While gingerbread itself is thought to have originated from Greece in around 2400BC, gingerbread houses first started in Germany in the 16th century. Although gingerbread was baked and decorated for any special occasion up until this time, gingerbread houses became a distinct tradition around Christmas-time. They were often decorated with golf leaf for some extra sparkle.
In more recent years, gingerbread houses have started to bring out the competitive side in some people, with ever larger and more creative options appearing every year. The current record holder for the largest gingerbread house in the world is the Traditions Club in Texas, USA. This gingerbread house – constructed in 2013 – covered 234 square metres and stood over six metres tall. It also contained the equivalent of 35.8 million calories!
Here’s a gingerbread house you can make at home (and that will actually fit in your home!)
1kg plain flour
30g mixed spice
15g bicarbonate of soda
180g (4 large) eggs
450g light brown sugar
250g golden syrup
For the icing
3 large egg whites
675g icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan).
2. Cream the butter and sugar with a whisk until the mixture is smooth, then gently mix in the eggs.
3. Stir in all the dry ingredients, then mix in the golden syrup.
4. Roll the dough out until it is approximately 4cm thick.
5. Cut out the shapes for the gingerbread house as required.
6. Place the shapes on baking paper and cook for approximately 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Make the icing by whisking the egg whites together until the mixture is frothy. Then gradually add the icing sugar while whisking at a low speed. Spoon the icing sugar into a piping bag ready to decorate your gingerbread house.
Icing in a piping bag (see above)
A selection of small sweets and chocolates – M&Ms, chocolate buttons and fruit pastilles work well
1. Download a template for a gingerbread house.
2. Once you’ve baked your gingerbread using the recipe above, it’s time to get creative!
3. Design the roof first by putting spots of icing on the back of the chocolate buttons, then sticking them down in rows along each of the roof sections. If you’re using milk chocolate buttons, pipe icing along the bottom curve of each chocolate button for a snow effect.
4. On the main sections of the house, pipe icing to create windows and a door. Add your own decorations to the front of the house using sweets.
5. Spread some icing across the cake board to create a snow effect.
6. Next put the house together. First, pipe icing along the edges of each of the walls to stick them together, then place the house firmly in the ‘snow’ on the cake board. Attach the roof by sticking it together with more icing.
7. Decorate the snowy lawn with more sweets if you wish, then leave the gingerbread house to dry overnight.