A lot has changed since the last time I considered the prospect of making a gingerbread house. A year ago, I visited my daughter’s third-grade classroom armed with frosting and candies to help her and her classmates decorate their gingerbread houses made from poster board. This year, Vayda only goes to school every other day so that class sizes are small enough to maintain safe social distances from one student to the next, no visitors are permitted and sharing candy and frosting is unthinkable because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic has made daily life more challenging in a lot of ways. There’s the constant fear of coming into contact with COVID-19 and unknowingly exposing someone else to it. There’s avoiding social gatherings and giving up traditions to try to help stop the spread. There’s dealing with technical difficulties endlessly, trying to navigate work and school and most aspects of life all from home on what seems like the world’s weakest WiFi signal. It’s been exhausting and seemed hopeless at times. But every once in a while, there’s a silver lining.
If we can’t make a makeshift gingerbread house at school, we’ll make a real one at home.
Making gingerbread house plans
The first step in building your gingerbread house is drawing up some plans to determine how big you want it to be and to make sure all of the pieces fit together snuggly.
Using a simple set of plans for a basic gingerbread house, doesn’t necessarily mean your house will be plain. A lot of features can be added when you decorate your house later.
Use these instructions to plan your gingerbread house:
- Flatten out a few empty cereal boxes to cut your walls and roof out of.
- On one cereal box, use a ruler and draw two 6×14-inch rectangles for either side of the roof.
- Cut out the roof pieces.
- On the second cereal box, use a ruler and draw two 8×13-inch rectangles to make the sides of the gingerbread house.
- Cut out the side pieces.
- On the last cereal box, you’re going to cut out the ends of your gingerbread house. They will be pentagons, shaped like a square with an isosceles triangle on top. The bottom three sides of the square will all measure 8 inches long. The equal sides of the triangle on top will measure 4 inches long. Once you’ve measured and drawn two ends with the ruler, cut them out.
- Position the ends opposite one another and position the sides to fit on either side in between them.
- Line the roof pieces up so that they fit snugly together at the peak resting on the slanted sides of the ends.
- Make adjustments to your cardboard pieces as needed so they fit together better.
Once you’re happy with your plans, you’ll need to make gingerbread to cut out the real walls and roof of your gingerbread house.
- 1 cup butter, margarine or shortening
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 5 cups flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ tablespoons cloves
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ to ½ cup of water
- In a large bowl, mix butter until softened.
- Add sugar and blend together until fluffy.
- Add molasses to the mixture.
- Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Add dry ingredients to the batter a little at a time.
- Slowly add water and finish mixing batter.
- Spilt dough into thirds, roll into balls and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Place chilled dough balls on pieces of foil with a light dusting of flour. Then roll out to about ¼-inch thick. Make sure your hand and rolling pin are covered in flour, as well to prevent sticking.
- Position you pattern templates on top of the dough and cut out your side walls, ends and roof pieces.
- Add any texturing, panels or bricks your gingerbread house may have before baking.
- Place foil sheets and gingerbread house pieces on a baking sheet and bake 9-11 minutes at 375F until they are firm but not browned.
- When you gingerbread pieces are finished baking, lay your templates on top of them and trim the edges if you need to, so that they will fit together the way you planned.
- Allow the gingerbread to cool completely before constructing your house.
Constructing and decorating your gingerbread house
When you’re ready to start constructing your gingerbread house, you’ll need a sturdy cardboard base and plenty of icing. You can make a base out of a cardboard box. Just grab one of those Amazon boxes from the garage, flatten it out and cut a base big enough to fit your house. Next, cover your base with aluminum foil. Now you’re ready to start building. Follow these steps:
- To attach your walls to the foil, make four generous lines of icing and stick them down.
- As you move from one wall to the next use icing to glue the walls together in the corners.
- Once all your walls are standing and iced together, allow the icing to harden.
- Add the roof pieces the same way you attached the walls to one another.
- Candy Canes
- Coated Candies
- Chocolate bars
- Cinnamon discs
- Candy mints
- Hershey’s kisses
- Powdered sugar
Decorating your gingerbread house is the fun part and there’s no wrong way to do it. You may choose to decorate your gingerbread house by covering it in frosting and pushing cookies, candies and more into the frosting or you may choose only to use the frosting as a glue for attaching decorations. You can also decorate the roof and walls before you construct your house if you think that will be easier. Let your imagination run wild and have fun!
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