Ok, you’ve got your house built and now you’re tapping your fingers on the table wondering just how the heck you might go about decorating it. Well, I’ve got some good news for you, because as of right this minute, I’m all over it. After who know how many hours of standing in front of my culinary dwelling with varying pieces of sugar, some so small I practically needed a magnifying glass to see them, I’m finished, done, finito (well except for a potential welcome sign and maybe a mailbox and perhaps a little snow…). I have to say that I’m pretty darn pleased with the outcome. It might not win any national competitions, but it’s made with love and I even managed to impress myself on a few of the feats I achieved. Best of all I made it to the end (relatively speaking) and that, my friends, is something worth celebrating. Let’s take a closer look at some of the aspects of this house and I’ll pass on a few tips as to how I did them.
Step 1: The Windows
If you decide you want to “glass up” your windows, there are a number of options to choose from. For my edible abode I went with the classic choice of hard butterscotch candies. Any hard candy will pretty much do. Want blue windows? Use jolly ranchers. Want see through windows? Use gelatin sheets. These little buggers are super cool, but not so easy to find offline (at least not for me). They can be found online, however and I’ll list a few resources below when all is said and done. To put your windows together you simply crush up your candy, lay your cooked gingerbread piece onto a slice of aluminum foil, drizzle in the sugar crystals and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes or until it melts completely. Let it cool, peel from the foil and voila.
Step 2: The Roof
Creativity knows no limit when it comes to the cover over your head. I have always loved the look of cedar shingles, so I decided to go with a quaint version of them for my house. I used a piece of cardboard cut out in the shape I wanted to cut my gingerbread. I added a little red food coloring to the dough and baked the pieces for a range of times in the oven to achieve the varying color palate. Of course, as I was cutting out the last of my roof tiles, my husband, who is wise beyond his years, creaked out a little advice that next time I should make a custom stamp for the pieces. It probably wouldn’t have been an all together terrible idea.
A few other ideas for roof coverings include but are most certainly not limited to: Shredded wheat, gum sticks, neccos, liquorice, sprees, and chocolate chips.
Step 3: The Chimney
Now, of course, not every house has to have a chimney and it certainly doesn’t need to be as grand as the one I added. If you remember my inspiration, though, then you’ll know that for my house the chimney played a very big role. I decided to go with necco wafers and build them up to look similar to the rocks from my fairy house image. Scott had the brilliant idea to mortar between the candies with royal icing. I have yet to attempt that feat. My feeling is that with me at the helm, an undertaking like that could (and let’s be honest, would) go very, very wrong.
Many chimneys on gingerbread homes are made with cookie pieces. If you go that route, some ideas for decorating the outside of the finished pieces would be candied rocks, pez, gum sticks, gingerbread bricks or pretzels.
Step 4: Trees and Landscaping
What’s a gingerbread house without a little shrubbery. You know I’m right about this. By far the easiest and coolest looking way to create a tree for a gingerbread house is to whip up a little rice krispie treat and shape it like you mean it. Cleaning up the extra pieces after you’re done isn’t all that bad either.
For my shrubs I added little candied circles as berries and my big tree has gum paste ornaments and a star on the top. Because every Christmas tree deserves to have a star.
Finally my little shrubs in the yard were made with a hershey’s kiss, shaved a bit at the bottom and glued (with royal icing) to a rolo. I then chopped up a rather large leaf shaped gum drop and added the greenery around the outside.
Notice the coffee grounds spread underneath for dirt (yep, coffee grounds make great mulch). Simply spread a little royal icing down and sprinkle over the top. The grass you see was done with a load of frosting and a little help from my friend Wilton decorating tip #233. I also added a walking path using candy rocks and a line of black liquorice along the edges.
Other ideas for trees include decorating an upside down ice cream cone, cutting out trees from gingerbread and decorating accordingly and using gumdrops for simple bushes. For ground cover, coconut makes excellent snow, or color it green and use it for grass. Fresh herbs also make a great ground cover. Dusting a little powdered sugar will give the feeling of a fresh fallen snow and frosting can be made to look like the blizzard of 2000 whenever. Neccos work great for walkways as well as customized gingerbread pieces, cut chocolate or crackers.
Step 5: Water Features
I’m not sure why, but I’m obsessed with water features in gingerbread houses. There’s just something cool about a little liquid blue running through the scene. For mine, I melted a handful of blue jolly ranchers and then spooned the liquid over the area where I wanted it to go. I messed up a bit as I sometimes do and put a little extra where it didn’t need to be. Not to worry. Grab up the royal icing, add a few rapids and admire the transformation. Problem deliciously solved.
Step 6: Everything Else
Now I realize that I’m insinuating a lot with the addition of that last named title, but it’s the everything else aspect that makes a gingerbread house what it is. The people, the signs, the outdoor decorations, the lights. It all adds to the charm and there really is no limit to where it ends. Put a little candy and some cookie dough into one’s hands and magic is bound to happen. I only have a couple “everything else’s” on this house. I wanted to add more, but time ran out on me. I did manage to add the bridge you see above, made from gingerbread with colored gingerbread bricks attached. I also created a cute little wreath made from a hollowed out cheerio (yes you read that right, I literally widened the hole with a toothpick so that it would be closer to scale) and a red and green gum drop.
Time to wrap this sugar filled post up and put a bow on it, but before I sign off, I wanted to leave you with a few wonderful resources that helped me along the journey of creating my own edible masterpiece. Enjoy your holiday season and may all of your homes be edible!
Free Gingerbread House Patterns:
Recipes for Gingerbread and Royal Icing:
Pages with Decorating Inspiration:
Online Candy Shops: