Make the Perfect Colorado Gingerbread House
By Julia Strzeszkowski, Bilingual Customer Experience Specialist
For almost a decade, my sisters and I have had an annual gingerbread house-making party complete with homemade gingerbread (oftentimes gluten-free), homemade royal icing, and a bunch of Dollar-Store generic candies for decorating.
Since we started this tradition, there is nothing that makes me feel more festive and ready for the holidays than designing our unique gingerbread house pattern, watching it bake to perfect sturdiness, and assembling it to last for literally months.
Being somewhat of a local expert on gingerbread house-making parties, I offer you my tips for the most over-the-top, festive, cozy, joyous, and fun gingerbread house-making party and a pattern and recipe so you too can make your own gingerbread houses!
Make one big house or several small houses? This depends on the kind of guests you have. My sisters and I have done both. Some years Krista doesn’t feel as energetic with the actual construction of the house, and she wants to focus on the decorative details. So we make one big house to share, and while I work on construction, she plans out the intricacies. Last year, we made a Subaru with a car-topped tent as our gingerbread “house”, and Krista tasked herself with making the license plate, headlights, and national park stickers. If you have six or more guests, it’s a good idea to make at least one small gingerbread house per two people.
What should you serve? Definitely make some extra gingerbread and icing so people can snack on it without you losing your mind because they’re eating the roof! Holiday cookies--rugelach, hamantaschen, Butter Melt-aways, Peanut Blossoms, and biscotti are my favorites--and some eggnog and peppermint hot chocolate are always a good idea, too. But with too much sugar, your guests will want something savory. A small charcuterie board, mini quiches, bacon-wrapped dates, and pumpkin hummus with toasted sourdough are perfect finger foods for a gingerbread house party.
How do you manage the mess? Get a used tablecloth at a secondhand store for $3 so you don’t mind it getting stained. Put it down on your table before setting out all the gingerbread kits, icing, and candies so that when people inevitably get candy and icing on everything, your table will remain perfectly clean. Each gingerbread house should sit on a square of cardboard wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper so that you don’t have to worry about getting your ceramic plates messy or using flimsy paper plates that will inevitably collapse under the weight of the houses, spilling candy and sticky icing all over the floor.
What materials do you need? Every gingerbread house kit needs a base for the house, a mini pastry bag, and plenty of candy decorations. For the base, wrap a square of cardboard in wrapping paper. Instead of using a bunch of expensive fabric pastry bags, give every person a small Ziploc bag with a small hole cut in the corner. To fill each bag, put the bag into a drinking glass and fold the bag over the rim of the glass. Put a cup of icing into each bag while trying not to get icing on the parts of the bag folded over the rim of the glass. After you fill each bag, remove it from the glass, and twist the top of the bag closed, forcing all the icing towards the corner with the small hole. Buy your candy decorations from the Dollar Store so that you get plenty of green and red candies very cheaply.
Which candy decorations should you get? Anything red and green! Also, peppermints and candies with red and white swirls are perfect too. Mini candy canes, M&Ms, gumdrops, and Snowcaps are all helpful for decorating. Krista, Sasha, and I have also gotten shredded coconut for snow, and green Hershey’s kisses to make trees.
How can you make this gingerbread house party extra Colorado-y? Make a rock climbing wall by cutting three tall, thin triangles out of your dough and making a pyramid. On each face, attach mini gumdrops for hand and foot holds, and use licorice as the climbing rope. Instead of a traditional four walls and sloping roof combo, make interlocking panels like a log cabin to stack on each side of the house. Make a hot tub by attaching five small squares of gingerbread into an open, rectangular bowl. Fill with blue gel icing or Jell-O. Surround your gingerbread house village with panels cut in the shape of mountains with an extra smaller panel attached perpendicularly to the back of the mountains panel so they stand up.
Gingerbread House Pattern
3 c flour
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp softened butter
¾ c brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
½ c molasses
- Mix together brown sugar, butter and molasses. Add in egg.
- Add flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in stages. Mix until you form a nice stiff dough.
- Chill dough in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
- Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin on a floured surface to about ¼ inch thickness.
- Cut out pattern pieces, and arrange them on the dough. Cut dough around the pattern with a knife. (Most pieces need to be cut out multiple times.)
- Score the dough according to the dotted lines.
- Bake on a baking sheet with parchment paper for 11-15 minutes. You want the cookie to be stiff after cooling.
- Optional: instead of scoring the inside of the door and window, you can cut them out. Crush some hard candies, and place them into the cut-out spaces, so they will melt and create colored window panes.
2 egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
3-4 c powdered sugar
- Mix the egg whites and lemon juice.
- Slowly add powdered sugar and mix thoroughly with the egg whites until stiff peaks form. You might not need to use all 4 cups of sugar.
- Place a small Ziploc bag into a tall kitchen glass, folding the bag over the sides of the glass.
- Scoop the icing into the bag inside the glass. Once you have about ½ cup of icing in the bag, lift the bag out of the glass, and close the bag. Squeeze the icing down into one corner.
- Cut that corner of the bag.