Making a gingerbread house is fun but needs to be spread over a couple of days. The house has to be assembled in stages, allowing the icing that mortars the panels together to harden and support the weight of the roof and decorations. Each drying stage will take a few hours, so cover your frosting, placing cling film over the surface of the frosting and another layer over the bowl so it doesn’t harden in between.
For the gingerbread panels
280 g butter
210 g brown sugar – 1 cup firmly packed
zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup golden syrup
4 ½ cups plain flour + 1 ½ cups extra
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
Coloured boiled sweets – if making windows
Frosting/mortar – I used 1 batch to stick the house together and ½ a batch to decorate
3 egg whites
1 ½ tsp Cream of Tartar
3 cups icing sugar
Lollies, candy canes, cookies, chocolate…whatever you fancy to decorate – I used 1 ½ packets of chocolate thins to “shingle” the roof.
A sturdy cake board or tray – you may wish to cover it with foil
Piping bag and nozzles
To make the gingerbread:
Combine the first 4 ½ cups flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add the golden syrup and eggs and then beat in the dry ingredients a cupful at a time.
Dust the bench with flour, turn the dough onto the floured surface and add begin kneading in some of the extra flour, working and turning the dough, adding the flour until you have added 1 cup. By this time the dough should be firm enough to roll and handle easily.
Cover 3 cookie sheets with non stick baking paper and dust lightly with flour. Divide the dough into thirds and roll each third onto a cookie sheet. Roll the dough no thinner than ½ a cm. With a sharp knife and your templates cut out the panels of the gingerbread house. You will cut 2 of each panel. Re roll and use trimmings if required. Trimmings can be used to shape, shutters, gates, chimneys etc if you want them. Remember small pieces of dough will cook much more quickly than bigger pieces.
If you want windows use cookie cutters or play dough cutters to cut them out – cut them larger than you want, as the dough will spread slightly during cooking and the final holes will be smaller than when you cut them. Fill the window spaces to the brim with crushed boiled sweets (put them in a bag and bang with a rolling pin). The candy will melt in the oven and re set in the space like stained glass. If you don’t want to cut windows you can pipe some on with icing.
Chill the shapes for ½ an hour in the fridge before baking.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for 20 -25 minutes until golden and firm. Cool completely before handling.
Trim the edges of each panel that will attach to another, with a sharp knife. Pipe decorations onto the panels. This is much easier to do when they are lying flat than when they are standing upright.
To make the frosting beat the egg whites until foamy but not stiff, add the cream of tartar then beat until stiff. Add the icing sugar a bit at a time mixing well after each addition. When all the icing sugar is added, cover the frosting with cling film to prevent it hardening.
Then assemble the house.
Pipe a good stripe of frosting down the edge of one end panel and one side panel, place them together on the board and prop them in position using can or packages from your pantry. Leave to harden then add the remaining two walls and mortar together with frosting as before.
Pipe frosting inside the joins, and around the base both inside and outside the house and leave to harden. While the joints are hardening you can shingle or frost the roof panels. I used 3 overlapping rows of 7 chocolate thins, on each roof panel.
When the 4 walls are solidly stuck together pipe around the top edges and position the roof panels, propping them in place until secure. Use plenty of frosting.
When the roof is firmly secured, pipe icicles, snow drifts and cover any gaps with frosting, now the fun part -decorate with candy canes, lollies and whatever else you like.