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Building a Gingerbread House


The renovateyourworld.com team has seen a lot of homebuilding projects come and go over the years. Because we’ve never all seen eye to eye on all the features of every project, in the spirit of the holidays we decided to tackle a project we could all agree on—a Gingerbread House.

To start, we created a few plans: A-Frame, Colonial, Saltbox, and Side Gable houses (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). The renovateyourworld.com design department drew up some easy-to-follow plans that anyone can download. We collected gingerbread and icing recipes from the Internet, and began the task of gingerbread building, illustrated below:


Step 1: Budget Your Dough
Roll the dough flat into a uniform thickness. Use two flat or round guides of equal height (about 3/16-inch) to help keep the dough as flat and level as possible.

Building Tip: Next time you are at the building supply or hardware store, pick up a four-foot long, 3/16-inch-diameter dowel. It will make the perfect rolling pin guide.


Step 2: Carpentry Work
Starting with one of renovateyourworld.com’s gingerbread house templates carefully cut the wall and roof sections from the dough. Once you have all the pieces cut out, bake the gingerbread according to your recipe.

Building Tip: Remember to make any design changes before you bake the gingerbread. Architectural adjustments ordered after the bread is baked can lead to costly overtime baking charges.


Step 3: Construction Adhesive
Royal icing is the right product for assembling a gingerbread house. It is easy to make (you can find dozens of recipes online), dries hard, and remains pure white.

While the gingerbread parts are baking, mix up a batch of icing and put it in a cook’s caulking gun (better known as a pastry bag).

Building Tip: Baking-site safety is a must! Some royal icing recipes use uncooked egg whites. Meringue powder (found in cake-baking stores) can be used as a substitute.




Step 4: Assemble the Sugar Shack
Make a base for your gingerbread house. A flat serving platter or a piece of heavy cardboard covered in decorative paper will do.

To assemble the gingerbread house, start with one of the side pieces. Apply a bead of icing along the bottom, and place it on the base. Working with one piece at a time, apply a bead of icing along the edges of each piece to attach sides to the front of the house. "Gingerly" butt the pieces together. You can use a tall, smooth-faced object like a drinking glass to brace the house during assembly. Finish the four walls by attaching the remaining piece.

Building Tip: Put some eggnog in the drinking glass. The added weight will keep the glass from sliding.


Step 5: Decorative Trim
Add an extra bead of icing to the inside and outside of the gingerbread house corners. This will make the house stronger, and provide a finishing touch to all of the edges.



Step 6: Roofing and Icing
Apply a bead of icing along the top edges of the four walls, and set the two roof pieces in place. As in the previous step, apply an additional bead of icing along the roof edges for added stability.

Building Tip: Now it is time to take a break and enjoy the eggnog while the icing dries. Wait until it is hard to the touch before decorating—too much candy too soon can cause structural flaws in your gingerbread house.




Photo by Halldor Utne

Step 7: Exterior Design
When decorating your gingerbread house, pay special attention to the roof and front facade. The intricate filigreed trim work found on Victorian houses isn’t called "gingerbread" by accident. Be creative with swirls and flourishes of icing but try to keep them symmetrical for a more realistic feel. The renovateyourworld.com team’s final result is pictured.

Here are a few more tips from the office staff at renovateyourworld.com!

  • Decorate from top to bottom. Incorporate any drips or slips as you work down the house
  • When decorating a gingerbread house, have fun and go overboard! Curlicues, finials, colors, and variations-on-a-theme are all fair game.
  • Consider baking the dough first and then cutting to size. This can help ensure a good fit.
  • Use multiple colored Nonpareils for roofing shingles to create a Victorian style roof.
  • Use cotton as smoke for the chimney. Also, try powdered sugar for snow. And don’t forget the sprinkles!
  • sales and marketing department: For a light dusting of snow on your roof and chimney, consider using unsweetened shaved coconut flakes.
  • Add candles at night for a warm glow!
  • Email a picture of your gingerbread house to info@renovateyourworld.com! We’ll post a collection of our favorites. Make sure to include at least your first name and where you live!

Credit: Renovate Your World