Crafting homemade gingerbread houses is more than a baking endeavor; it’s a delightful holiday tradition that brings joy and a heavenly aroma to your home. This recipe offers the perfect balance of spices and sweetness, resulting in gingerbread that’s not only ideal for constructing sturdy and attractive houses but also delicious to eat. Say goodbye to store-bought kits and hello to a memorable, hands-on experience that ends in a delectable treat!

There’s something magical about gingerbread houses that encapsulates the spirit of the holidays. As a baker who cherishes holiday traditions, I love the process of mixing, baking, and assembling these gingerbread masterpieces. It’s an activity that invites creativity and togetherness, turning the kitchen into a festive workshop. The result? Not just a charming edible decoration, but also an opportunity to create lasting memories.

Assembled homemade gingerbread house

The Chemistry of Gingerbread

The science behind the perfect gingerbread house lies in the ingredients and their interactions. The combination of baking soda and acidic molasses in the dough causes it to rise slightly, creating a firm but not too hard texture. Spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg add not only flavor but also contribute to the dough’s firmness when baked. Proper chilling of the dough is crucial; it allows the fat to solidify, making the dough easier to handle and helping the houses retain their shape during baking.

Why chill gingerbread dough before baking?

Chilling the dough solidifies the fat, making it easier to cut into shapes. It also helps the gingerbread retain its shape during baking, ensuring precise edges for house construction.

Can you eat a gingerbread house?

Absolutely! This recipe is designed not just for building but also for eating. The gingerbread is delicious and has a perfect balance of spices and sweetness.

Freshly cut gingerbread house
unassembled gingerbread house

How do you ensure the gingerbread pieces fit together well?

Recut the shapes with the cookie cutters right when the cookies are done baking, while they are still hot from the oven. This ensures precise edges for a perfect fit when assembling the house.

What’s the best way to assemble a gingerbread house?

Use royal frosting as the ‘glue’ to assemble the houses. It dries hard and sturdy, holding the pieces firmly together.

Assembled homemade gingerbread house on a cake platter

What is in gingerbread?

All-purpose Flour

Builds structure as it absorbs liquids and expands. All-purpose flour falls in the middle of bread flour (high in gluten) and cake flour (low in gluten). It’s exactly what it is named, all-purpose, the most universal flour that can be used in most baked goods.

Baking Soda

Elevates the pH level of your batter or dough. It increases the spread in your treat and encourages browning, which gives the crispy outside and soft inside texture that everyone loves. Baking soda needs both an acid and a liquid to react. Things that will activate your baking soda are: vinegar, fruit juice, molasses, brown sugar, tartar, buttermilk and sour cream. Baking soda only reacts once, which is right when it’s mixed into your batter or dough. The soda creates little air bubbles all throughout your treat. When the air bubbles get heated up in the oven, they expand.

Ginger

A seasoning that adds a nice spice to your treat.

Cinnamon

A seasoning that adds a nice spice to your treat.

Cloves

A seasoning that adds a nice spice to your treat.

Nutmeg

A seasoning that adds a nutty flavor to your treat.

Fine Sea Salt

Enhances flavor, adds balance, masks any bitter flavors. Salt is the most powerful and oldest preservative. Always make sure to use fine sea salt so it melts down at the right speed in the heat of the oven. If you use larger granule salt, it will not melt down fully when baked and will leave salt crystals throughout your treat, making it crunch like you dropped it into sand.

Unsalted Butter

It is always important to use unsalted butter when baking. If you use salted butter, you have no way of knowing how much salt you are adding to your dough or batter and it will result in an overly salted treat.

Butter adds fats to your dough or batter which helps with moistness, flavor and texture. Butter melts at body temperature, which creates a ‘melt in your mouth’ sensation.

When baking with butter the temperature is important. If the butter is too warm your treat will melt down too fast and overspread in the oven, leaving you with a greasy, flat mess. If your butter is too cold it will have the opposite problem and not melt down enough, leaving your treat too thick.

Brown Sugar

Is granulated sugar with a little molasses mixed in. Molasses is a somewhat smoky flavored natural sweetener, which makes brown sugar a bit sweeter than granulated sugar. Brown sugar draws more moisture into your treat, keeping it softer for longer. It’s also more acidic, which means it will help activate your baking soda.

Eggs

Adds both a protein (egg whites) and fat (egg yolks). The egg whites help with rising because, when foamed, little air pockets get trapped inside the egg white mixture. The water content in egg whites encourages steam while baking, which helps with gluten formation, resulting in nice and thick treats. Egg yolks have emulsifying properties that bring batters and doughs together and help them from collapsing. Unless otherwise specified, always use large eggs.

Molasses

Is a natural sweetener with a distinct tangy flavor. Molasses is able to absorb water, which adds more moisture into your baked treat. Not only it will help your treat have an extended shelf life, it also keep it soft and chewy for longer.

Vanilla Extract

When using pure vanilla extract, as opposed to imitation flavoring, it will add the deep rich flavor that everybody wants in a treat.

an assembled gingerbread house side view

How to store baked gingerbread houses

Unassembled gingerbread pieces can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Assembled gingerbread houses, depending on the humidity, can last as a decoration for several weeks before being eaten.

Making Ahead

The dough can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator before rolling out and baking.

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Gingerbread house assembled and one not

Why make homemade gingerbread houses?

Gingerbread houses are a quintessential holiday activity, ideal for the weeks leading up to Christmas. They’re perfect for family gatherings, holiday parties, or as a fun weekend project during the festive season.

Recipes You May Love

Gingerbread Houses

5 from 1 vote
Author: Madison Reid
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Servings: 2 houses
Homemade gingerbread houses, make your house smell like heaven and eat your delicious decorated house instead of just throwing it away!

Ingredients 

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • In a standing mixer whip the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Make sure to scrap the bowl down every 30 seconds to properly cream the butter and sugar.
  • Add the eggs and stir until combined.
  • Add the molasses and vanilla extract and stir until combined.
  • In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
  • Turn the standing mixer on the slowest speed and slowly pour in the dry ingredients.
  • Stir until the dough all comes together.
  • Place the dough on a parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is your desired thickness. I like to roll it out to 1/4th inch.
  • Place the flattened dough on a cookie sheet, still wrapped between parchment paper and plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • After the dough has chilled, remove from the fridge and preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  • Cut the dough into house shapes, this will be enough dough for 2 large houses.
  • Place the dough on a light metal cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes – you want to bake until the cookies are hard to build a house.
  • Remove from the oven. While the cookies are still hot from the oven, I like to recut the cookie shapes with the cookie cutters. This will make your cookies the perfect shape so the house puzzle will build correctly.
  • After you cut the cookies for the second time, let them set on the hot cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Then remove the cookies and let them finish cooling off of the pan.
  • Assemble the houses with royal frosting and decorate with candies

Have you tried this recipe?

I’d love to see it! Follow @_mrs.madi_ on Instagram and tag your photos with #mrsmadi.

Gingerbread House with Title