January 19, 2021

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Remodelaholic | Gingerbread House Recipe


This gingerbread house recipe is time-tested and allows you unlimited options to be creative! Plus, it tastes delicious 😉 

Also try our Pumpkin Steamers Recipe, 11 Delicious Holiday Treat Recipes and Christmas Breakfast Ideas

How To Make Gingerbread Dough, From Remodelaholic

Gingerbread House Recipe

When you’re building a gingerbread house from scratch, the gingerbread recipe you use makes a big difference.

Be sure to read all our pro tips for amazing gingerbread houses!

This never-fail recipe is remarkable stuff.

It works in humid climates or dry ones.

If dried out properly after baking, it can withstand a significant amount of weight in icing and candy.

It rolls out smoothly and bakes evenly.

It smells heavenly.

It’s heavy-duty and sturdy.

It can be used for 2- and 3-story houses.

My family and I have collectively made what may amount to hundreds of batches of the stuff over the years and it’s never failed us. Not once.

Oh, and the spices make it smell incredible!

Here is a picture of me and my two sisters posing in front of 2 gingerbread houses we made together with our Mom for Christmas 1993. We used the wonderful recipe you’ll find below!

Recipe For Gingerbread Houses From Remodelaholic

Das Pfefferkuchenhauschen or, The Never-Fail Gingerbread House Recipe

My family got the recipe from Mary Comstock and her daughters Karen, Lauren, and Katie (I have featured some of Mary’s and Lauren’s beautiful gingerbread houses in my Gingerbread House Ideas post).

They in turn got it from a high school German teacher, Frau Em, who told them it is an authentic German recipe. The recipe has been in the Comstock family for over 40 years. And they make one or more gingerbread houses with it each Christmas (and sometimes for other holidays, like Halloween).

Even if you have your own gingerbread house recipe, I recommend reading through this one, as I’ve included tips that would apply no matter what recipe you use.

(click here for a printable version of the recipe)

Each recipe makes about 1 baking sheet of dough.

Ingredients for Gingerbread House Recipe

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 cups pre-sifted white all-purpose flour
  • vegetable oil for greasing pan

How to make this Gingerbread House Recipe

1. Cream shortening and sugar in a stand mixer. Add egg and molasses.

2. Add vinegar, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add flour gradually. (You may need to knead in the last cups of flour by hand.)

Gingerbread Dough Recipe, From Scratch, On Remodelaholic

3. Pour 1/4 cup or so of vegetable oil on a large, heavy baking sheet with sides (a half-sheet pan — about 18″x 13″ by 1″ high — is perfect). Roll out dough with rolling pin until it fills the baking sheet on all sides and meets the corners. (A standard size rolling pin will fit perfectly across the width of the baking sheet.) You should keep adding vegetable oil to the top of the dough as necessary to help it roll out slick and smooth. Remove any excess dough that does not disappear beneath the rolling pin and mesh flatly into the pan. Use that dough in another pan of gingerbread.

How To Make Gingerbread Dough, From Remodelaholic

4. Place your pattern pieces on top of the gingerbread and cut gingerbread house pieces in gingerbread using the tip of a knife (wipe the knife clean in between cuts, if necessary) and leave them in the pan. Cut your pieces to maximize the available space just like you would if you were using cookie cutters to cut sugar cookie dough. Pieces can share sides without space in between. You don’t need to separate the pieces out from the surrounding scraps at this time (in fact, it’s better to leave them in to keep the gingerbread from spreading). Just be sure to cut all the way through to the pan as cleanly and precisely as possible.

Gingerbread House Recipe, From Remodelaholic

5. Bake at 350 degrees F until very well done (remember, this is for building, not for eating, and you want it dry). Depending on your oven and other factors, this can take as little as 20 minutes or as much as 35 minutes or more.

6. When you pull the pans out of the oven, re-trace your design cuts in the gingerbread (if you don’t, you won’t be able to separate your house pieces from the surrounding scraps when the gingerbread has dried).

7. Let gingerbread cool in the baking sheets until it’s no longer too hot to handle. Carefully remove the house pieces and set on cooling racks to cool completely. Ensure the pieces do not touch each other as you want the air to be able to circulate freely to dry everything out. Now is the time to pop out the ‘scraps,’ before they become hard. ‘Scraps’ are the insides of windows or the spaces between fence rails, etc. Remove the door, but don’t throw it away because you can include it later when you assemble your house — a front door can be a fun part of your house to decorate! In fact, don’t throw away much, you can use the scraps during decorating for many useful things!

How To Make Homemade Gingerbread, From Remodelaholic

8. Leave the gingerbread out to try. (Leaving it on cooling racks is ideal so that the air can circulate on all sides.) Gingerbread used for building should “season” about 2 weeks before being used to build with so it can dry out. Dry gingerbread is stronger and will support more weight. If you’re pressed for time, or if you’re building a small house, you can get away with letting it dry overnight, just be sure to limit exposure to moisture and humidity by carefully choosing where you leave the pieces to dry.

