“Have you ever wondered where gingerbread and gingerbread houses were from? Gingerbread “spiced honey cakes” were enjoyed in Ancient Egypt and Greece a long time ago. Wealthy Greek families sailed to the Isle of Rhodes to buy these cakes to help fight colds and upset stomaches. They were made for the Winter Solstice.
The spice, ginger was brought to England and Catholic monks baked gingerbread for religious ceremonies. When people visited Queen Elizabeth I, they were presented with a gingerbread man that looked like them. In the 1800′s, Germany started baking gingerbread houses after the tale of Hansel and Gretel. Today people continue the tradition of making gingerbread men and houses during the holidays.” Kid’s Corner
Last year my daughter and I decorated our first gingerbread house at the Viking Cooking School and after seeing all the needed supplies, prep work , and amount of clean up, I signed up again this year. They provide the royal icing (recipe below), gingerbread houses, candy and sprinkles so it is very easy for the parents. If you decorate one at home, make sure you have plenty of goodies. It is fun seeing all the kids create their own homes using all the different candies.
The Viking School buys these gingerbread houses from Monaco Baking Company but they are only available to the trade. Michael’s Arts and Crafts did have a ton of them from Wilton for around $10. You can buy the Meringue Powder for the Royal Icing at Michael’s as well. Whole Foods is also selling gingerbread house kits too.
If you are making the Gingerbread House and Royal Icing from scratch, here are the recipes. I included an eggless Royal Icing recipe since kids tend to eat the icing as they decorate and my son is allergic to eggs.
- 1/2 c. melted shortening
- 1 c. dark molasses
- 1/4 c. warm water
- 4 c. sifted flour
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. allspice
- Dash of salt
Mix together and make sure there are no lumps, wet spots or dry spots. Refrigerate for several hours. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. Cool and store in tin until ready to assemble.
Royal Icing without Eggs from Martha Stewart
- 1 pound confectioners’ sugar
- 5 tablespoons meringue powder
- Scant 1/2 cup water
Beat ingredients in a mixer bowl on low speed until smooth, about 7 minutes. If icing is too thick, add more water; if too thin, beat 2 to 3 minutes more.
Before you begin decorating the gingerbread, coat a large piece of the cardboard with royal icing and place the house on it. Using a stiff cardboard base will allow you easily spin the house around when decorating.
The icing hardens very quickly when exposed to air so work quickly. It is much easier to place the icing in a plastic pastry bag and tie the top with a ribbon or rubber band. When you are ready to decorate, use some scissors to cut the tip. Then squeeze the icing through the “tip.”
The roof is the most prominent part of the house so we started on it first. The shredded wheat creates a beautiful snowy shingled roof.
For the chimney, we used candy corn for the “bricks.” Last year we used hot tamales.
If you want a tree in the yard, grab an ice cream cone and ice the outside. Coat with green sprinkles or any color you wish and add some decorating balls for the ornaments. You can use a gum drop for the top. If you want to add some ribbon, thinly slice some licorice and wrap it around the tree. A wreath can be created using a round butter cookie with a little icing, sprinkles and some small decorating balls.
Here are some other creative ideas for decorating your gingerbread houses. All of these are adorable and most where decorated by children using Hershey Kisses, lemon drops, gummies, peppermints, marshmallows, and gum drops. Even white chocolate pretzels with sprinkles were used to decorate the roof. There are some many options!
When you are finished, wrap the house in a large plastic bag and a ribbon. This will prevent the kids from nibbling on the house and having crumbs all over your house. Send us pictures of your houses, we would love to see them.
The top two paragraphs were researched and written by my daughter. She has to research topics and give presentations to her class so these posts are good practice for her. We hope to find topics your children find interesting and encourage them to start writing as well. If you have any great ideas for posts about foods or fun activities, feel free to share them in the comments. She would love to hear from her friends. Have a great holiday!