A fun craft idea for the holidays that
demands minimal skills for both adults and children is making a Gingerbread
House particularly as a family activity. There are many formats of the
Gingerbread house, with sloping or straight gable ends, chocolate button or
marshmallow rooftops to gazebo style hexagonal houses with delicate
sugarcraft lace work. There are also many Gingerbread House Kits available from about
$25 to $49, including a lovely one by Martha Stewart. The latter uses an assembly idea
with sugared jellied fruits and striped candy canes you could easily copy
using my recipe below. Cost wise, a kit is outrageous compared to
following your own gingerbread house recipe. To make the Fashion-era Gingerbread House will
cost you less than £5 or $10 including decoration. You can
download a free PDF file for this gingerbread house recipe and instructions at the
bottom of this page.
Gingerbread biscuits are a very old commodity
that have been sold at fairs and village markets for centuries in Britain
and also throughout Europe and Scandinavian countries. One popular
British gingerbread is the famous Grantham Ginger Biscuit. The origin
of the Gingerbread House most seen at Christmas is thought to be German and
these edible Gingerbread house decorations were probably first developed about 200 years ago.
Many German customs crossed the Atlantic to the Americas and are now firm
favourites worldwide. Recently in the UK, food fashions have included
Gingerbread items and products like Stollen and Panettone. All have
become very fashionable food items to offer to spur of the moment guests at Christmas
and many make great little gifts for casual calling.
A German friend of mine always used to give
me spiced biscuits from a delicatessen before they became more easily
available everywhere. Now that I bake Gingerbread Houses or
Gingerbread Holly wreaths most Christmases for both decorative and edible
effect, I have come to the conclusion that the spice taste that most matches
the biscuits my friend gave me is that of cinnamon. So my recipe uses
cinnamon as the base spice powder, but you can replace it with mixed spice,
ginger or your own spice mix.
Baking your own gingerbread pieces can be
fun, but you need to mark out the shapes carefully with a ruler or card
template and try to keep the shapes as even as possible. Then when you
assemble the house, the pieces fit reasonably well like a food jigsaw with
either icing or marzipan which acts as food cement!
As for the icing, there is no need to fuss
too much with it. This is a fun piece. The better you can do it fine,
but limited skills and a packet of dolly mixture sweets, Smarties or jelly
beans and tubes or ready icing will produce a piece which children find
magical. Mine was made very quickly, more quickly and with less
time than I should have liked, but you know December is a time of year when this may be
your situation too. So, take a very chilled out attitude to making your
Gingerbread House and if you, or your children, pipe wonky lines - so what -
it's meant to be fun. All that will happen is that it will become a fairytale crooked house too with
crooked windows and doors. Disaster solved - just say it was
You can use fondant circles for overlapping
tiles as I did. Alternatively, use American frosting or a Royal soft peak icing, or white or
milk chocolate buttons, chocolate flakes, liquorice pieces, marshmallows,
nonpareils (hundreds and thousands chocolate buttons). For the rooftop, get coconut shreds or
pretzels or use peppermint creams, slices of Turkish delight
coated with more icing sugar and even Mars bars sliced into tiles. All the above work well, so just use your
imagination and don't worry if the icing is a bit crooked - getting
the house to stand up is far more important!!! For some reason it
delights adults and children alike however naff you make it!
First, preheat the oven to 190 degrees C or Gas 5 -
Cooking time 5 to 8 minutes per baking sheet.
Now make your card templates using the picture of
templates. Make card or paper shapes for the roof, the gable ends and the
side walls by clicking the thumbnail
above and printing off the A4
enlargement shapes that you will measure out yourself.
Get out your baking tins and cut several pieces of
silicone or greaseproof paper. The extra money it costs to use
silicone paper is always worth it in my opinion. Draw the shapes onto the paper,
then turn the papers over. Leave about an inch space between the
shapes when drawing them. After you draw out the shapes on the
papers you can if using greaseproof paper smear it with margarine.
Silicone Parchment or long life paper will not need to be greased.
You will be rolling the gingerbread dough paste
directly onto this paper on the reverse side of the drawing and then
using your card template as a guide to cut the excess paste away with
a sharp knife. It is best to do the rolling on the paper
though on your work surface rather than with the paper in the tin!
Have a spare tin lined for extra bits like the path,
windows, doors and doorstep.
