New England Innkeeper’s 2018 Christmas Gingerbread House (by Charlene M. Taubert)

Last Updated: March 6, 2024By
Christmas Gingerbread House - New England Innkeeper - Charlene M. Taubert

Merry Christmas, everyone! As the most festive days of the holiday season approached, I’ve been putting my baking skills to creative use by crafting my 2nd Annual Christmas Gingerbread House – using a handy ‘How to Make a Gingerbread House’ guide from the New York Times!

The 2nd Annual New England Innkeeper Christmas Gingerbread House

Understand – this isn’t one of those ‘Make a Gingerbread House’ kits you’re apt to see on the aisle caps at your local grocery store during the Christmas season.

Those tidy kits have pre-fabricated (and pre-cut) pieces, pre-made (and neatly packaged) royal icing, and all of the decorative candies you’ll need to achieve some reasonable semblance of the colorful image on the cover of the box. And if you’ve ever made one, then you know from experience that even the orderly packaged and fully-instructioned gingerbread house building experience can be a test of your patience; especially if the icing for some reason fails to hold the walls in place, and the entire edifice comes crumbling down into a sticky, sugar-coated, colorful, and lightly ginger-scented demolition.

Making a Christmas gingerbread house completely from scratch adds a few extra layers of difficulty to the process. It is a time-consuming and often messy activity. There is a learning curve. On the first go-throughs, you will likely have moments of stress – but if you stick with it, you will learn the fundamentals and the next time will be easier.

Why so much work? You’ll be mixing the dough. Cutting the dough to the shape of the template. Mixing your own royal icing. Creating ‘stained glass’ windows by melting hard candies. Making hundreds of tiny decorating decisions – and needing to visit stores (or shop online) to source the edible pieces necessary to make your finished gingerbread home a thing of holiday beauty that everyone is certain to adore and envy.

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Some Gingerbread House Making Tips

Want to give it a go? I can attest that the gingerbread recipe, the royal icing recipe, and many of the tips and tricks covered in the New York Times Christmas Gingerbread House Guide all work very well – as I’ve used them for the past two years. So if you follow their recipes, you will be building your house from a solid foundation.

Plan Ahead: Be certain you have an idea as to how the pieces will come together very early in the process – and always make certain that you take the time to understand which piece you are actually working on at any given moment. The New York Times guide appears to have a problem with the dimensions of the roof panels in their template. Last year, I followed the template exactly – and my roof ended up with a much longer overhang than I was expecting (which required me to get a little creative to finish the home). This year, I cut some of the length from those panels as I created them, and it worked out perfect.

Consider Functionality: Think about what surface you will be constructing your gingerbread house on so you will be able to display it, move it from one location to another, and add interior lighting (if desired). This year, I used an 18×18 square of birch plywood with a hole strategically cut out of the center to accommodate an interior lighting feature I wanted to include. I also screwed 2 thin strips of plywood to 2 of the outer edges of the larger square – that way I had enough unimpeded vertical space to run the electrical cord for the lights out from under the base the home was constructed on. I painted the entire plywood base with white acrylic paint to give any visible areas of wood a ‘snowy’ look.

When to Cut: There are a lot of opinions online as to when/how to actually trim the cookie pieces to template size. Some people cut pieces to template shape before baking. Some people bake their pieces, let them completely harden/dry, and then cut the shapes for their home. I tried lots of different options and found that baking the gingerbread squares on flat baking sheets and then cutting the template shapes as soon as they came out of the oven (when possible – taking care not to burn my hands), seemed to work best. The still hot gingerbread still has a softness that is easy to cut straight edges through. It quickly becomes hard as it cools – meaning you are more likely to encounter jagged edges and shatters the longer you wait. If you cut before you cook – understand that the cookie pieces puff up during the cooking process, and will likely need to be trimmed again afterwards for a snug fit. Also: no matter when you personally decide to cut the pieces – be certain to use a sharp knife! My favorite precision knife is the Misono UX10.

Pan Liners: I don’t know what I would do without parchment pan liners in my kitchen. I use them for so many things – baking bread, baking cookies cutting meat, etc. For this project: I roll my gingerbread dough on them. I bake the gingerbread pieces on them – and that allows me to easily move them off of the baking sheet, to somewhere I can easily trim the pieces to template size. Then I can easily move the still malleable gingerbread pieces onto cooling racks by transporting them on the parchment pan liners. Buy one box (click here) – and it lasts almost forever

Patience. Patience. Patience. Remember: Building a Christmas Gingerbread House is supposed to be a fun and memorable experience – something that makes your holiday a little more bright. If the going gets tough, or if you make a mistake, just step back for a minute and think about how you can hide the mistake, incorporate the mistake into a new design, or find a way to remake the faulty pieces altogether. Don’t quit. Stick with it. Go the distance. You’ll be glad you did.

AND REMEMBER: Gingerbread houses aren’t ONLY for Christmas. LEARN MORE…

Disclaimer: Information is harvested (at time of publication) from publicly available sources and is deemed reliable at time of original publication, but not guaranteed – any editorial content is solely opinion-based – status of businesses, availability, prices, dates, times, details, and etc are subject to change or withdrawal at any time and for any reason. All dimensions are approximate and have not been verified. All data should be independently verified from official sources.

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