Gingerbread House Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 cups pre-sifted white all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • Cream shortening and sugar in a stand mixer. Add egg and molasses.

  • Add vinegar, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add flour gradually. (You may need to knead in the last cups of flour by hand.)

  • Pour 1/4 cup or so of vegetable oil on a large, heavy baking sheet with sides (a half-sheet pan — about 18″x 13″ by 1″ high — is perfect). Roll out dough with rolling pin until it fills the baking sheet on all sides and meets the corners. (A standard size rolling pin will fit perfectly across the width of the baking sheet.) You should keep adding vegetable oil to the top of the dough as necessary to help it roll out slick and smooth. Remove any excess dough that does not disappear beneath the rolling pin and mesh flatly into the pan. Use that dough in another pan of gingerbread.

  • Place your pattern pieces on top of the gingerbread and cut gingerbread house pieces in gingerbread using the tip of a knife (wipe the knife clean in between cuts, if necessary). Leave all dough in the pan. Cut your pieces to maximize the available space just like you would if you were using cookie cutters to cut sugar cookie dough. Pieces can share sides without space between. You don’t need to separate the pieces from the surrounding scraps at this time, leave them in to keep the pieces from spreading and changing shape. Just be sure to cut all the way through to the pan as cleanly and precisely as possible.

  • Bake at 350 degrees F until very well done (remember, this is for building, not for eating, and you want it dry). Depending on your oven and other factors, this can take as little as 20 minutes or as much as 35 minutes or more.

  • When you pull the pans out of the oven, re-cut your shapes in the gingerbread (if you don’t, you won’t be able to separate your house pieces from the surrounding scraps when the gingerbread has dried).

  • Let gingerbread cool in the baking sheets until it’s no longer too hot to handle. Carefully remove the house pieces and set on cooling racks to cool completely. Ensure the pieces do not touch each other as you want the air to be able to circulate freely to dry everything out. Now is the time to pop out the ‘scraps,’ before they become hard. ‘Scraps’ are the parts you don’t want: the insides of windows, spaces between fence rails, etc. Remove the front door, if desired, but don’t throw it away. You can include it later when you assemble your house — a front door can be a fun part of your house to decorate!

  • Leave the gingerbread out to try. (Leaving it on cooling racks is ideal so that the air can circulate on all sides.) Gingerbread used for building should “season” about 2 weeks before being used to build with so it can dry out. Dry gingerbread is stronger and will support more weight. If you’re pressed for time, or if you’re building a small house, you can get away with letting it dry overnight, just be sure to limit exposure to moisture and humidity by carefully choosing where you leave the pieces to dry.

How to Build this Gingerbread House Recipe

Once you have your dried pieces, it’s time to build!

Determine positioning

Take a look at your base (heavy cardboard or plywood, large flat platter, etc — see more ideas here) on which you’ll build.

Will you be adding landscaping around your house? A pretzel fence perhaps? Or maybe some sugar cone pine trees? A candy rock walkway? Calculate roughly where your house needs to be on the board in relation to what you plan to put around it.

Inspect your gingerbread pieces.

Are your edges straight? If you need to do a little trimming, I prefer a bread knife and a light hand. Be very careful as you trim, though, as you don’t want the gingerbread to crack or crumble.

You may want to label your pieces as you prepare to proceed so that you don’t accidentally use a roof piece as a side wall, for example. You can just write on a small piece of paper and set it on top of the pieces.

Support pieces

If you’re making a multi-story gingerbread house, I strongly recommend cutting pieces of heavy-duty cardboard to support the interior walls and roof(s).

Just ‘glue’ it with icing inside your gingerbread house like you ‘glue’ the gingerbread together . . . run a bead of icing on all sides of the cardboard and position it in place, straight up and down, in the interior of your gingerbread house so that it comes in to direct contact with at least 2 of the inside walls and the roof.

Grab a couple of cans of food or sturdy cups or something else to be supports for your gingerbread walls. Toothpicks, straws or rolled paper can come in handy.

 

Royal Icing for Gingerbread House Recipe

I buy Wilton Meringue Powder and add water and powdered sugar according to the recipe on the can.

But some people use a hot sugar syrup, which works, too. (I’ve even heard of people who don’t plan on eating the house who use a glue gun and hot glue sticks to get the job done—nobody can see the glue under all the frosting and candy and apparently it does a great job of holding your house together).

If you want to tint your icing different colors do that now as well.

Tip: Cover the bowl tightly with Saran wrap or throw a damp towel over the bowl to keep the icing from drying out until you’re ready to use it. Once you start using the icing, be sure to cover what you’re not using.

Royal Icing Tips For Gingerbread House Recipe From Remodelaholic

 

Fit a pastry bag with a medium to large circle tip. Fill the bag with a cup or two of icing. (You don’t want to fill it too full or it will be difficult to hold and squeeze).

