Gingerbread House 101, For Those Who Have Experienced Gingerbread House Collapse

17 Dec

Candy decorations courtesy of my eleven year old.

There is one absolutely crucial fact you need to know to prevent structural collapse in your gingerbread home.

It is all about the icing.

If you want your walls and roof to stay where you want them, you MUST get the consistency of the icing right.

Sometimes the directions on the kit will tell you the icing should have the consistency of toothpaste.

Please note: Either they are deliberately lying to you, or else they are brushing with some seriously thick toothpaste! Don’t listen to them.

First of all, don’t even think of it as icing. Think of it as mortar. This will give you a more accurate idea of how thick it should be.

Be very stingy with your water. Make the icing so thick it will bend a spoon. Make it so thick it is like dough, and almost rolls into a ball. Use plenty of it. If you get it thick enough, there is virtually no “drying time”. This best if you have children. Kids like gingerbread houses but they do not like waiting. Waiting is boring. Ask any kid.

Remember that the roof sections of the house will need to fight gravity, unlike the walls. You may need to hold the roof for a few moments, until it sets, to prevent sliding.

When your house is firmly together, you can add very miniscule amounts of water to the remaining icing until it is thickly spreadable, but not at all drippy. Decorate the sides of the house before icing the roof, because it adds weight. The softened icing will allow you to do a little piping (with the bag and nozzle) and ice the roof.

A few other tips:

If your roof has a gap at the top, use more thick frosting and then cover with large gumdrops. No problem.

If you are piping (squeezing with the bag and nozzle) and your icing gets too soft from the warmth of your hands, pop the piping bag into the freezer for a few moments and it will harden up. Just don’t forget it is in there.

To make your house stick to the base, add icing to the undersides of the walls or just add some icing along the bottom edge after it is assembled to prevent slipping. If it looks messy, just slap some candy over it.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it were a job, someone would be paying you. Don’t get upset. It is only gingerbread, not your actual home. If all else fails, just break it apart, frost it, and call it cookies!

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18 Responses to “Gingerbread House 101, For Those Who Have Experienced Gingerbread House Collapse”

  1. angrymiddleagewoman December 18, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Where were you last year when I was having a Gingerbread house meltdown? I love:

    “Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it were a job, someone would be paying you. Don’t get upset. It is only gingerbread, not your actual home.”

    I would like to go back in time and tell myself this last year. I saw a gingerbread house kit yesterday and began hyperventilating. I believe it was post-traumatic stress.

    • Rayme Wells @ A Clean Surface December 19, 2011 at 11:12 am #

      I have had problems in the past, and I know others who have had trouble. It can be so frustrating.

      • angrymiddleagewoman December 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

        And so tonight my mother gives my daughter a Gingerbread VILLAGE. After breathing into a paper bag to halt the hyperventiliating, I decided that since she is now 13 she can tackle this project on her own. That and the icing comes pre-made. That is a HUGE help.

      • Rayme Wells @ A Clean Surface December 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

        Wow, I have never seen pre-made icing, that is cool!

  2. Mindy@FSLblog December 19, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    Thank you so much for these gingerbread house tips!! I’m having my nieces over ono Wednesday and we are making FIVE! If they collapsed, there would be lots of tears!

    • Rayme Wells @ A Clean Surface December 19, 2011 at 11:15 am #

      Good luck, Mindy! Kids always want to do it themselves, and it is really tough. I found that assembling the house and then letting the kids do the candy decorations works best.

  3. natasiarose December 19, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Iz beautiful! I’m attempting my first one this year. Eek! Wish me luck!

  4. pegoleg December 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Could I interest you in some Gingerbread Homeowners Insurance?

    I miss making these with the kids – yours looks great!

    • Rayme Wells @ A Clean Surface December 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

      Haha, there could be a real market for that insurance. I have had several internet searches lead to my post with the question, “why did my gingerbread house collapse?”

  5. catcherofstars December 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    No wonder my gingerbread houses always fail……
    Thanks, great advice!!
    AZ

  6. Angie Z. December 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Love this. And I love to bake/create so I’m definitely tackling this next year. I think we’re all baked out this year :(

  7. LifeAsModernWife December 23, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    Yes! I totally agree about it ALL being about the icing! I couldn’t have prevented dozens of collapses had I figured this out earlier…

  8. JM Randolph December 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    Sage advice. I attempted a from-scratch house the first year we had the kids and experienced complete and total failure. We didn’t try it again until this year when we got one of those kits with the pre-made everything, and a tray with divots to hold things in place. It stayed together. And then they ate it. I tried to explain that people don’t usually eat gingerbread houses but they thought that was dumb. And you know what? They’re right.

  9. Martha December 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Thankfully I’ve never had a collapse ::whew:: hope you have a wonderful Christmas :)

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