Gingerbread House Decorating Tips

Building and Decorating a Gingerbread House

Heidi Stonehill
Gingerbread House Tips

Making a gingerbread house may be one of the best ways to spend a snowy, blustery afternoon. Here are gingerbread house decorating tips to create your own winter wonderland. Kids love it!  

My tips and tricks come from a gingerbread house-building workshop, led by Beth Pollock of A Piece of Cake Designs/MerryArts in Harrisville, New Hampshire. 

Making the Gingerbread From Scratch?

If you are making the gingerbread pieces of the house, it should be ready at least a day or two ahead of assembly, as the pieces need time to cool and harden. A cool, dry day is best for this activity. If gingerbread is made on a humid day, it will come out soft and crumbly like a cookie, rather than hard and sturdy like a rock. (Humidity will also prevent the icing from hardening.)

You can freeze the dough a month or so ahead or store the baked pieces, separated by waxed paper, in an airtight container in a cold area for a week or two.

Gingerbread House Decorating Supplies

  • In terms of supplies, you will need: an icing spatula, a pastry bag, royal icing, confectioners’ sugar, and house decorations.
    • Royal icing is the glue that holds the house and materials together. Ours is made from meringue powder, confectioners’ sugar, and water. The batter should be stiff enough to work as a glue and hold its shape, but flexible enough to spread easily. 
  • If you use a pastry bag, make sure that there aren’t any air pockets in the icing itself, which will wreak havoc as you pipe it out.
  • If you wish to also color icing, use paste food coloring. Liquid food coloring will thin out the icing.
  • You’ll also need to think about a cake board or a flat surface for the house to sit on.

We started with a set of gingerbread house pieces all set to go:

And here are our supplies (mentioned above):

Gingerbread House Decorating Ideas

For gingerbread house decorating ideas, there are seemingly endless options in edible materials to produce the effects. For example:

  • Pretzels for fencing and doors
  • Cereal for roofing shingles
  • Peppermint candies for stepping-stones

Just peruse grocery stores, candy stores, gourmet shops, baking shops, etc., for supplies. Anything goes, as long as it is edible.

Use royal icing used to make window lattice. To prevent freshly made royal icing from hardening, keep a moist towel over the mixing bowl.

A border of icing secures the window lattice to the gingerbread wall:

To make a snowman, whip up a special batch of royal icing and keep adding confectioners’ sugar until the mix becomes doughlike and can be rolled into balls.

An evergreen tree made from a sugar cone; royal icing was applied with a leaf tip. To color icing, use paste food coloring. Liquid food coloring will thin out the icing.

A roof with icicles:

Another roof treatment:

Mission accomplished!

Have you made gingerbread houses before? What treats and techniques do you like to use? Share your thoughts below!

Also, for inspiration check out the National Gingerbread House Competition at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. This is an annual event where, as you’ll see in the photos, the artists let their imaginations run wild!

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I learned from a gingerbread

I learned from a gingerbread site to use the stems from grapes for trees. Allow the stem to dry and then coat with slightly watered down brown royal icing, roll in green dyed rice krispies. I think they look great.