Gingerbread houses. Kids love them, but unless you’re a master confectioner, sometimes this “delightful” holiday tradition can lead to frustration. Which is why we’ve found gingerbread house hacks that will actually change the game for you. From shortcuts to tips to reassurance, we’re working hard so you don’t have to. Read on to learn more.
1. Design It First
Any architect will tell you it’s a good idea to lay out the design of your house. Kids can decide what candy they want to use, and where, which will help prevent running short on supplies mid-project. Psst! This is a great way to indulge in your Pinterest habit!
2. Use Graham Crackers in Place of Gingerbread
We know, you're a traditionalist. But trust us, these are a lot cheaper by the dozen and a great way to practice your skills before you move on to the "real deal."
3. Make Something Else
You don't have to stick with the house theme: get creative and consider something like a train or a plane, a grocery store or firehouse or even furniture! Gingerbread couch, anyone?
4. Use Up That Leftover Halloween Candy
If you are still trying to get rid of the Halloween stash, this is as good as time as any. Twizzlers, Tootsie Rolls, Banana Laffy Taffy, Twix (wait, you have Twix left?) and other trick-or-treat classics all work well.
5. M&Ms Make Great Christmas Lights
That candy we mentioned? Pull out the peanut M&Ms and the Mike & Ikes in order to make a string of lights or two. Hungry Happenings will show you how to make it happen.
6. Buy a Kit
This might not seem like a big "hack" to you but if you've ever been crazy enough to try to make gingerbread walls from scratch, you know you wish someone would have just told you to get the kit first. You don't have to stick to the kit-provided decor (see above re: Halloween candy) but having some basics and step-by-step instructions never hurt anyone.
7. Be a Minimalist
Yes, you can cover your creations in all manner of goodies and gumdrops. But sometimes simple white piping gives the perfect "snow-covered cottage" look.
8. Use Other Supplies Besides Candy
Unless you are going for the previously mentioned "minimalist" approach, clean out your cupboards and use up pretzels, marshmallows, cinnamon sticks, cereal and any other food item you think could fit the bill.
9. Use Hot Glue Instead of Icing
You will need that royal icing to make snowy rooftops and general designs, but relying on it to hold everything together can create a little mayhem. Try using a hot glue gun to make the key elements stick. As an added bonus, it dries waaay faster than the royal icing. Still need convincing? Head over to My Little Poppies for details.
10. Use Something for the Structure
Here's a secret you might not realize: some of those elaborate gingerbread palaces have cardboard or styrofoam supports inside! Use empty cereal or tissue boxes and the hot glue trick above to ensure your base is the strongest it can be.
11. Use Fruit Roll Ups for Stained Glass Windows
This is a great trick for giving a stained-glass window effect, and it's easy, too! Just cut the roll-ups to slightly larger than the window and use icing-glue or hot glue to hold them in place (before assembling). This is will also hide that interior "structure" box we mentioned above.
12. Go Small
No one said a gingerbread house has to be huge to be amazing. A smaller house requires less supplies and is easier to hold together, which also means less frustration. You can make multiple small houses out of cookie bases, and line them up on a sideboard on the middle of a table for a festive centerpiece.
13. Use Ice Cream Cones As Trees
File this under “why didn’t we think of that?” Turn a classic sugar cone point side up, coat in green frosting and even dust with powdered sugar “snow” for a woodsy outdoor scene.
14. Be Patient
You can build your house in a day, but you won't be able to do it 20 minutes. Make sure you allow for the time the glued pieces need to try: to each other and/or to the base structure. With royal icing you need at least 30 minutes to be sure the glue has really set. Going too fast results in sliding sides and cracked walls, especially when you start adding the weight of the candy decorations too soon. But hopefully, with the hacks above, you'll find a workaround for any of your common gingerbread house making problems.
—Gabby Cullen & Amber Guetebier
Feature photo: Theo Crazzolaro via Flickr