The wooden houses of Suzdal, Russia inspired the piped decorations on these gingerbread houses. Wood carved into ornate patterns, often painted white, frames windows and embellishes facades throughout the city. A Russian term for gingerbread house – пряничный домик.
Bake the House or Buy a Kit
You are creating a three-dimensional cookie construction. You need strong, sound walls that won’t buckle under the weight of icing and candy.
Don’t hesitate to buy a prebaked, unassembled kit. Strange advice from a gingerbread blog? Nope. You only have time for so much crafting. If you’d rather skip the baking, just do it! Those industrial cookies taste like cardboard, but they’re sturdy and robust. And you’re going to paint the house with icing anyway; the kit gingerbread won’t show at all.
Paint the House
You have several options for painting your gingerbread house. You can cover the house pieces either in rolled fondant (available in white and pre-colored) or with royal icing.
I like to flood with royal icing. The main reason —– I always have powdered sugar and meringue powder in my cupboard. Fondant requires a car trip over the hill and through woods, construction, and two highways.
Royal icing has other legitimate advantages. For one, you can get an absolutely smooth surface. Some people can achieve that with fondant, but me, not so much. Two, the dried icing acts as additional support to the entire cookie. Three, the layer of dried icing prevents humidity from soaking into the cookie. Four, you can use a toothpick to gently lift piping mistakes off of the hard surface.
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.
Here’s an excellent tutorial on flooding cookies with royal icing by Sweetsugarbelle.
Pay extra-special attention to the consistency of the icing. You’re covering dark brown cookies with pale icing. Too thin of a layer will allow dark spots to show through.
Flood the cookies with green, blue, and pink icing. Let them dry completely before piping the white decorations.
Watch Some Royal Icing Tutorials, then
Pipe the White Decorations
I whitened the white color of my piping icing with Americolor Bright White Soft Gel Paste. This helps the white stand out against the pastel house.
This gingerbread house is mainly decorated with fancy icing work instead of candy. Here are links to the various tutorials you’ll find referenced later in these instructions. Go ahead and watch them now, before you begin.
from Nadia of My Little Bakery.
Ali Bee’s video tutorials can be seen here.
Click here to see here advice on finding the correct icing consistencies.
Pipe a door and dip the icing in sanding (or table) sugar. The wreath was piped beforehand on waxed paper and dried. I used a small open star tip #14 for the wreath with tip #1 red dots.
Using decorating tips #4 and PME #1, add dots around the door, a star over the wreath, and vines.
Using PME tip #1, pipe the house and it’s roof. Add sanding (or table) sugar to the roof, then pipe the remainder of the house. Pipe snow, snowballs, starts, trees, or vines to fill up star space.
LET IT DRY
ASSEMBLE THE HOUSE
I’ll to direct you to my Valentine’s Day House Tutorial, Part 2 for assembly instructions.
The methods with both houses are identical.
Make certain that the four walls have dried completely before you add the roof!!
These houses appear taller than they really are because each is iced to an upside down thrift store plate. I like the little hill formed by the plate’s curvature. If you want an even grander landscape, use an upturned bowl instead.
Use an open star tip to pipe the icing on the roof. Add a fruit slice chimney and some smoke.
I’ll need to talk about piping trees in a later post. You can also check out some more piping tips in my book. There’s an entire page in there of just trees!
I piped all of these royal icing trees on waxed paper, let them dry, then peeled the trees off and put them in the wet icing snow.
This house has sanding sugar on all of the piping. The doorstep is molded white pastillage.
Pastillage is made with powdered sugar, cornstarch, gelatin, and water. When the sugar dough is dried, it resembles Altoid mints, but with any flavor you care to add. Because dried pastillage contains no moisture or fat, it won’t spoil or go rancid. It’s almost indestructible and lasts for years. The pastiallage recipe makes a good amount, much more than is necessary for accents on a single house, which is why I use it for mass production. I can crank out two years worth of windows and other baubles in an afternoon. If you don’t really need 100 items, save yourself the headache and use fondant.
This doorstep is molded pink pastillage.
Yes, the pink and red candy hearts are left over from Valentine’s Day. They’re factory sealed, but I add an extra ziplock for good luck and store them in a cool, dry closet until Christmas time. Sweat-tarts have a long shelf life.
I cut and embossed the snowflakes from pastillage and this cutter from PME from their SnowFlake cutter set.
There are several knock-off brands of these cutters floating around the stores. Some are OK, others lack the critical plunger that pushes out the snowflake. Look carefully before you buy. The PME cutters are the best, but the Hobby Lobby brand might suffice. I bought a Christmas cookie decorating set at Half Price Books last year, specifically to obtain the additional set of snowflake cutters contained therein, and found that the cutters had no plungers — only plastic handles that resembled plungers. Useless.