How To Make Gingerbread Houses

Yesterday I gave you a teaser about my gingerbread house adventure – you get the full story today!

A week ago (last Sunday – when I blogged about exercise) I took the subway out to Flushing to visit my (Bobby’s) aunt and uncle. Auntie Jo had offered a while ago to teach me how to make real gingerbread houses – the recipe was from her German housekeeper (I think she said it’s from 45 years ago). I jumped at the opportunity – Auntie Jo is so sweet and I love learning new things about baking.

When I got there we got breakfast (see this post for my New York bagel). Auntie Jo had made the dough the night before (you have to chill it) so when we got back, we started with the baking process. Here is the recipe (hand-typed from Auntie Jo’s recipe book):

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It says…

GINGERBREAD HOUSES (from Cookie Cookery)

Mix together until smooth:

  • 1 cup shortening (2 bars)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup molasses

Stir into above and mix well:

  • 1/2 cup hot water

Beat 2 eggs and stir into the sugar mix.

Sift together, adding slowly:

  • 5.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Place dough in containers and freeze or chill. Roll to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out with a pointed knife following a cardboard patter: 2 each of front, side, and roof. Chimney is optional.

Warm oven to 350. Bake 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Put together with Royal Icing. Decorate.


Add 2.5 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar and 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar to 2 egg whites.

Heat, stirring, in the top of a double boiler until warm and smooth. Remove from heat, beat in electric mixer at highest speed for 5-6 minutes, until icing stands in peaks. Cover bowl with damp towel and put into refrigerator. Can tint with food color, or may squeeze through a pastry tube with decorating tip.

Use to cement house together. When sides are secure, use to place ornament candies on house.

<—End Recipes—>

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This was the baking station: a beautiful recipe book (handmade), a cutting board, cardboard cutouts (for making the house shapes), flour, a rolling pin. The dough is in that metal bowl.

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First, you flour the cutting board. Then you roll out the dough (with a rolling pin) until it’s about 1/4 – 1/8 inches thick. Use the cardboard shapes to cut out the pieces for the house.

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Auntie Jo showed me how to scoop under the dough before cutting it out so that it comes off the cutting board more easily.

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I had fun cutting out the pieces! Mine were not as nicely shaped as Auntie Jo’s, but she has more practice than I do (I’ll keep trying).

Duke (Ellington) kept us company:

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(He didn’t get any gingerbread.)

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After we did the houses, we still had dough left, so we did some cutouts – that’s a carrot cookie cutter. It is so cute. The house pieces came out and we put them in the garage to cool:

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While they cooled, we took a break…

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…To eat cinnamon toast with butter and hot tea with milk and sugar.

me morris jo

Uncle Morris DJ’d and played us some lovely jazz music while we baked that afternoon.

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Then it was time to make the icing. We didn’t use a double boiler; we just boiled water in a pan and put the metal bowl with the icing batter inside.

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And we beat the icing in the mixer – beautiful. We used a pastry tube thing to squeeze the icing (like glue) and put the houses together.

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The roofs go on last. We actually ended up with an extra base, so I put a heart on it and gave it to Bobby.

After I put on the roofs, I packed up the houses and took them home to finish decorating (it was late). I just decorated them yesterday (Saturday), and this is how they came out:

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I used gummy bears and chocolate chips.

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I’m giving them to my coworkers and my cousin (in-law-to-be). I think they make great gifts – I’ll definitely be making them next year too.

Thank you Auntie Jo for teaching me! And to Uncle Morris for great company 🙂

I’m actually on my own now… Bobby is en route to Miami (should touch down in about 25 minutes) and I miss him. But I’ll see him on Wednesday. I’m still missing the cats, too.

Have you ever made gingerbread houses? Do you give baked goods as presents? What are your favorite things to make?

35 Comments on How To Make Gingerbread Houses

  1. Jill
    20 December, 2009 at 10:27 pm (7 years ago)

    Looks like you had a blast! I have made them once before and forgot to put sugar in the recipe–whoops! They looked good but did not quite taste right 🙂

  2. VeggieGirl
    20 December, 2009 at 10:38 pm (7 years ago)


    Love Duke 😀

    I made a gingerbread house once when I was little; but it took all day, so I got frustrated, haha 😉

  3. Danielle (Coffee Run)
    20 December, 2009 at 10:52 pm (7 years ago)

    That’s so cool that you made them from scratch! I’ve made gingerbread houses a few times but I used store-bought kits. I’ve never given a baked good as a present but it’s a good idea!

  4. Pure2Raw twins
    20 December, 2009 at 10:58 pm (7 years ago)

    Look like so much fun. I have not made Gingerbread houses in so long.

    Love how Duke helped in the kitchen ; )

  5. Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter)
    20 December, 2009 at 11:18 pm (7 years ago)

    So fun Maggie! Quite the process too. I think I made gingerbread houses when I was in 6th grade. I remember eating the candy that was supposed to go on the roof. Oops. 🙂

    It’s like you were let in on a family secret. I loved seeing the hand-typed recipe, and I’m glad you will carry on the tradition.

    I do bake cookies every year for my family, Chris’s family, and Chris’s office. In fact I baked them this morning. 6 or 7 dozen chocolate peppermint clouds…I lost count!

  6. Amber
    20 December, 2009 at 11:26 pm (7 years ago)

    oh my gosh how cool! they look great!

  7. Marina
    20 December, 2009 at 11:45 pm (7 years ago)

    OMG, you actually MADE the gingerbread house?! I always get a pre-made, easy-to-assemble kit! lol

  8. clare
    20 December, 2009 at 11:46 pm (7 years ago)

    maggie this are awesome. ive only made the “graham cracker” style houses with the premade frosting. this is so authentic! i cant stop smiling at your smile. 🙂 ********************* !!!!

  9. Gaby
    20 December, 2009 at 11:56 pm (7 years ago)

    These are so cute! Where did you get the pattern? I think I want to make all the gingerbread parts to take home and make and decorate with my little brother and cousins on Thursday.
    Hope you’re enjoying all the NY Christmas festivities!

  10. candice
    21 December, 2009 at 1:03 am (7 years ago)

    Adorable! I’ve made gingerbread houses once in my life, and that wasn’t even with ginger bread. It was frosting and gummies on graham crackers. 😕

  11. Christina
    21 December, 2009 at 1:16 am (7 years ago)

    We used to make mini ones with graham crackers in school each year, then a few years at home my mom helped us make them. Nowadays it’s so easy w/ the kits and everything- I’m glad you made them 100% from scratch!

    I love giving baked goods as presents! Unless it’s famiily, usually everybody gets something home-made from me at Christmas. I like making cookies, banana breads, zucchini pie, and at home my mom makes stuffed meat breads – when you cut into it, there’s a roll of deli meat and cheese kind of like a pinwheel!

  12. Lara (Thinspired)
    21 December, 2009 at 1:34 am (7 years ago)

    This makes me smile 🙂 You look like you’re having tons of fun. I love family recipes!
    I have ALWAYS wanted to make a homemade gingerbread house. Those are seriously impressive!

  13. Tamzin
    21 December, 2009 at 3:29 am (7 years ago)

    Your houses are so cute! I have never made gingerbread houses but it looks like lots of fun! I love to bake anything sweet! x x

  14. Peggy (Mom)
    21 December, 2009 at 5:20 am (7 years ago)

    Those are so cute! We made houses every once in a while. One year I made a big one and you and Rob helped put on the candies –we have a picture of it around here somewhere. We put it up on the third floor in Yardley to save for the following year but within a few months it imploded on itself (guess I thought it would keep getting harder but the humidity and ants did it in!)

  15. Andrea@WellnessNotes
    21 December, 2009 at 9:49 am (7 years ago)

    Sounds like you had a very fun afternoon! The houses are beautiful!

