Gingerbread House

Now that winter is here, and Christmas is on the way, making a gingerbread house is the ideal activity. It is a German tradition, which has gone back for many years, in fact gingerbread is thought to be the oldest biscuit that there is. The spices are said to warm the blood, perfect for a cold winter’s day, and the ginger helps to preserve it.

Making a gingerbread house is a perfect family activity, and I have many happy memories of making it (and eating it!) when I was little. Remember that the dough needs to stand for about twelve hours before baking, so make it up the night before you want to use it.



8 oz (225 g) sugar
4fl oz (120 ml) golden syrup or honey
6 oz (175 g) butter or margarine
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoons ground ginger
¼ pint (150 ml) water
1 lb 6 oz (625 g) plain white flour
½ tablespoon bicarbonate of soda (see note)
Extra sugar, icing sugar and sweets for decoration


1. Put the sugar, golden syrup, butter, molasses and spices into a pan and heat slowly. When the mixture is runny, let simmer until all the sugar has melted.

2. Turn off the heat and pour in the water. Stir, and set aside to cool.

3. Sift the flour into a large basin, and add the bicarbonate of soda. Pour in the liquid mixture, and stir round till the dough is quite stiff - add a little more flour if necessary.

4. Refrigerate for approximately twelve hours - this will make the dough hard, and much easier to work with.


Making the House

1. Draw out one of each of the templates below on a piece of card. Cut out.

2. Dust a couple of baking sheets with flour and roll out a portion of the dough, on one of the trays, to a 7 mm thickness. Place a template over the dough and cut round it. Do this twice with each template.

3. Mark on the doors and windows, then cut them out with a sharp knife (diagram 1).


Diagram 1

4. Bake in the oven at Gas Mark 6 (200°C 400°F). After ten minutes they should have puffed up considerably. Take the gingerbread shapes out of the oven and place the templates over them again. Cut off the excess gingerbread and re-cut the windows if necessary. Put them back in the oven to bake for a further few minutes, until they are quite brown.

5. Cover a board with tin foil, and work out how you will want the house to stand.

6. Heat two ounces (50 g) of sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan, and stir round as it starts to melt. If you are using white sugar you will be able to see when it begins to brown.

7. When the sugar is toffee coloured, turn off the heat and quickly dribble it over the edges of one of the gingerbread slabs. Holding the pieces in place on the board, stick them together this way. (Diagram 2) The mixture hardens as it cools, so work as quickly as possible. Don’t worry if there are cracks between the walls and roof of your house - these can be filled with icing.

Diagram 2

Decorating the House

Now comes the fun part! It is really up to you how you decorate your house. Favourite sweets can be used, different coloured icing, and biscuits, or left over gingerbread scraps, can be stuck to the roof or walls. To make up a small amount of icing, sift two ounces (50 g) of icing sugar into a bowl, and add a few drops of liquid. Coffee will make a brown which is good for filling in any cracks in the house, and natural dyes can easily be obtained from the garden. On the picture, spinach was used for the green, and raspberries for the pink. Pound the item in a pestle and mortar until it starts to look juicy, then squeeze it through muslin (diagram 3).

Icing can be applied with a piping bag, but unless you have used a piping bag before, a paint brush will be neater and easier to control.

Display your finished house in a cool, dry room
and eat within a month.


Diagram 3

Note 1: Any left-over gingerbread dough can be made into people, hearts, or other shapes, which can be stuck to the house with icing later. The house can be decorated before baking with little pieces of dough, which stick on during cooking.

The ‘curved stones’ on the picture were done this way.


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