Gingerbread House Recipe

Once the holiday season hits, it's visions of sugar plums, boughs of mistletoe, and wrapping paper galore. And while those classic nods to the holidays are certainly popular, there is one wintertime sweet that just might take the crown for the most quintessential and the most classic.

Many families have fond memories of gathering around the table to make a gingerbread house. Some may even turn the tradition into a competition to see who can decorate the most beautiful digs. And while a gingerbread house kit is the go-to for many, we're here to let you know that baking, constructing, and decorating an entire gingerbread house from scratch is absolutely doable.

It may seem like a daunting task, and it may seem like an advanced baking skill level is required to pull it off, but have no fear. With step-by-step directions, a bit of patience, and a whole lot of creativity, you too can put together a whimsical gingerbread house without the kit. Just remember along the way, no matter how it turns out, it's all about having fun for the holidays.

Gather the ingredients for your gingerbread house

To start making your gingerbread house, you'll want to be sure you have all of the required ingredients on hand. You'll first want to make the dough for your gingerbread house. For the gingerbread house dough, you'll need two sticks of unsalted butter, dark brown sugar, two eggs, molasses, a bit of water, flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. This dough is designed with structural integrity in mind. You can certainly eat the baked dough once all is said and done, but first and foremost, it's meant to be strong enough to build your house and hold plenty of fun and festive decorations.

To make the glue, or the royal icing, that will hold your gingerbread house together, you'll need egg whites and powdered sugar. For the buttercream frosting for decorating, you'll need another stick of butter, powdered sugar, and a splash of milk.

Be sure to gather all of your decorating items as well. The beauty of making a gingerbread house is that there really are no rules for decorating. Gather a variety of candies, sprinkles, powdered sugar for snow, pretzels, slivered almonds, and anything else in between.

Cream the butter and sugar for your gingerbread house dough

The first step to making a beautiful gingerbread house is to start off with a good dough.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the unsalted butter and brown sugar. Be sure your butter is softened so it can easily be creamed with the brown sugar. Turn the mixer on medium speed, and allow the butter and brown sugar to whip together. Once the butter and sugar are fully incorporated, pour in the molasses and continue mixing. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure all of your ingredients are being fully incorporated. 

Once the molasses is fully incorporated into the butter and sugar mixture, add in the eggs one at a time. Allow the mixer to continue mixing the wet ingredients until the eggs are fully incorporated before moving onto the next step.

Add in the dry ingredients for your gingerbread house dough

To prepare the dry ingredients for your gingerbread house dough, get out another large bowl. Add the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, and salt to the bowl, and stir to combine.

With the mixer running, gradually add all of the dry mixture into the wet ingredients mixture. Continue mixing on medium speed to allow a soft dough to form. As you continue mixing, the dough will begin to slightly pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn off the mixer and scrape the sides down with a spatula if needed to continue fully mixing the dough together.

Once the dough comes together, remove it from the mixing bowl with your hands and knead it gently into a ball. Wrap one large ball of dough (or split it up into two) in plastic wrap. Refrigerate your dough for at least one hour or overnight if you're making your gingerbread house over multiple days.

Make the template for your gingerbread house

While the dough for your gingerbread house is chilling, it's time to map out your house. This is the time to think of yourself as the architect! Really, a gingerbread house can be made in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. We chose to use a simple, classic template for this house, but you can certainly switch it up.

Use parchment paper or regular white printer paper to make a template for your house. It's best to measure and draw the house pieces on the paper in pencil and then cut them out for use with your dough.

For this gingerbread house, we mapped it out with a pointed front and back, two pieces for the sides of the house, along with two pieces for the roof. For the sides of the house, measure a rectangle 5 inches tall by 6 inches wide. For the roof, measure a rectangle 4 inches tall by 6 inches wide. For the front and back of the house, measure a pointed house shape 8 inches tall by 6 inches wide. 

Roll out the dough for your gingerbread house

Once the dough is finished chilling, it's ready to start working with it. Be sure you're not removing the dough before it has chilled for at least one to two hours. This step is crucial in preventing your gingerbread house shapes from spreading. Chilling the dough relaxes it while solidifying the fat from the butter in the mixture as well. In addition, it makes it easier to roll out and cut out the dough.

Put the chilled dough on a well-floured surface, such as a countertop. Be sure there's plenty of flour spread on the counter to keep the dough from sticking.

Flour a wooden rolling pin and roll out the dough into a large circle. This will be a rough shape, and that's completely fine since you'll end up cutting out the shapes anyway. Roll your dough out until it's about ¼-inch thick. Rolling it too thin will result in baked gingerbread house pieces that are prone to cracking.

Cut the dough for your gingerbread house

Now, this is where the templates you made come in! Just as measuring the templates for each of your gingerbread house pieces was crucial, cutting them correctly to size is just as important.

Place the paper templates on top of the rolled-out dough. Then, cut the dough around the sides of the template. You can use a pastry cutter here, a rolling pizza cutter, or simply use a knife if that's all you have on hand for this step. When you have a gingerbread house piece cut out, transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased with cooking spray.

Once you have a few pieces of your template cut out, you may need to knead the dough once more and roll it out again. Continue this step until all of your pieces are cut out.

When all of your gingerbread house pieces are ready, bake your cookies in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until set. Once the pieces are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow them to completely cool on the baking sheet.

Make the royal icing for your gingerbread house

The secret to a structurally sound gingerbread house is all in the glue that holds it together, and royal icing does this perfectly.

