Four Tiny Tips for Extreme Gingerbread House-Making
what goes into making a structurally sound gingerbread building? Here are some pointers ...
words & photos by Ma Vue |
Extreme gingerbread house-making found me in 2020 alone during the holidays because of social distancing measures. The Chippewa Valley Museum was hosting a Gingerbread House Contest, and I was seeking a creative outlet. Armed with flour, sugar, and a newfound determination, I crafted the sturdiest gingerbread castle on this side of the Mississippi. P.S. I did not win.
Three years later, I find myself staring at icing dry again. I was tasked with building a gingerbread replica of The Local Store and the Chippewa River Trolley for this year’s “Best of the Holidays” issue of Volume One magazine. Needless to say, I now have an arsenal of skills and tips worth sharing with any soul brave enough to attempt their own masterpiece!
First, plan out your gingerbread house! Having a strong foundation, literally and figuratively, is key to the success of your build. I spent a good part of a day drawing out templates and plans to ensure for a sturdy structure and used a quarter-inch by 2 foot by 2 foot wooden board for the base. I included corner braces into my design to ensure the walls have extra support. Keep in mind your structure will need to be strong enough to hold up a roof!
Second, use a construction-grade recipe for the gingerbread. There are a plethora of gingerbread recipes online for your picking. I used the gingerbread and stiff icing recipes below to ensure a long-lasting build. Take note of the color of molasses you use, as it will determine the final color of your gingerbread house! Also, you don’t technically need the spices, but theya dd aroma to the overall festive experience.
Third, be patient! Give time for the gingerbread pieces to cool down and dry before assembling. I let the gingerbread pieces dry overnight. The same goes for the structural icing. The icing recipe I used holds structure well from the get-go, but you’ll want to let it harden for at least an hour before adding on the details and decorations.
Lastly, have fun! Gingerbread house-making – although tedious – can be very rewarding when finished, so don’t forget to enjoy the journey!
Gingerbread House Recipe
Mix the dry ingredients below first.
- 28 oz all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¾ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¾ teaspoon salt
Mix the wet ingredients next in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Melt the shortening first in the microwave.
- 7 oz vegetable shortening
- 6 oz granulated sugar
- 16 oz molasses
- 1 large egg
Stiff Royal Icing Recipe
- 1 pound powdered sugar sifted
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- food coloring
Equipment & Supplies
- Stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachment
- Piping bag and tips
- Gelatin sheets for windows