Hooray! I finally have our video and full DIY instructions for making your own gingerbread houses. My Mom has been making these houses for over 3 decades. We also make them each year for Blakely’s Gingerbread House Tea Party!
Now, for a disclaimer about these gingerbread aka “graham cracker” houses. These are “structurally sound” houses. They aren’t for eating later (gingerbread houses don’t taste great after the fact anyway), but they’re for enjoying throughout the season! We learned (the hard way) that trying to host a gingerbread house decorating party and begin with building the houses from scratch meant that attention spans were long gone and house walls were caving in by the time the decorating came around. We wanted to let kids get straight to the fun part (decorating) without worrying about a roof falling off.
My mom made her first big gingerbread house when we lived in Charleston, SC. We lived in an old Charleston single house, and my five-year-old brother wanted to make “his” house. During the first night of drying, the house gave way due to the weight of the candy and was leaning sideways by the next morning.
We certainly love fully homemade gingerbread houses (and still make these from time to time), but this method is what works best for us when hosting gingerbread house decorating parties for lots of little ones!
I’ve included written step-by-step instructions below as well as a video of us walking you through the steps to make these gingerbread houses!
DIY Gingerbread House Video Tutorial
How to Make Gingerbread Houses from Graham Crackers
You’ll notice a couple of “overnight” dries for these houses. If you are planning a party, make the houses in advance! The steps might look arduous but it’s really quite easy, it just requires a few “icing drying” days!
- Once you have your base cardboard box, cut out (from cardboard boxes) rectangles to create a roof. You can crease the cardboard rectangle in the middle to fold and create a roof shape. Leave a little overhang (1″ or so) on each side. Hot glue the “roof” to the base cardboard box.
- Cut (from cardboard boxes) triangles to fill in the open areas left after gluing the rectangle “roof” to the box. It doesn’t have to be perfect! The royal icing and graham crackers will hide any imperfections.
- Using regular honey graham crackers (be sure you have enough for the number of houses you’re making – always grab an extra box just in case), cut out shapes to fit all sides of the house. Use a “sawing motion” to score the graham cracker and gently break to desired shape. We don’t put graham crackers on the roof as we cover them completely in royal icing so it’s not needed, but you certainly can cover the roof with graham crackers in the same method!
- After all the graham crackers are glued to the sides of the box, turn the house upside down and place in a bowl (or any sort of container that allows the house to be upside down). Using a recipe of the royal icing (below) and a jumbo piping tip (either in a frosting tube or with a plastic bag), pipe all 4 sides of the bottom of the house. Allow to dry overnight.
- The next day, flip houses over (right side up) and continue piping all remaining sides of house and roof. Allow to harden overnight.
- When we host our gingerbread house parties, we usually place all the houses out at this point. As the children arrive, we smear royal icing on both sides of the roof first and sprinkle with sprinkles while it is wet. Then the kids can get to work decorating their roofs.
- We then fill frosting tubes with royal icing and pipe big swirls of frosting on each side as the kids decorate. If the kids are older, they can use their own frosting tube!
- After each house is complete, allow to harden overnight. We usually send kids home with their house placed in a gift box for easy transporting. The houses can even be stored in an airtight bag to be pulled out for future Christmas seasons.
You’ll notice above, we used decorative candy canes and peppermints to get the “look” of those candies but we wanted it to withhold weather and air as it was being displayed in the lobby of a local children’s home.
Get creative! Make JUMBO Gingerbread Houses, tall and skinny houses, a gingerbread house village, gingerbread houses churches, themed houses, etc!
How much icing do I need?
Some people are only making one house. Some are making dozens of houses.
So for simplicity sake, if you make your houses roughly the same size as we have, one batch of icing will pipe 2-3 houses. As you see from our instructions, we make ours in rounds so it can dry. So day 1, we make one double-batch of icing for the bottoms of all the houses and then flip those over and make another double-batch the next day to finish up the sides and tops of 2-3 houses (scale up as needed).
If you’re making 12 houses, you can imagine you’ll have to be making a lot of royal icing. Yes, you will! It can be time-intensive, but once you get the hang of making royal icing, it’s quick to whip up a new batch as long as you have extra ingredients. Yes, you’ll use a lot of powdered sugar (you can buy bulk at Costco – FYI).
We use the carton of Liquid Egg Whites but you can also crack your own eggs as well, just be sure it equals the measurements shown in the recipe below!
Gingerbread House Royal Icing
- 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together egg whites, powdered sugar and cream of tartar for about 3-4 minutes or until mixture is thick enough to hold a peak. You may need to add more powdered sugar, do so in 1/4 cup increments. Humidity/weather can also cause icing to be too loose/runny. You want to be sure you have stiff peaks, so increase powdered sugar until it's stiff. We find 5 cups to do the trick, but adjust accordingly.
- Since it dries quickly, keep the icing covered with a damp cloth while working.
Our Favorite Candies for Gingerbread Houses
We’ve learned (the hard way) that many candies don’t hold up to humidity in the air (especially down south). Traditional peppermints and candy canes will “drool” the red color all over the house. So we’ve learned which candies are ideal and listed out our favorites below! Of course you can use any candy you like, we just like these as they hold up for the whole holiday season!
- cinnamon red hots
- gumdrops (large and small)
- marshmallows (even fun colored ones)
- Necco wafers
- butter mints
- fruit slice chews
- sprinkles (of all shapes and colors)
- pretzel sticks
- teddy grahams and gingerbread cookies
In the non-edible category, we love to place a big ribbon bow on top of each house! We also make small bows to pass out to the kids to add to their houses. Tiny decorative ornaments from craft stores (mini snowmen, Santas, trees, etc) are also fun to pass out. The possibilities here are infinite and your imagination will kick in as your architectural skills expand.
Decorating with Gingerbread Houses
Since these are decorative gingerbread houses (and not for eating), we love to display them in several different ways throughout the Christmas season!
We love to display these gingerbread houses down the center of a table, on kitchen counters, or a holiday-themed mantle. They look fabulous when displayed on a cake stand. Blakely even asked for hers to sit on her nightstand one holiday season. As long as they’re up high enough from little hands (and dogs), they’re good to go!
To see more of our gingerbread houses, you can check out our Gingerbread House Tea Party here!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below! Be sure to watch the video tutorial (towards the top of the post) where my Mom and I walk you through the steps to make these gingerbread houses!