Make a Gingerbread House! An Advent Tradition

At the end of November each year (the Friday after Thanksgiving may be a convenient time, since the project can extend an entire weekend), we get started mixing dough, cutting out the templates, and baking each cookie. The next day, we make a batch of royal icing (I cheat and use the powdered kind, but I noticed Danielle Bean (editor of “Faith and Family”) has a good one on her site here).

About cutting out the template for each piece of the house: You can make your own out of posterboard or laminated parchment paper. If you’re not architecturally inclined, you can enlarge and trace a simple pattern here. Or, if you’re a little more ambitious, here.

We like to make two houses … one to keep, one to give. (I’ve found that teachers especially appreciate it if you offer to host a gingerbread decorating party in the classroom … and may even let you tell the story of St. Nicholas and the three bags of gold!).

Each year we invite another family to participate … it’s more fun when you can decorate multiple houses! In our family we demolish each house on New Year’s Day with large glasses of cold milk and mugs of steaming tea. Enjoy!

Gingerbread House

Each recipe makes one house, with enough to make a few gingerbread men or women for the tree. You will need…

5-1/2 C unsifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 C shortening
1 C sugar
1-1/4 C molasses (dark)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients into a bowl; stir and set aside. Cream sugar and shortening. Beat in molasses, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in dry ingredients into the molasses mixture. When it becomes too stiff to stir with spoon, work dough in with hands until completely blended. Divide dough into 4 parts. Shape into a flattened round, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour and up to 2 weeks.Place a disk of chilled dough on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Cover with waxed paper or more plastic wrap and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. (Paper keeps the dough from sticking, so you don’t need flour for rolling.)


Remove plastic/waxed paper and place templates on dough, leaving 1/2-inch border around pieces. Use a small, sharp knife to cut around pattern edges. Use fingers or knife to remove scrap dough pieces, leaving house pieces intact on the foil. Cut out doors and windows as desired.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10-25 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. Gingerbread will darken, especially around edges, and feel firm to the touch. While cookies are still warm, put templates back on each piece and trim any extra cookie around the edges (it will expand during the baking process). Cool and peel off foil. Store in a cool, dry place.

To construct house, pipe or spread royal icing on the foil-lined cardboard where you want the “base” to rest. Place base cookie on top. Secure front and back, using cans to prop them up while you affix sides. Allow to dry completely before removing cans and affixing roof. Allow to dry completely before decorating.

To Make the Gingerbread House, You Will Need:

Pre-baked (trimmed and cooled) gingerbread cookies. (You will need at least seven pieces: One base, two pointy front and back pieces, two windowed side pieces, two roof pieces, and a base.

Foil-covered cardboard. (Should be large and sturdy enough to support not only the house but any surrounding “landscaping” you choose to do.)

A couple of soup cans. (Use them to support the walls while they are drying, and remove before you put on the roof.)

Royal icing. One batch for each house you are making. When you are not actually using part of the batch, keep the icing covered by a clean, damp paper towel and dishtowel, to keep it from drying out prematurely. You will also need something to “pipe” the frosting (disposable pastry bag or Baggie with the tip clipped off). If you choose to color the icing (I usually don’t), paste gives you bolder colors than liquid food color.

Decorations! It’s really up to you what you choose to use. Tinted coconut for grass (or white for snow), frosted sugar cones for trees, Vanilla wafers for roof shingles, wafer cookies for window shutters, front stoop, benches, or door. M&Ms or pastel mints for brickwork or around garden beds (I often pipe a “tree” or “lattice” onto the back of my house, and use M&M’s for “flowers.”)
Red-hots and sprinkles to decorate the tops of roofs and trees. Let your imagination go wild!

Not quite ready for Christmas recipes yet? Check out my recipe for apple dumplings here at Mommy Monsters!

5 thoughts on “Make a Gingerbread House! An Advent Tradition

  1. The last time I made a ginger bread house it kept tipping over. I may have to try your way and see if I have any better luck!


  2. my son’s class made these last year. It took me FOREVER to get ours together and standing…….only to watch it slllooowwwlllyyy fall under the weight of all the candy he put on it.

    course we only had 30min to make them in….


  3. Pingback: Wee Cook Wednesdays: School’s Out … Favorite Kid-Friendly Recipes! « Extraordinary Moms Network

  4. Pingback: Tips for Baking Gingerbread « Extraordinary Moms Network

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