Constructing the House:
- If you aren't working with a pattern, build a model out of cardboard first. Tape it all together to see how the house will look. Then use the pieces as a pattern to cut out your dough. You can do a search online for gingerbread house patterns if you do not want to design your own. Here is one good source for patterns: Gingerbread by Design
- Build your house on a sturdy base. The larger the house, the sturdier it needs to be. Small houses can go on cardboard cake boards. Large houses require a wooden board of some kind (scavenge your own from your shed or buy pre-cut plywood squares at your local hardware store).
- Assemble it with Royal Icing, which dries super-hard like glue: (Royal Icing recipe) For a professional look, Tint half of your Royal Icing the same shade of brown as your gingerbread dough and use that icing to assemble the house (so that the icing does not show through in the cracks):
- Get creative! Go around your grocery store looking for crackers, candies and cereal that could work as shutters, roof tiles, or accent pieces. Be open to using things other than candy. Remember that what you use for roof tiles will need to be pretty flat because shingles are stacked on top of each other. I have also seen gingerbread houses where the roof pieces are "embossed" or imprinted with a shingle design prior to baking. I have also seen pretty designs drawn on with royal icing. The important thing is to make the house yours, in your own personal style. I tend to make houses that are replicas of real buildings, so they are less whimsical than other gingerbread houses. That is my style, and everyone has their own. Many people prefer a gingerbread house that is whimsical and covered with a rainbow of different candies. I love those houses too, so explore your own design style.
- Snow makes everything look nicer. You can cover up areas that don't look so good with icicles and snow. Dusting the entire house with a touch of confectioner's sugar when it is complete will give it a "just dusted with snow" look.
Take it to the next level:
- Let there be light! It is not hard to add lights to the inside of your house. Buy a strand of battery operated christmas lights at any craft store. Put them inside (I prefer to have the side and front walls on before I place the lights, so I can tape down the strand while making sure I get the bulbs placed beneath the windows.) Make a little notch in the back wall to allow for the cord to go underneath it, then put the battery pack in back of the house. Depending on how opaque your windows are, the lights should give a nice warm glow to your house.
- See-through windows: Gelatin sheets (aka "leaf gelatin") can be purchased at cake decorating stores or online. You will be able to see completely through the window, so you could place items in the window for viewing: