Every year we decorate gingerbread. I let my kids pick out whichever pre-baked kit they want, because I tried doing the whole thing from scratch one year and swore I’d never do it again. You need a degree in engineering or architecture or something. Besides, since the kits include EVERYTHING you need and are only around $10 each, there’s no way you could buy all the ingredients and other supplies for less than that. Sometimes we wait until Christmas Eve to do them, but this year we got an early start. In the past, we’ve had a house and a tree, but this year the store only had house kits left.
The gingerbread house pieces come shrink-wrapped to a board and enclosed in bubble wrap so they stay intact. You can use this board as the base to assemble your house. There is also slightly bigger cardboard inside the box, and I prefer to use that. I like to wrap it in freezer paper so it’s white, and since the surface it slick, it’s also easy to keep clean. The house consists of a front and back (the peaked walls), 2 short side walls, and 2 larger roof pieces.
The powered icing mix is super easy; all you do is add water. It’s very similar to royal icing, only it tastes better and still dries very hard. Please be careful not to add too much water. The instructions say to use 5 tablespoons of warm water, and you may need to add more, especially if young hands are having to squeeze it out of a piping bag, but only add a little at a time. The icing won’t be fluffy like buttercream, and it dries out very quickly, so keep it covered with a damp paper towel when not in use. That includes icing in a piping bag! You don’t want it to dry in there and clog your tip.
You’ll need to assemble the house and allow the icing to dry completely before decorating it. I find it easiest to pipe the icing along the gingerbread edges–sides and bottom–and then hold them in place until the icing starts to dry and they can stand up on their own.
Once one peaked and one side wall are secure, you can add the others.
I like to add extra icing to the inside corners and bottom edges for reinforcement. I then take a spatula and tidy up the exterior seams and bottom edges by scraping off any excess icing that may have oozed out.
Once the walls are put together, it’s a good idea to leave them for an hour or so before adding the roof. This makes sure the icing is dry and the whole thing is stable before adding weight to the top. When the icing holding the roof in place it totally dry, it’s time to decorate!
This year, I bought some candy molds to make accessories for the houses like a welcome mat, windows, shutters, a door, landscaping, fence pieces, and chimney. I’m a sucker for cool candy molds, and candy melts are so easy to use, and available pre-colored. Of course, they’re not “proper” chocolate, but you don’t have to worry about tempering. Just melt and mold.
There are several different ways you can make candy using molds. I like to put the melts in a plastic disposable piping bag then zap the whole thing in the microwave until melted. I do intervals of 20 seconds, kneading the bag in between to help them melt evenly.
Then I snip off the bottom and squeeze the melted candy into the mold. To make multi-colored pieces, layer the candy by doing the front colors first, allow that to set, then add in any additional colors. Alternatively, if the accents are really small, you can use a small (food-safe) paint brush to apply the melted candy to the mold.
The candy pieces will set up faster if you let them chill in the refrigerator, and then they’ll just pop right out of the molds. You can then attach them to the gingerbread with icing or melted candy.
For the chimney, I found it easier to use melted candy to assemble the 4 sides of it first, then stick it on the roof.
Here are the finished gingerbread houses. Just so you know, all I really did was help with the assembly and mold the candy pieces. My kids did the rest.