I’ve learned a few things through decades of gingerbread house decorating! Here are some favorite tips and tricks:
- Only make it from scratch if you will truly enjoy that part of the process! I’ve made gingerbread houses from scratch before, even with kids, but have since decided that kits are the way to go – at least until my kids are old enough to be more involved with the baking process! Especially $4 kits from IKEA that smell amazing!
- If you do make your gingerbread from scratch, refrigerate the dough before you roll it out. It makes all the difference!
- Meringue powder makes awesome royal icing – and since it doesn’t have raw eggs in it, you won’t have to worry about your kids licking their fingers. Our kit came only with the house pieces – no candy and no icing. The royal icing was super easy – I used roughly one tablespoon per cup of powdered sugar, and may 1.5 tablespoons of water per cup of powdered sugar. You’re supposed to whip it, but we don’t have a food processor so I just mixed it up and the kids had glossy – but still very sticky – frosting.
- Make the houses and then let them sit for at least an hour before letting your kids decorate them. This allows the frosting to set enough that the house won’t collapse when they press a little too hard while adding candy. I took the kids to Costco, because the easiest way to keep them from touching a project is to have them out of the house! Plus, it was both sunny and warm (50 degrees in Massachusetts in December!)
- If the house pieces DO crack, remind your distressed child that fixing cracks makes for extra icing on the house. My kids loved this idea!
- Royal frosting is easier to clean up if you let it dry – for non-porous surfaces. We let it dry and swept it off our smooth-finish wood floor; the table has more of a grain and so it was easier to clean it off of that before it dried.
- We put the icing in a bag and cut the tip off to build and decorate the houses. And we used a knife to spread icing on the roof.
On to the actual decorating!
Lily decided to add texture to the frosting on her roof. Although, I suspect this decision had more to do with loving the icing than artistic motivation…
Johnny had a very specific plan for his house. He was also a pick icing thief:
The IKEA gingerbread smelled AMAZING. It tasted pretty amazing, too! It was cracker-ish, which I think might fare better in humid climates than more cake-like kits.
Lily immediately knew to put candy along the roof-line of her house. I had wondered if she would do all right decorating a house all on her own, but should have known that she would keep up with her siblings as always!
The project took a good three hours of my time, but it’s a fun memory – and the kids are immensely proud of their creations – which they have been consuming in bits and pieces every day!
Do you decorate gingerbread houses? We made them every New Years’ in my family growing up – from scratch! Obviously, we didn’t wait until New Years’ to decorate ours – so do you have a fun New Years’ tradition my kids would enjoy?
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