A Holiday House-Raising
Gingerbread Houses and
Gingerbread on the Side!
This is a beloved activity in our house. Every Thanksgiving evening, we gather to make these fun gingerbread houses. Because I typically have a large crowd over for Thanksgiving, we like to divide into family teams (one family per house), but you could do this any way you want. If you’re a small group, why not build a large house together? For each house you’ll need the following:
A ready-baked gingerbread house kit (from a hobby or cooking store, or order online)
A base—I usually use a piece of heavy cardboard covered with foil
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Icing “cement” to attach decorations (recipe below)
An assortment of candy, cookies, and other items for decoration (suggestions below)
Friends and family to make the house!
Icing Cement for Gingerbread Houses
This kind of icing, also called royal icing, dries hard and is perfect for attaching decorations to gingerbread houses. Use this recipe, or purchase a can of dried egg whites and follow the recipe on the label for royal icing. (If you plan to eat the icing, definitely use the powdered egg whites.) Either way, plan to make extra batches. Keep the icing covered with a moist towel when not in use. And keep extra ingredients on hand to make more—we always run out!
2 large egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. water
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
With a mixer, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and water until frothy. Blend in sugar on high speed until stiff, 5 to 10 minutes. Use immediately or cover and use within 8 hours. Makes about 1½ cups.
Decoration Ideas for Gingerbread Houses
This is the fun part. Use your imagination and set out a variety of goodies to decorate the houses. The list below is just a start!
• Candy: gumdrops; chocolate bars and kisses; peppermint sticks, canes, and rounds; licorice; cinnamon candies, candy wafers; caramel squares and rolls (such as Tootsie Rolls); jelly beans; hard candies; breath mints, Gummi candies
• Marshmallows: white and colored, marshmallow snowmen and Santas
• Chewing gum: small squares, colored and striped strips
• Fruit leather and candied fruits
• Cookies and crackers: vanilla and chocolate wafers, graham crackers, cookie shapes
• Cereal: miniature shredded-wheat biscuits, plain and frosted; square checkerboard cereal (such as Chex); round oat cereal (such as Cheerios)
• Ice-cream cones
• Raisins, cranberries, nuts (especially sliced almonds)
• Spices: cinnamon sticks, allspice, whole cloves, whole nutmeg
• Cake decorations: gel icing in tubes, sprinkles, nonpareils, powdered sugar
Gingerbread on the Side
This is the best gingerbread—a variation on a recipe given to me by a dear friend in Dallas named Susan Lovvorn. It practically melts in your mouth, and it makes a wonderful gift. You can make it as muffins, mini loaves, or big loaves. But any way you bake it, it won’t last long.
1½ cups light brown sugar
1–1½ cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2/3 cup water or apple cider
1 16-ounce can pumpkin or 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
3½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. allspice
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1½ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. nutmeg
Preheat oven to 325º. Grease well 2 5×9-inch bread pans, 2 muffin tins, or 6 miniature loaf pans. In a medium bowl, beat sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth. Add cider and beat until well blended. Beat in pumpkin. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and spices. Add pumpkin mixture and stir just until incorporated. Pour batter into pans and bake 70 minutes for loaves, 25 minutes for muffins, or 45 minutes for mini-loaves. (The gingerbread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.) Serve warm with whipped cream, top with cream-cheese frosting (recipe below), or simply sprinkle with a little powdered sugar. Serves 12.
Add golden raisins, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, chocolate chips, or cinnamon chips.
Simple, Healthier Variation
Replace oil with unsweetened applesauce and sweeten with “bake-able” artificial sweetener (such as Splenda). Still tastes great!
Easy Cream-Cheese Frosting
This recipe will frost 24 muffins, 2 loaves, or a 13x9x2-inch cake. Double the recipe to frost an 8- or 9-inch layer cake.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter (no substitutes!), softened
2–3 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
6–6¼ cups powdered sugar, sifted
Optional: 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (delicious for gingerbread frosting) or ½ cup unsweetened cocoa (for chocolate cream-cheese frosting)
Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup of the powdered sugar, beating well. Continue to beat in powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency. To make chocolate cream-cheese frosting, prepare as above, but beat cocoa powder into cream-cheese mixture and reduce powdered sugar to 5¼–6 cups. Makes about 2 cups of frosting.
I freeze this frosting if I have extra. It keeps its texture and spreads beautifully when thawed.
From The Christmas Kitchen a gathering place for making memories by Tammy Maltby and Anne Christian Buchanan. All rights reserved. This holiday season contact Tammy at Tammymaltby@gmail.com or facebook to order personally signed copies of The Christmas Kitchen for yourself and those you love.