Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Constructing a Complicated Gingerbread House

Teeje and I decided to be creative this year and make a really complicated gingerbread house. With the help of our friends Nelson and Amy, we were able to complete it just short of 2 weeks. YIKES. Long project! I did not anticipate it to be as complicated, arduous, and annoying as it ended up being. I wanted to give up 100 times. In the end, though, I'm really glad we stuck with it. :)

Here's Teeje helping with the "sharpening of the ax" stage. We took the template and constructed the whole house out of paper so we could better visualize how to piece it together with actual gingerbread. He said he had a lot of fun doing this. This stage alone took about 4 hours, but I think it really helped us in the long run. 

Teeje loves projects like this. I think it would be a dream come true for him to actually be able to work on a real house. I make fun of him when he watches "This Old House" on PBS because, to me, it's the world's most boring show. He LOVES it. I make him sit through "America's Test Kitchen", though, so I guess I better suck it up. 

Then came time to bake the gingerbread in the shape of the templates. This was a long process. The gingerbread recipe I used worked out quite well. It was nice and firm and sturdy enough to hold up to all the abuse I was about to put it through. :) 

I did the windows with melted chocolate. Teeje and I agreed it would be easier to do it that way rather than cut out holes in the gingerbread. We could then put fancy decorations on the windows after we were done. This stage (baking the gingerbread and doing the windows) took about 6 hours, not including the time it took to make and chill the gingerbread itself. 

I bought some ingredients from Walmart and Michael's for the decorations. I decided to use fondant for the siding because I thought it would make the house look really professional. I tinted it with blue gel food coloring and kneaded the fondant with powdered sugar until it was fully incorporated. 

We used candy canes for the porch posts and red hots for the tree ornaments. 

I laid the siding on each piece of gingerbread before putting the whole thing together. In fact, I decorated all the pieces before constructing the house. It was just easier that way.

Calvin was a great helper. He kept me cheerful when I got super frustrated (which was often). 

This was constructed after the fondant dried. I used plain white fondant for the window dressings.

The chimney was annoying to do. It drove me nuts because the bricks were SO CROOKED when I was trying to decorate it. In the end, I just stopped caring and figured it was better than nothing. :) I made a perfect gingerbread piece that would fit exactly in a spot where I had messed up, but then I dropped it down the chimney. It will be lost forever, unfortunately. I used canned corn to help support the walls as they dried and then forgot to take them out before putting the roof on. Haha! Oops. I guess we'll have to tear the house down the next time we want taco soup. :)

A dusting of powdered sugar gave a nice snowy effect. I used gingersnaps for the roof tiles. I had to trim a few of them to make them fit and figured the powdered sugar would help cover any big mistakes. Luckily, it did. The icicles I did with just plain royal icing. Amy was the genius behind helping me do the candy cane posts on the porch. There's no way I could have done that alone. She and Nelson took care of all the tree decorations - upside down ice cream cones with green frosting piped on. Don't they look great? 

The porch fence was so hard. It took 5 tries to finally get it to work. I piped the icing onto parchment paper in the design I wanted and then had to wait for it to dry before I attempted to peel it off. They kept breaking! I tried to be so careful, but to no avail. I finally baked the icing a little bit in the oven to make sure it was totally dry and that did the trick. 

Finished product! It was worth the effort.

The wreath was done with green and red icing using a star tip.

My crappy chimney. Haha. 

The porch roof had wreaths on it - again, just frosting and a star tip. 

I'm thinking we can make this a yearly Nicholes tradition! Maybe it won't be so complicated every year, but it sure makes our little apartment look more Christmasy. I don't think I'll ever throw it away because of all the work that went into it. It will just have to be a permanent part of our home from now on. :)


  1. That is AMAZING!!! And I loved that TJ helped out on it. I appreciate every little ounce of detail you put into your house. SO MUCH WORK! Well worth the effort. I'm glad you didn't give up. I heard there is some sort of preserving spray you can apply to it. So box it up and save it for next year. Amazing!

  2. I'm so impressed! What a fun project to do together. I was really impressed with how TJ first made the house! I'm sure his dad will really be impressed, too!

    I had a darling "little" gingerbread house that a parent gave me my first year teaching school. I loved it so much and wanted to keep it forever, too. I wrapped it in plastic and put it in a drawer for safe keeping and when I went to get it out the next year. I found it covered with ANTS! I'm sure it won't be Calvin that destroys will be the ANTS! But then again that shouldn't be a problem because TJ knows how to get rid of them! :)

  3. WOW!! I am super impressed. It's so cute and so detailed! TJ you need to move to LC and work for my Dad! You guys seriously need to take it to one of those gingerbread house shows.