To make royal icing, add two egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Turn the mixer on to medium speed and begin whipping the egg whites. The egg whites will begin to bubble and froth. Once this happens, begin gradually adding in the powdered sugar. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the mixing bowl with a spatula to be sure all of the powdered sugar is incorporated. Continue mixing until the icing is smooth and thick. If you plan to later eat your gingerbread house, you can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or almond extract to flavor the icing.

This icing is necessary for construction because of the way it dries. The icing is a gooey, thick liquid when prepped and added to a gingerbread house. However, after a few hours, it dries into a solid glue to hold the structure together.

Assemble your gingerbread house

Once all of your gingerbread house pieces are fully baked and cooled and your royal icing is prepped and ready, now comes the fun part! This is also the trickiest part of the gingerbread house-making process, but with plenty of royal icing as glue and patience, your gingerbread house will come together.

Put the royal icing in a piping bag. Using a small round piping tip can make this process easier, but if you don't have one, cut a small tip off the end of the piping bag to create a round hole. If you don't have a piping bag, mimic one by putting the royal icing into a plastic storage bag with a zipper. Squeeze the royal icing to one of the bottom corners of the bag, and make a small cut to let the icing flow.

Choose a board or a platter to construct your house on. Run a line of icing along the bottom edges and sides of the first two pieces of your house. Starting with the front and one side of your house is best. Stick each piece to your base, and hold the two pieces in place for a few minutes to allow the icing to set. Use something to prop the sides up if needed. Continue this process until all of your pieces are glued together with the royal icing. Leave your gingerbread house to fully set and dry for a few hours, or even overnight, before decorating.

Make the buttercream frosting for your gingerbread house

You can certainly use any remaining royal icing to decorate your gingerbread house. However, depending on the design you're trying to do, the royal icing may be too runny for certain decorating tasks. Making buttercream frosting is a great way to add a thicker piped frosting to your house. Plus, you can dish it up into multiple bowls and add food coloring to the mix to make a beautifully colorful house if desired.

For the buttercream frosting, add one softened stick of butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whip the butter until smooth and gradually add in one cup of powdered sugar while the mixer is running. Gradually add in two tablespoons of milk. Again, if you plan to eat your gingerbread house and want it deliciously flavored, you can add in two teaspoons of vanilla or almond extract if desired.

Continue to gradually add in the rest of the powdered sugar while the mixer is running. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Once all ingredients are incorporated and your frosting begins to form, increase the speed of the mixer to whip the frosting.

Decorate your gingerbread house

Once your gingerbread house is fully constructed and the royal icing has dried, it's time to decorate! For many, this is the best part of the whole process, and it's such a great opportunity to get creative. Gather around the kitchen table or counter, and enjoy celebrating the season.

Gingerbread houses can take on so many different forms. Create a classic house with candy gumdrops, candy ropes, and peppermints, or perhaps craft a cozy cottage in the woods or even a Victorian era mansion. There are no rules here.

Using the buttercream frosting to decorate adds a lovely touch to a gingerbread house, as it's not as runny as royal icing when piped. Plus, it can act as a glue when adding on candies. Dusting powdered sugar over the entire house and board can create a beautiful snowscape for your design. It's truly all up to how creative you want to get with your gingerbread house.

Gingerbread House Recipe
5 from 4 ratings
While a gingerbread house kit is the go-to for many, we're here to let you know that baking an entire gingerbread house from scratch is absolutely doable.
Prep Time
2
hours
Cook Time
20
minutes
Servings
1
gingerbread house
gingerbread house
Total time: 2.33 hours
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (plus 1 for buttercream frosting)
  • 1-½ cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1-¼ cups molasses
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 5 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites, for the royal icing
  • 4 cups powdered sugar for the royal icing (plus 6 more for buttercream frosting)
Directions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the softened butter and brown sugar. Add in the molasses and mix well, and then add in the eggs and water.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. With the mixer running, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix well until a soft dough forms.
  4. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, knead into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
  5. While the dough is chilling, cut out your gingerbread house templates.
  6. Once the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin. Break the dough up into two sections if needed. Roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thick. Rolling the dough out too thin will cause the gingerbread house to break.
  7. Once your dough is rolled out, place your templates on top of the dough and cut out each shape.
  8. Transfer the dough cut-outs to a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the edges begin to turn dark brown. Allow the gingerbread house pieces to cool on the baking sheet.
  9. For the royal icing, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the two egg whites and mix on medium speed. Whip the egg whites, and gradually add in the 4 cups powdered sugar. Continue mixing, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed, until the powdered sugar is entirely mixed in and the icing is thick.
  10. Assemble your gingerbread house by using the royal icing as glue. Adding the royal icing to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip will help with this process. Run a line of icing along the bottom edges and sides of the first two pieces of your house. Starting with the front and one side of your house is best. Stick each piece to your base, and hold the two pieces in place to allow the icing to set. Use something to prop the sides up if needed.
  11. Repeat the step above with the remaining pieces of the gingerbread house. Use plenty of royal icing as glue in the cracks to keep your gingerbread house intact. Set aside to allow the royal icing to dry.
  12. For the buttercream frosting, add one softened stick of butter to a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whip the butter until smooth and gradually add in one cup of powdered sugar while the mixer is running. Gradually add in two tablespoons of milk. Continue to gradually add in another 4 to 5 cups powdered sugar while the mixer is running, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Once all ingredients are incorporated and your frosting begins to form, increase the speed of the mixer to whip the frosting.
  13. Decorate your gingerbread house with buttercream frosting, candies, sprinkles, herbs, cinnamon sticks, or anything else you would like. Dust with powdered sugar for a snowy look.
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