, it took additional 20 seconds to reach 160 degrees. In doing so some of the egg whites did cook so we had bits of egg white chunks. But after beating on high until stiff the egg white chunks had disappreaded. Thanks again Elise

  91. Kaitlyn

    I think that it was the best thing ever!!!!

  92. kris

    Wanted to know if I could make the dough and bake then freeze? I don’t always have a lot of time and if I had the pieces in the freezer, it would make it soooo much easier. I am an activity director at a retirement home and planning on making a couple for our holiday bazaar.

    I would roll out the dough, cut it into forms, and then freeze before baking. Freezing after baking? I don’t know how well that would work. Upon defrosting the form might not keep its structure. But if you try it, please let us know how it works for you. ~Elise

  93. Paul & Shari

    We are so excited! We are planning to make a replica of the Selkirk Motel in Colville, WA where we are resident managers! Our local Keller House Museum is having their annual Gingerbread House competition and being new in town, and two who LOVE to bake, we plan to spend our Thanksgiving Day constructing the mini motel!
    Thanks for all your great advice and photos! We’ll let you know how it goes….
    Happy Holidays everyone!

  94. Bec

    l made one for my friend 2 weeks ago because l finished early to go to canada she is going to a different school so l am very sad… it was the perfect gift and though l an only 14 l think l did a good job

  95. Nate

    How long would you guess this takes from start to finish?

    I’ve done it all in one very long, Bourbon-enhanced night. But I would recommend three nights for a more sane approach. One night to make the pattern and bake the forms. One night to construct the house and “glue” together with frosting. One night to decorate. ~Elise

  96. Jocelyn

    Wow this recipe is very detailed and just great!!

  97. Ali Mc

    Hey I just found your blog and I love this! I have been searching for a good gingerbread house from scratch recipe. My son isn’t even 2 yet so maybe, after reading the other comments I’ll save this for next year when he’s older :D lol GREAT job!

  98. Brooke

    So happy to have discovered your recipe! I live in Sweden so I was able to find pre-made gingerbread cookie dough, but used your pattern. My pieces were not as crisp on the edges, after baking, but I cut them out only using the pattern on paper. The icing turned out beautifully, I used 3 egg whites and closer to 4-5 cups of powdered sugar to get the stiff peaks. But the icing was like cement and dried quickly when putting the house together. My girls are 2 and 4 and were so excited to help make their first gingerbread house. I found your information incredibly helpful for first timers like me. Thanks so much!

  99. Jill

    Thanks so much for the use of your recipes and ideas. First time I’ve every made gingerbread. I made one for each of my grands. I made marshmallow fondant shingles for two of them and also used the pieces for a stone sidewalk. Thanks again.

  100. Shane Burnham

    I doubled the recipe to make two houses, but found it to be way too much. Along with the houses, we have an army of gingerbread men!

  101. Debbie Buckland

    Thank you so much for this recipe. This is the second year I used it and I posted my finished House on my blog.

  102. LB

    My children (6 and 3) and I made our first gingerbread house ever yesterday using these directions. Everyone advised me to buy a kit, but stubbornly, I did not. I am so glad! Our house turned out so cute, and we had so much fun decorating it. Your directions could not have been more complete–they made the whole process run smoothly. Thanks.

  103. Donna

    Thank you Elise for this wonderful recipe. We had fun making our “cottages”. Merry Christmas!

    http://whatthedogate.blogspot.com/2011/12/merry-christmas-from-our-home-to-yours.html

    Love it Donna! Adorable. ~Elise

  104. Andie

    thanks for saying that shane! i used this recipe to make a bigger house probably about 2x the size and i almost made 2x the dough before reading your comment. i went with 3/2x the recipe and probably had a little more than i needed – 6 gingerbread men, a cat, a dog, 4 trees, 2 bushes, and tasting cookies with the rest of it,

  105. Sam Davidson

    I used the recipe put everything together looked great till I got up the next day and the roof had sagging in the middle and it was firm but spongy.
    Can anyone advise Thanks Sam

    • Elise

      It sounds like there may be too much humidity where you are, or the roof pieces were not baked hard enough.

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