Shortly after the New Year, brightly colored Valentine’s Day candy appears on store shelves.
If you’re in luck, the Christmas goods are still on clearance.
I found several types of factory-made gingerbread house kits at 75% off and the thought hit me, why not use them for Valentine’s Day houses? Yes, they do taste like cardboard, but for $2.50 and zero baking time, the kids can enjoy the charm of a quaint little Valentine’s Day cottage and eat only the candy that adorns it. If you prefer to bake your own gingerbread, use the template for Anna’s House here or under the Patterns tab at the top of the page.
Examine Your Kit
Most factory baked gingerbread pieces have mechanically embossed windows and doors. If you prefer to start with a clean slate, simply turn the pieces over and decorate the wrong sides. The cookies below have a striated pattern that resembles boards or logs.
A word of warning – -please take the pre-made icing and put it directly into the trash bin. I’ve found the industrial icing doesn’t dry well.
Find a base
A cake stand, overturned plate or baking dish, or foil-covered cutting board all make great bases. The one base I never use is the flimsy plastic contraption included with the gingerbread house kit. It’s an insecure platform on which to mount your masterpiece.
Make Royal Icing
To save some time, I’m going to direct you to a royal icing recipe and tutorial from Marian of Sweetopia.
You can see some of Marian’s fantastic-amazing-astounding gingerbread houses here.
You’ll want to make two consistencies of icing. Use medium thick icing to attach candy. Use thick icing as cement to join the four walls and roof of the house.
Load a disposable decorating bag with medium thick white icing, and prepare to decorate! Cut a small bit from the end of the bag to create a small hole. To prevent the seam of the plastic bag from interfering, trim a small slice away from the end as in the photo below.
Note: Often, I use brown icing to attach candy to brown gingerbread. The excess that squeezes out shows less if its color matches the underlying cookie. You can do this too – use brown and a touch of egg yellow paste or gel food coloring.
Create the Window Boxes
Cut a green tootsie roll into three sections. Roll and squeeze each section into a rectangular shape, and press in some flower-shaped sprinkles.
Create Windows and Shutters
Use a sharp knife to split square, yellow gumdrop candies. This makes the windows thinner and lighter. Cut yellow-striped gum sticks into the proper size for shutters.
Decorate the front
Join two pink wafer cookies with icing and attach them as a door.
Pipe small dots of white icing and attach flat white mints (or white candy necklace beads) around the door.
Attach three red candy hearts above the door. I did switch to brown icing so the excess wouldn’t show. Larger dots of icing hold the candies more securely, and brown icing lets you do that and still appear tidy.
Attach a large red marshmallow heart over the door.
Attach a white heart to a pink candy wafer, and place this on the door. Use a pink heart sprinkle with a pink dragee for the doorknob.
Use white icing to attach the two yellow jelly windows on either side of the door.
Split two pink fruit slice candies in half with a knife (to make them thinner), and attach the front portions over the top of each window.
Tip: White icing behind the semi-translucent candy helps the light reflect through them and builds brighter colors.
If you wish, switch back to brown icing, and attach the gum-stick shutters on each side of the windows. You may need, as I did, to cut these shutters slightly more narrow to fit the front windows.
Attach the tootsie roll and flower window boxes under each window.
Decorate the Sides
Attach the windows, shutters, pink fruit slices, and window boxes to the side gingerbread panels.
Decorate the Back
Create flowers with an assortment of small candies to cover the back of the house.
Let it all Dry
Let the décor on your four walls dry thoroughly before you assemble the house.
I’ll see you again on Part 2!