"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids

Make a Gingerbread House

The little house was built of bread, with a roof made of cake, and windows of transparent sugar. "We will have some of this," said Hansel. "I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window. That will be sweet." Hansel reached up and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, while Gretel gnawed at the windowpane. Then a soft voice called out from inside: “Nibble, nibble, little mouse, who is nibbling at my house?” (excerpt from “Hansel and Gretel” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm)

The tradition of making flat, shaped gingerbreads comes from 15th-century Germany and its surrounding lands. The city of Nuremberg was known as "gingerbread capital" of the world. Large pieces of gingerbread (“lebkuchen”) were used to build “Lebkuchenhaeusel” (gingerbread houses), also called “Knusperhaeuschen” (houses for nibbling at).

A homemade gingerbread house makes an impressive centerpiece during the holidays. Building one can also be a fun holiday activity for children. Gingerbread houses are not as difficult to make as they appear, and they don’t even have to be made out of gingerbread. Beginners, children, and anyone who doesn’t have time to bake can use store-bought gingerbread squares, graham crackers, or even cardboard pieces.

It’s a good idea to have your layout in mind before beginning construction. Look at pictures of different house styles in architecture books. You can make a Victorian Mansion, Log Cabin, Church, Cathedral, School House, Castle, Cottage, Teepee, Pagoda, Hacienda, Ranch House, or a model of your own house.

Don't be afraid to break the traditional mold. Examples of unusual gingerbread designs that my kids have made include: a pueblo village, futuristic sci-fi structure, Empire State Building, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Someone who is more experienced and has lots of time on their hands might want to create the town of Bethlehem or a city skyline.

If this is your first time making a gingerbread house, or if young children are going to be working on the project, here are a few recommendations: 1.) Make gingerbread houses out of graham crackers or pre-made gingerbread squares. 2.) Keep it simple so the kids don't get frustrated or bored. 3.) Put icing in a bowl for dipping candies into before attaching them. 4.) Consider putting the house together beforehand, then letting the kids decorate it. Once the basic frame structure is put together, children will have fun decorating it with their favorite candies.

As long as you have the candy and other supplies on hand, you should be able to get it all done in one day. Here is a list of items that you will need:

  • All the ingredients you need to make the gingerbread house and decorate it.
  • Powdered egg whites or meringue powder for icing (see royal icing recipe below).
  • Plastic bowl for mixing the icing.
  • Icing bags, couplers and tips. (Resealable plastic bags can be used as pastry bags for the icing. Just put a spoonful of icing in the bag, snip off a small corner of the bag, and squeeze to decorate.)
  • Spatula for applying icing on large surfaces.
  • Pointed toothpicks for detail work and to secure gingerbread pieces together.
  • Exacto knife, pizza cutter, or any sharp fine knife for cutting out gingerbread pieces.
  • Small cookie cutters of people, animals, and shapes.
  • Cardboard to support larger houses. (If you are planning a house that is over 12 inches high, reinforce it with cardboard or brace it internally with large pretzel sticks.)
  • A square (12” minimum) piece of sturdy cardboard or plywood covered in aluminum foil, white or brown craft paper, or fancy wrapping paper for a base to build the house on.
  • A strainer or sifter for sprinkling powdered sugar onto the scene.

You can find plenty of sugary confections at any supermarket or specialty candy store. A person who is really creative can show off their artistic skills with the details. Here are some imaginative ideas:

  • Roof shingles-long sticks of gum or Necco wafer cookies
  • Logs/Poles/Beams-pretzel rods or sticks
  • Snow-confectioners' powdered sugar or shredded coconut
  • Windows--edible rice paper (available at Asian supermarkets), melted lollipops or Life Savers
  • Walkways--dampen superfine sugar, stir in food coloring, and press onto ground
  • Doors--graham crackers
  • Woodpile--cinnamon sticks or mini pretzel sticks
  • Streetlight poles-pretzel sticks or candy canes
  • Chimneys and stonework-peanut brittle, or candy rocks imbedded in royal icing
  • Gravel walkway--crushed nuts
  • Porch columns--peppermint sticks or pretzel rods
  • Fences-mini pretzel sticks
  • Window shutters--wafer creams
  • Thatched roof--mini shredded wheat squares (frosted or unfrosted)
  • Smoke rising from chimney--cotton candy
  • Icicles hanging down from roof edges--royal icing (and a small, round decorating tube)
  • Trees--ice cream cones topped with cotton candy
  • Flowers-colored gum drops stuck on toothpicks
  • Snowmen-marshmallows
  • Ornamentation--gum drops, licorice, M&M's, red hots, other candies or thin cookies

Royal Icing (for gingerbread houses)

1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons powdered egg whites/meringue powder
1/4 cup warm water

Beat confectioners' sugar, powdered egg whites and water in large mixing bowl on low speed 2 minutes to combine. Increase to high; beat 4 minutes till thickened and creamy. Thin the icing, when necessary, with additional water, or add more confectioners' sugar for thicker icing. Cover icing with plastic wrap, pressing directly on surface to prevent drying out between decorating steps. You can also divide the icing to add different food colorings.

Gingersnaps (makes 48 cookies)

Prefer gingerbread on a smaller scale? Make this recipe!

1 cup sugar
¾ cup shortening or butter, softened
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger

In large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients; blend well. Stir in remaining ingredients; blend well. Chill dough for easier handling. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Let cool for 1-2 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

Picture Books for Children

The Gingerbread Man, retold by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Barbara McClintock.
Gingerbread Baby, written and illustrated by Jan Brett.

Gingerbread Cookbook

Fun with Gingerbread, by Laurie Latour. This 12-page booklet (8 ½" x 11") has over three dozen color photos for a variety of gingerbread projects including: No-Bake Gingerbread House, Gingerbread Boys & Girls, a Christmas Gingerbread House, and Gingerbread Ornaments. The recipe for the Christmas Gingerbread House has been in Laurie’s family for over 30 years. Because it uses honey as the only liquid other than eggs, the baked house keeps for a long time! With this special recipe, you can bake the pieces for the house months in advance, and then construct and decorate the house with your family at your leisure. There is no other recipe that makes such long-lasting construction gingerbread; and yes, you can eat it, too, if you want to! All of the recipes, full-size patterns, and step-by-step color photos are contained in this easy-to-use booklet. Buy extras for gifts: add some candy for decorating and create your own "Gingerbread Kit" gift package for a fraction of what you pay in stores. This booklet can be ordered from Laurie Latour's website: www.FutureChristianHomemakers.com

SEE ALSO: Gingerbread House Recipe, Instructions, and Patterns


These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
All rights reserved.

WWW Search This Site


Visit my other website - www.ArizonaEdventures.com - click here to explore Arizona!

Sign up for my newsletter
and get a FREE GIFT!
Click here for details.

Homeschool Top Sites

Homeschool Gold

Homeschool Top 500
Look for us in the Top 50 -
Thanks for your votes!

Homeschool Directory

Help Support this Site

Please visit our fine sponsors
and purchase items via our
affiliate links. Thank you!



Google ad content
may not necessarily
represent the views
or endorsement of
Knowledge House.