8 tablespoons golden syrup (120ml)
3oz margarine (75gm)
3oz soft brown sugar – dark or light as you prefer
1lb sifted plain flour (400 gm)
2 level tablespoons cinnamon or mixed spice (this is
1 level tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda – 15ml
2 tablespoons water
1 egg plus
1 egg yolk (reserve the white for later for the royal
1 lb commercial fondant paste (Renshaws)
8oz of confectioner's icing sugar plus the reserved 1
1 large Pyrex bowl
3 baking Trays
2 medium basins
1 10inch round or square cake board.
To decorate - assorted sweets such as dolly mixtures or
Cadbury's buttons, jelly beans, silver or gold almonds or dragee
balls - as you please.
Now make the dough which needs no chilling.
I use either a food processor for this job or a large bowl and
tablespoon spoon will do the job just as well.
First have ready a large Pyrex bowl.
The messiest part is measuring out the golden syrup.
Dip a tablespoon in boiling hot water and then take level spoons of
syrup out of the tin. These 8 flat tablespoons amount to just less
than about one
third of a tin of golden syrup. If you measure too generously
you may need to add a tablespoon or two of extra flour until the paste
is like a cookie dough texture.
Add the margarine and sugar to the bowl and microwave for 1 minute
or less until melted together, but not hot.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda in warm water in a cup to dissolve
it and then add to the syrup mix. Now add in the whole egg and
the egg yolk. Mix well. Reserve the white of the egg to mix up
half a pound of royal icing later.
Now add the sifted flour and the cinnamon to the wet
ingredients and mix well until you form a cookie dough. Add a
little more flour if too wet. Knead very lightly.
Using the Gingerbread Dough
Divide the dough into 6 portions and keep the rest and
trimmings in a polythene bag whilst working. When rolling
the paste keep to the same thickness throughout of about a quarter of
an inch depth. Roll each piece directly onto your greased
paper over the marked shape as a size guide. Take your card
template and cut around the shape. Lift the paper onto the
Continue until you have the following pieces -
2 rooftops, 2 gable ends, 2 sidewalls. With the trimmings roll
the paste a bit thinner and make 2 doors, 1 or 2 chimneys, 7 windows
in varying sizes, 1 path and 2 doorsteps. These small pieces are
best made a bit smaller than you first think, as the dough does
increase when baked. Make a path by making a dough sausage and
bending it into a loose S shape and by flattening it with a rolling
pin or use the pattern provided. Bake each sheet for 5 to 8 minutes and cool
on a rack.
Your oven should have been preheated to 190 degrees C or Gas 5 -
Cooking time 5 to 8 minutes per baking sheet.
Make the royal icing by adding approx 8ozs sifted
icing sugar to the egg white. Beat well until a mix is obtained
that will be suitable for piping and sticking.
or smear some tacky royal icing on the sides of the pieces and first
join the side wall to the gable end wall and then the side wall to
that, finishing with a gable end. Hold it altogether until it
feels safe. If you have trouble doing this, try inserting something
like a Twining's Tea box inside which can give the walls some support whilst
Once the house is firm enough, put
little packets of sweets inside the house or if to be eaten soon pile
the sweets loose inside the house.
Next put icing on the edges of the
standing house and on the centre ends of the 2 roof pieces and join
them into a V shape. Now stick them on the standing house.
Hold them until they feel secure.
You can leave the house at this stage
to firm up and apply the actual decoration on another occasion if
preferred. Reserve the remainder of your royal icing and keep it
covered with cling film to keep it moist and lump free.
Dust your surface with a little icing
sugar and rollout about half the fondant paste to about one eighth of
an inch. Using a circle
or scone cutter cut out as many circles as you can to begin with.
Cover the circles with Clingfilm (glad wrap) until needed. Do
the same when you roll a second lot of circles.
Roll out the fondant scraps and use a
decorative edged cutting ruler to cut 4 bargeboards and apply these
at the centre front of the house using icing to secure them into
Next spread royal icing finely over the
rooftop. Now starting at the bottom of the roof, add
circles of fondant in neat rows overlapping the barge boards to
neaten. Go over the roof spine and continue until the remainder
of the fondant paste is used up rolling out more and cutting more
circles as you need to. Pinch a decorative spine down the centre
of the rooftop using a sugarcraft scallop impression tool. Stick
silver dragees in the decoration.
Using royal icing, stick on the chimney(s) and the windows
and doors, as you prefer.
Now the fun bit is to pipe some extra
icing and add dolly mixture sweets etc. Admire your handiwork
and take a digital picture of it so you can copy it exactly or
reinvent it with a slightly improved gingerbread house recipe next year.
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