8 Surprising Gingerbread House Ideas that Create Serious Curb Appeal
With these clever tips from our Test Kitchen pro, you'll have a delightful time decorating—and the cheeriest cookie abode (or treats!) on the block.
Building a gingerbread house is one of the most highly anticipated, roll-up-your-sleeves DIY food projects of the holiday season. Especially if you’re the culinary whiz behind our Test Kitchen team, Sarah Farmer. Sarah has crafted every type of gingerbread creation imaginable, from a simple bungalow and country church to a ski chalet and Western ranch. At the mere mention of gingerbread house ideas, her eyes get all twinkly and she says, “Gingerbread houses just make ya smile, don’t they?”
Yes, they do. And we’re all about generating holiday cheer, so we asked Sarah to share her most inspired gingerbread house decorating hacks.
Cover your table with brown craft paper to make quick cleanup of any sugary messes. Use a muffin tin to hold your candies and add-ons for no-fuss decorating.
Pick a spot
Unless you have an indestructible design or the steadiest of hands, you don’t want to move that house once it’s perfected. Build it where you want it to stay put: On a platter? A cake plate? A cutting board you’ve wrapped in foil then covered (generously!) with white frosting and coarse sugar for snow? It’s up to you. One clever idea from Sarah: a peppermint candy “plate.” Arrange Starlight Mints in a parchment-lined springform pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until they melt and fuse together. Let the candy cool completely before removing it.
Raid your candy drawer or pantry
This is where Sarah really goes on a creative tear—where most of us see Snickers Fun Size Bars, she sees chocolate chimneys. Sarah has used Anna’s Ginger Thins for shingles, Frosted Mini-Wheats for a thatched roof, and cinnamon gum for Spanish tiles. Want to create pathways She recommends jellybeans for pebbles or ground coffee for dirt. Pretzels or candy canes make great fencing. And for firewood, use pretzel rods or Pirouette cookies.
Make royal icing
Lots of it. This mix of sugar, water and meringue is your mortar—it works like a charm, enabling pieces to stick together. Plus, when it dries, it looks beautiful. Consider using food coloring to create royal icing in multiple hues. Load each color in a pastry bag with a piping tip. This way, your icing stays fresh and is easy to apply. If you prefer to keep the icing bowls, cover them with a damp paper towel so the icing stays moist.
Craft a plain gingerbread house with simple, white icing for a classic, natural look. Sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme make pretty garlands along rooflines and around doors. Or tie them in a ring for a realistic-looking wreath.
Do some landscaping
Add fluffy sugar or coconut snow to create a winter wonderland. Rock candy lollipops work as instant trees, or create an evergreen forest by slathering green frosting on sugar cones. Sprinkle with green-colored sugar for extra sparkly fun; add tips of white frosting for snow. Sarah likes to press on chocolate-covered sunflower seeds for holiday lights.
Get beyond four walls and a roof
Maybe you’re not an architect. Or a carpenter. No problem. If you can bake gingerbread cookies into cute holiday shapes and find a glass jar, you can put a fresh spin on this Christmasy craft. Just pour a thick layer of coarse sugar in the bottom of a large jar and arrange cookies on the sugar. Add a ribbon. And you have a gingerbread snow globe.
Make a gingerbread house that you’d really eat
Although most gingerbread houses are edible, few of us actually want to devour an ornately decorated masterpiece. If you have a burst of creative energy but would prefer ending the session with a batch of treats, make these darling little gingerbread house sandwich cookies. Press two homemade spiced-just-right molasses cookies together with lemony cream cheese filling and decorate with a simple icing. This just may be the most delicious gingerbread idea of them all.