If you don’t have a pastry or piping bag, use a heavy-duty Ziploc bag, cutting a hole in one of the corners to fit your piping tip through.

Circle Tip For Royal Icing On Gingerbread House, Recipe From Remodelaholic

Tip: If you’re going to be doing intricate piping work or decorating on your walls, it’s much easier to do it before you assemble the house while your gingerbread pieces are flat (like we showed here). Use a smaller tip in your piping bag or spread the icing with a knife. The pictures below show decorating I did prior to assembly.

Necco candies for siding

Building A Necco Roof For Gingerbread House, From Remodelaholic

Royal Icing Wash

Royal Icing Wash For Gingerbread House, From Remodelaholic

If you’ll be doing a royal icing wash (like above for my red-and-white gingerbread house or below for a black-and-white Victorian house, both also featured in my Gingerbread House Ideas post), you’ll want to do that to the individual gingerbread pieces before you assemble them.

How to make a royal icing wash for Gingerbread House Recipe

Prepare a batch of royal icing. Slowly add a little warm water a bit at a time to thin the icing until it runs freely. You don’t want it too runny or it won’t provide sufficient coverage.

Royal Icing Wash For Gingerbread House Recipe On Remodelaholic

Hopefully this picture will give you an idea of a good consistency for the royal icing wash:

Gingerbread House Royal Icing For A Wash, From Remodelaholic

When it’s ready, use a silicone pastry brush to brush it on to your walls. It takes hours and hours to dry, even longer than royal icing of regular consistency. Plan accordingly. Sometimes, after the frosting has dried, you may want to add a second coat for really thorough coverage—just be certain the first coast has dried completely before you do.

How To Make A Gingerbread House Covered In Royal Icing From Remodelaholic

How to Assemble the Gingerbread House

1. Start with a side wall

The side walls are generally longer than a front or back wall. Run a bead of icing on your base board the length of your wall. Put your gingerbread wall on top of the icing.

Place a can of food on the outside of the wall to support it so that it remains upright and perpendicular to the base board.

Run an additional bead of icing on the inside bottom of the wall for reinforcement.

Assembling A Gingerbread House With Royal Icing From Remodelaholic

2. Add the front and back.

Add the front and back pieces to the inside of the side piece. Same as with the last piece, run a bead of icing the length of the piece, put the piece on top of the icing and use a can to support it. How To Assemble A Homemade Gingerbread House, From Remodelaholic

3. Add the other side.

In the same way, add the last side piece to the outside of the piece already on the board. (This placement, with the side pieces outside of the front and back pieces, will make the gingerbread house stronger and more stable.)

Run additional beads of icing on the inside bottoms of the walls for reinforcement. Make sure you’ve got your supports in place and allow the icing to dry completely (overnight) before attaching the roof.

Assembling A Gingerbread House, Recipe From Remodelaholic

Royal icing can take forever to dry. An electric hair dryer can be used to speed up the process, but nothing works better than good old fashioned time.

Usually waiting overnight will do the trick, but drying time depends on the humidity in the air, how wet your icing is, and how much icing you’ve used.

If you have leftover icing after this first stage of assembly, the icing can be put in an airtight container and refrigerated. You can leave a filled piping bag overnight as long as you cover your piping tip with a wet paper towel.

4. Add the roof.

When the icing securing the bottom section of your house has completely dried, it’s time to add the roof.

I like to keep my supports in place against the side walls and have additional supports ready to go to hold my roof up while the icing dries.

Using your piping bag of royal icing, run a bead of icing around the top sides of the front, back, and side wall pieces.

Put one roof piece in place on top and immediately prop it with supports (canned food works well). Place your second roof piece, aligning it carefully and immediately pipe another large bead of icing where there two roof pieces meet in the center.

Prop with supports. Allow to dry overnight.

How To Assemble A Gingerbread House Using Royal Icing, From Remodelaholic

 

Get creative with your support pieces. As you can see in the picture below, straws and canned food worked for my gingerbread pieces as the icing dried.

Support System For A DIY Gingerbread House, From Remodelaholic

In the picture below, you can see that I cut a plastic drinking straw into pieces to use as supports for the awning above my window. When the icing set, I removed the straw supports.

How To Build A Two Story Gingerbread House From Remodelaholic

For ideas on decorating your gingerbread house, head over to read our best Gingerbread House Ideas.

I hope you have a wonderful time creating a gingerbread house! Thanks for visiting Remodelaholic!

 

Complete your holiday prep with these ideas:

We’d love to see your gingerbread house when you’re done — drop us a photo here or tag #imaremodelaholic on Instagram — and be sure to check out all our other Creative Christmas series projects and some holiday printables here. Be sure to follow along over on FacebookInstagram , and YouTube with #CreativeChristmas so you won’t miss any of our Christmas tutorials, recipes, and printables!

Never Fail Gingerbread House Recipe From Remodelaholic

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