    I once tried to make a gingerbread house with the teenager many, many years ago but somehow it didn’t work out. We were sooo disappointed…

  16. Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga)
    21 December, 2009 at 9:50 am (7 years ago)

    Amazing post, tutorial, step by step guide! Thanks for sharing the recipe, the family lovely times, and the FUN with all of us! Happy Holidays Maggie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. brandi
    21 December, 2009 at 10:39 am (7 years ago)

    they turned out so cute! I’ve made one before, a long time ago.

  18. Amy (One Thousand Steps)
    21 December, 2009 at 11:07 am (7 years ago)

    That hand-typed recipe book is so cool – I wonder what other gems are in there?! Your gingerbread houses are adorable, and you all look so happy in those photos. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Cindy
    21 December, 2009 at 1:18 pm (7 years ago)

    what a great time Maggie! Your little houses turned out so sweet!
    I love them
    I typically do bake things as gifts but not this year…
    How on earth did you transport the gingerbread houses without breaking them?

    I love your happy smiles and the kitty pics too! xo

  20. Lindsey @ Eat, Read, Run
    21 December, 2009 at 3:51 pm (7 years ago)

    They look great! I hope the people you give them to realize how much time, effort and love went into making them.

    I gave fudge and cookies as a gift to my co-workers this year. I think the fudge won the taste contest and that alone makes me happy. To know someone really enjoyed something I made. And it’s much more personal I think.

  21. Jenny
    21 December, 2009 at 7:23 pm (7 years ago)

    you are such an ambitious little Christmas Elf! I have never even considered making my own Gingerbread House! You should market these, girl 🙂

  22. Leah
    21 December, 2009 at 7:30 pm (7 years ago)

    You make it look SO fun! Everytime Ive tried to make a gingerbread house its ended in complete and utter disaster!

  23. Leng
    22 December, 2009 at 4:25 am (7 years ago)

    I love gingerbread cookies. I have made them in the past, but have never given them out as gifts before, other than birthdays. Seems like this would be the perfect time. Your houses are adorable. I am going to give it a try as soon as I can. The shortening you use…did you find one without trans fat? I have been looking, but to no avail. Any help?

  24. Ada
    22 December, 2009 at 8:19 am (7 years ago)

    Wow, I’m impressed by your ability to make gingerbread houses! Baking+family= such a great day:)

  25. Melissa
    22 December, 2009 at 11:11 am (7 years ago)

    awesome, mags! I will have to give this a go sometime during this Christmas break…you are much more crafty than I am! 🙂

  26. Gena
    22 December, 2009 at 1:50 pm (7 years ago)

    WOW! Nice work, Maggie!

  27. Bekah
    22 December, 2009 at 3:58 pm (7 years ago)

    Eeek your gingerbread making skills are the bomb. Jealous.

  28. Ameena
    22 December, 2009 at 4:52 pm (7 years ago)

    These are so pretty! I love this idea and if I can get my act together I hope my 4 year old and I can make one! 🙂

  29. Carissa (Fit To Indulge)
    23 December, 2009 at 12:04 am (7 years ago)

    I love your gingerbread houses! So cute, and such a creative gift. I bake chocolate cranberry and almond biscotti every year for a cookie exchange party with friends. There’s never a shortage of sweets this time of year. 🙂

  30. Miriam
    23 December, 2009 at 12:09 am (7 years ago)

    Maggie, I can’t stop smiling. For the others of you out there ‘Auntie Jo’ is MY MOM! Ginger bread houses were our annual tradition. I still make them, 40 some odd years later (I’ve been known to go overboard and make individual shingles for the roof). My favorite now is making them with friends’ kids. And, through your blog, after all these years of making houses I learned something new, to loosen the sheet of dough before you cut the patterns. That kitchen is also where we made and decorated many cookies. Now my husband and I eagerly await our annual package of home made cookies in the mail (old favorites and the new year’s experiment). Ah, that well-worn cookbook with hand typed recipes (and food stains) – For our first anniversary Jo gave us our own copy, every recipe hand-written! There’s no one like her, and I love her for it.

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