Wow, that reaction was just overwhelming! After posting my Gingerbread House (Slide Show) on the Internet, I have received many, many, many great e-mails from you guys "out there." Thank you so much! More than half of you were asking for the "recipe." What can I say? Once more, your wish is my command...

Gingerbread House

Building a gingerbread house from scratch is quite a(n enjoyable!) project. I usually build my gingerbread houses in stages over a few consecutive days. One evening, I bake the pieces, next I decorate some of them (usually I start with the walls and roof panels), another evening I go on decorating pieces (like trees, the chimney, etc.) and start putting the house together, and so on and so forth. Usually, from measuring the ingredients to adding final touches like snow (= confectioner's sugar) and smoke (= ball of cotton wool), it takes me four evenings. And I love every minute of them!

This gingerbread dough bakes into a firm, sturdy cookie, which makes it perfect for gingerbread houses (and large cookies or ornaments for your Christmas tree). This recipe makes enough dough for one small house like mine (including the piece of gingerbread, the house will be sitting on) plus accessories, like shutters, a door, trees, etc.


1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup molasses - mild flavor
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoons nutmeg

Tip: For sharper edges of all pieces (which helps a lot when putting them together), I trim the slightly irregular edges right after baking (when still hot), using a serrated knife. The opening for the door and the windows can be cut into the gingerbread pieces right before decorating them. I find it a good idea to "prepare" that job by cutting a smaller door and smaller windows into the unbaked dough. After baking, you do the trimming as described above and - voilá - you end up with perfectly sized and shaped openings in your gingerbread house!

Note: As mentioned in the introduction, I prefer decorating the pieces of my gingerbread house before putting them together. I find it easier working on the pieces lying flat on my kitchen counter than decorating the fully constructed house - twisting my body into the most awkward positions... Be aware, though, that putting the fully decorated pieces together can be a very delicate, if not really challenging - and hence possibly not everybody's favorite - job to do! ;-)


1. In a large bowl, thoroughly blend shortening and sugar. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla and beat until smooth.

2. In another bowl, sift dry ingredients. Gradually stir dry ingredients into molasses mixture. At some point you will have to start kneading the dough with your hands. When completely blended, separate dough into 4 balls. Flaten them slightly and wrap disk in plastic wrap and chill a minimum of one hour. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.)

3. Place a disk of chilled dough directly on a non-stick baking sheet (or use some waxed paper with a regular baking sheet). Cover dough with plastic wrap and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.

3. For gingerbread house dimensions, cut patterns from waxed or parchment paper that include two pieces of the following: side walls which are 3" wide and 2" high and end walls which are 4" wide and 2" high and have a gable, which is 2" high. Also, two roof panels, one of which is 5" wide and 3.5" high and the other one 5" wide and 4" high. I ususally build my gingerbread house on a gingerbread base of 9" by 10". If you decide to build yours on, let's say, a wooden cutting board covered with icing, you will have more dough for a bigger house. Well, obviously...

4. Remove plastic wrap from the dough surface, place pattern pieces directly on dough, leaving at least 1/2" border around pieces. Using a small sharp knife, cut around edges of pattern. Using your fingers or a small knife, remove scrap pieces of dough, leaving cut pieces intact on baking sheet. If you desire, cut out doors and windows. Remove paper pattern pieces and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on size of pieces. Gingerbread will darken, especially around edges, and feel firm to the touch. Remove sheet from oven and allow gingerbread pieces to cool on sheet. Use caution when taking gingerbread off the baking sheet. (You may store pieces lying flat in a cool dry place or freeze them in an appropriate container.)


The icing is used as "cement" to put the house together, attach decorations, and make icicles and decorative trim. The original recipe suggests 2 to 3 batches (made separately as needed) to complete one house. One batch was more than enough for my gingerbread house.


3 large egg whites at room temperature
4 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Tip: Any fat substance will inhibit the whites from beating, so separate the yolks carefully and keep all utensils grease-free.

More Tips: To prevent air from drying the icing left in the bowl while working on the gingerbread house, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over icing. If you would like to go on working at another time, store icing in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator. If icing becomes too firm, simply beat a little water - by the drop! - into it.

1. Place egg whites in bowl. Add cream of tartar. Sift sugar directly onto egg whites. Beat 4 minutes with electric mixer on high speed. The mixture will thicken as you beat it and when finished should be the consistency of mashed potatoes.

At your gocery store, select candy according to size and desired color: M&M's, chocolate- or yoghurt-covered pretzels, peppermint candy, snowcaps, anything. You can follow a color scheme or go totally ... um ... creative. Using a #2 tip for your pastry bag, "glue" the candy to the gingerbread pieces.

When ready to construct the house, spread icing directly on the base to cover area where house will be built. Spread or pipe icing on edges of each piece which will attach to one another. Press pieces firmly together and hold to form neat angles. You may release your hold when pieces are self-standing. (This should take no more than a minute.) Allow sections of the house to dry before adding more pieces or applying the roof panels. Add final touches like icicles, cotton wool smoke, confectioner's suger snow, etc.

How about this? Dye some of the icing pinetree green and spread it on ice-cream cones. Decorate with red M&M's and put the cones upside down next to the gingerbread house - sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and what do you have? A wintery Christmas tree forest!

Display your gingerbread house in a dry place for up to six weeks... Enjoy!