Maker Monday: Gingerbread Houses!

Sometimes, it’s fun to do something finicky.

When everything in the modern world is focused on convenience, and “hacks,” and recipes that take 30 minutes, there’s something to be said for slowing down every once in awhile. Tedious projects give us the chance to build our concentration, unplug from the frenetic pace around us, and test the depth and variety of our vocabulary of curse words.

And thus, gingerbread houses.

First off, here is a song that doesn’t really have much to do with gingerbread. 

Okay, now onto the actual gingerbread.

I’ll be the first to admit that building a decorative house out of cookies is a silly thing to do. There are way better materials for building than cookies, for one thing. Cookies don’t lend themselves by texture, stability, uniformity, or really anything to be a building material. Cookies that are good for building are generally not good for eating. Once we got mass-produced modeling clay, gingerbread houses should have gone extinct, but I’m so glad they didn’t.

Decorating a gingerbread house is fun, and for me, immediately nostalgic. My aunt is the gingerbread house queen, and hosted many a decorating party in my youth. Everyone would bring a bag of candy and a jar of frosting, and go to town. The kid aesthetic was to pile on as much candy as a house could hold, while adults would work on more sophisticated designs.


The author, age 3, 4 at most, with gingerbread house.

I first attempted gingerbread houses about five years ago, and it was a hilarious disaster. The pieces weren’t uniform, the gingerbread was too thick, I tried to use melted sugar as glue, we put them together too warm, they…crumbled. They collapsed. They made a couple of us homesick for urban blight. Lessons learned,

This year, I set out with one goal: houses that stay standing, at least for a couple days. The Internet will tell you that you can build a gingerbread house without any interior supports. That may be right. Maybe you can. But I certainly can’t.

Instead of relying on the structural integrity of cookies, I decided to build some infrastructure. I am not a purist.

I traced the gingerbread onto poster board, and drew flaps on all the corners.  I used royal icing to glue the supports onto the cookies, let them dry overnight, and assembled the houses by stapling the flaps together. Royal icing probably would have kept them together, but I was taking no chances.  The roof pieces were glued to one piece of poster board, gently folded in half, and dried in a triangle shape over little cups, then lightly rested atop the houses.

“We might need to review geometry,” Bob said, surveying the scene.

“Frosting covers a multitude of sins,” I replied.

And so it did! Behold, the adorable results:

Is it perfect? No. Is it charming? I think so.
I do, in fact, need a geometry review.

Bob gallantly took the most lopsided house (L), while prop designer friend made icicles out of frosting and shoveled her walk (R).