Our inspiration for baking a gingerbread house was at a Christmas fare at my junior school, all of the children in my class were asked to bake a cake for the stall (Christmas theme of course). I was very excited so mum and I baked a sponge cake. I was delighted with my slightly charred sponge and see through icing, decorated with a shop bought snowman. I walked into school with my held high, thrilled with my beautiful cake which I eagerly showed the head mistress. She very kindly congratulated me on my cake and led me to the hall where all of the other cakes were being stored, as she opened the door it was like one of those moments in a movie when the lights shine down and one amazing item is illuminated.
I saw the most beautiful gingerbread house I have ever seen in my life, like the perfect scene from Hansel and Gretel, decorated with jewel like sweets it was positively magical. My heart sank as I looked down at my little burnt cake, I’m pretty sure the snowman covered his eyes too. When the school fare was over I walked over to the cake stand with my brother and all that was left was my sad little cake. My brother bought it as nobody had and told me it was the best he had ever eaten, bless him!
When I became pregnant with Oliver I was determined to start baking and practice in readiness for the bake sale, I did not want my child having a similar experience at school. Sorry mum – you make an AMAZING steak pie! Baking items required Gingerbread house cutters (Bought from e-bay for around £15.00)
Ingredients FOR THE GINGERBREAD 250g unsalted butter 200g dark muscovado sugar 7 tbsp golden syrup 600g plain flour 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 4 tsp ground ginger
FOR THE ICING 2 Egg White 500 g icing sugar
I suggest making ½ the quantity for the construction of the house and ½ to decorate, although depending on how lavish the decorations you may also need an additional ½ quantity (we did although made small batches up at a time).
FOR DECORATION Family size packet of chocolate buttons Mini chocolate fingers Mini rolos Mini marshmallows Mini candy canes Pink shiny edible balls Chocolate matchsticks Assorted jelly sweets TIP: We bought the majority of the sweets from poundland
Baking a gingerbread house I have amended the recipe as I found the oven was too hot and the only way we could vaguely get the gingerbread house to resemble a house was to bake the ginger bread house pieces in batches and trim them straight out of the oven (we baked the pieces two at a time and re-cut them with the cutters and then tidied up with a straight knife)
I have a fan oven and found 180 far too hot so baked the gingerbread at 150
Part One Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a large bowl (or electric mixer), then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won't quite come together, add a tiny splash of water NB: Refrigerate the dough for 15/30 minutes if it’s too soft (much easier to handle when lightly chilled I rolled it into a sausage shape in cling film and popped it into the fridge)
Put a sheet of baking paper on your work surface and roll about one quarter of the dough to the thickness of two £1 coins. Cut out one of the sections, then slide the gingerbread, still on its baking paper, onto a baking sheet NB: I found the dough stretches slightly so I eased it back into shape with side of a sharp knife when placed onto the baking tray
Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the trimmings, until you have two side walls, a front and back wall and two roof panels. Any left over dough can be cut into Christmas trees, men or candy canes if you like. NB: If you want the house to fit well together with a professional finish, bake two pieces at a time and re-trim with the cutters (and any stray edges with a sharp knife) as soon as they come out of the oven as they harden quickly. I left a five minute gap between baking each section to stagger the time between re-trimming.
Bake all the sections for 10/ 12 mins or until firm and just a little darker at the edges. Leave to cool for a few mins to firm up, then trim around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely.
Part Two Put the egg white in a large bowl, sift in the icing sugar, then stir to make a thick, smooth icing. Spoon into a piping bag with a medium nozzle. Pipe generous snakes of icing along the wall edges, one by one, to join the walls together. Use a small bowl to support the walls from the inside, then allow to dry, ideally for a few hours. NB: I used the empty icing box and iced the whole house, including the roof both times and it stayed put, not sliding.
- Decorate the roof panel with chocolate buttons, overlapping them to look like roof tiles - Line the roof top & house sides with matchsticks - Stick sweets around the door and on the front of the house - To make the icicles, start with the nozzle at a 90-degree angle to the roof and squeeze out a pea-sized blob of icing. Keeping the pressure on, pull the nozzle down and then off - the icing will pull away, leaving a pointy trail. Repeat all around the front of the house - Cut the chocolate mini roll or dipped Flake on an angle, then fix with icing to make a chimney, pipe a little icing around the top - If you've made gingerbread trees, decorate these now, too, topping each with a silver ball. - Lay a winding path of sweets, and fix gingerbread trees around and about using blobs of icing - Dust the roof with icing sugar for a snowy effect
Many Thanks to… Alan Wright for taking the gorgeous photographs : www.alanwrightphotography.co.uk
Your gingerbread house will be edible for about a week but will last a lot longer – Enjoy, Michelle & Daisy x