One of my most favorite memories from growing up is making Gingerbread Houses. I never understood why my mom never made them for us to decorate. Back then there weren’t kits available so making a Gingerbread House was a big commitment. So now that I’m a mom that has been through 7 holiday seasons - learning the chaos, lists, stress - I completely get why my mom never had a chance to Gingerbread House with us! I always decorated them in Brownie meetings or at a friends December birthday party so really there was no need.
Fast forward to now - I was bound and determined to find a way to do these with my girls without allowing them to create too much stress. While searching for easy DIY Gingerbread Houses I came across the idea to use Graham Crackers - genius! So with those as my base, I have slowly figured out a system over the past few years. After executing again this past weekend I think it really works! I’ve broken it down for you below with all of my resources.
Yesterday we hosted some of our cousins for a Gingerbread House Decorating Party and it was so much fun! Last year we hosted Christmas Day and I had them out for the kids to decorate after dinner. You can make this a birthday party theme as well. You can also gift them - with a bag of candy and royal icing - for other kids/families to decorate on their own. They would make a really fun hostess gift as well!
Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses:
We’ve combined instructions from 3 bloggers we found in our search years ago: Happiness is Homemade , Meet Penny and Merrick’s Art (a favorite blogger!) in order to perfect our own jam. They each show you how to cut some of the graham cracker pieces - different variations so choose which works best for you! The Royal Icing from Merricks Art is spot on - and really keeps the graham crackers together so you don’t end up holding them for too long. I usually put them on a Chinet paper plate - they have a lip so everything stays on the plate and they are easy for them to carry home. My favorite part is that you can make these houses ahead of time! (Don’t forget to label each person’s plate!)
Merrick’s Art Royal Icing Recipe:
3 egg whites (must be at room temperature)
1 lb powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Place all three ingredients in room temp mixing bowl and beat until icing is VERY STIFF. After I think the icing is ready, I mix for about 5 more minutes.*
Keep bowl of icing covered with a wet cloth as it goes hard very rapidly.
*this really stiff icing is great for making sturdy houses, but makes it difficult for kids to squeeze out of the icing bags if it’s too stiff. I made two batches of icing; the first I mixed for the extra 5 minutes and used to build 10 houses. The second batch, I skipped the final five minutes of mixing so it was still stiff, but much more manageable for decorating, and used that to fill 10 icing bags.
*I make a different royal icing recipe for the kids to attach the candy when they are decorating. This is because I like to omit the raw egg so no one gets sick!
For the decorating icing:
1lb Powdered Sugar
Small Amount of Water
Pour 11b powdered sugar into bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add about 1tsp water at a time until the consistency of the mixture is thick and still somewhat stiff. You don’t want this to be too runny because it then it won’t help the candy stick to the houses! Typically I end up adding about 1/4cup water, but it does vary slightly each time.
I usually buy gum drops, mini and big candy canes, hershey kisses, m&ms, rolos, red hots, twizzlers (some cut up for smaller pieces) and round peppermints. Every year the candy selection is a bit different because it depends on what I find in my travels. I give each child a cup of their own icing (so no germs get passed!) and their own spreader. For spreading you can use a popsicle stick, a spoon or a dulled knife.
Here are some snippets from our party yesterday if you didnt get a chance to see our video in our Instagram stories:
I even made one for my dog nephew!
(I made him the same type house and bought doggie biscuits to attach!)
Another quick tip - we have this awesome Wine/Liquor Barrell Topped Lazy Susan Table-Top Piece that my Mother-in-Law gave us a while back. It works brilliantly with this project b/c the kids can all spin it to get the candy they need for their houses without reaching over, etc. It is great for apps for parties, too!