How to Make DIY Gingerbread Houses

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!

How to Make Gingerbread Houses

 

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 DIY Gingerbread Houses

How to make gingerbread houses!

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!

To begin, we use cardboard boxes as the base for our gingerbread houses. We like a 4″x4″ sized box (it gets larger when you add the roof, graham cracker, and icing. You can use any size or shape however, the method is still the same. We usually save old cardboard, milk cartons, etc. You can also buy boxes online in any shape and size. Here is a link for 4×4″ boxes.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. The next day, flip houses over (right side up) and continue piping all remaining sides of house and roof. Allow to harden overnight.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.

DIY gingerbread house

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!

How to make gingerbread houses!

Gingerbread House Royal Icing

The perfect royal icing for use when making gingerbread houses! 
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Instructions
 

  • 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.
Keyword gingerbread houses, royal icing
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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!

  • jellybeans
  • M&Ms
  • cinnamon red hots
  • gumdrops (large and small)
  • marshmallows (even fun colored ones)
  • Necco wafers
  • butter mints
  • gumballs
  • 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!

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19 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! Love the video of you and your mom. I just ordered the boxes and plan to make and decorate with my granddaughter:)

  2. Rinne Sade says:

    Oh my goodness, what a fabulous video from a fabulous Mother/Daughter Team !!!! I must share that Courtney’s mom is one of my dear friends, and I was lucky enough to be at her very first Gingerbread House Tea Party in Charleston, SC. around the year 1988. I kept that sweet little gingerbread house and put it out every Christmas UNTIL 3 YEARS AGO, when it finally was “too tired” to show off any longer. However, one of my most treasured decorations for the holidays is a gingerbread house (with its tree beside it) that Courtney’s mom made for me in 1990 ( or earlier). I have carefully put it away every year, FOR 28 YEARS, in a large zip-loc storage bag (airtight, so no bugs can get to it) and I keep it in my den cabinet because the temperature inside here stays fairly constant… (NOT in the hot attic)! I would love for you to show a picture of my 28 year old work of art…. which might encourage others to save theirs year to year. You TWO are THE BEST !!!!! Charleston misses you both !!!!!!

    1. We love you, Rinne! This is so special!! We must see a picture of the house!!!

  3. The most gorgeous gingerbread houses I’ve ever seen!!! Did you make the large display house? If so, did you use graham crackers for that one, as well? What are the dimensions of the box you used for the base of the display house? Thank you so very much for your beautiful blog! It is so much fun to read. :)

    1. Hi Lynn! Thanks so much. The large one was made with real gingerbread, however, you could EASILY do this with graham crackers as well. I don’t know the exact dimensions of that large display house, if that’s the one you’re asking about. It was from several years ago. The little houses we make each year for the kids start off with 4″ square box. You can use any box, the method is the same!

  4. What a great idea! And they are so pretty! How much icing do you need to make to make two small houses? And if I have leftover icing after icing the bottoms, how do I save it for the next day to finish icing the house? I’m not great with icing and I am afraid with this recipe the icing will harden on me before I completely ice the houses.

    1. Jama, we usually make two-three batches of icing. As we make one batch and ice the bottoms of about 2-3 houses depending on size. Then we make another batch once the houses are flipped over to do the sides. Sometimes we need a batch and a half. Then whenever the kids decorate, we have a batch for that. We keep a damp rag over the icing while we are using it so it won’t dry out, but I don’t know that I would leave it overnight and try to use it the next day. It would likely harden.

  5. Beautiful!!!! Thank you so much for showing us how to make these. Will you please share the dimensions of the rectangle that is used for the roof. Thank you very much.

    1. 11″ by 5.5″ is what we used! You can totally eyeball it though. People have been sharing pictures with me and some have made even taller more pointy roofs that look super cute too!

  6. These are fabulous!! I love everything you put together!! My question is – we are expecting our first grandchildren next year..how old do you recommend they be before they have their first Gingerbread house tea party?
    Merry Christmas!
    Margo

    1. Hi Margo! We had ours at age 2 but instead of individual houses, they all decorated one larger house (that we donated to a local children’s home) so we found that doable as we could help them. I would say age 3 or 4 for doing their own house. Unless they each have an adult to help!

  7. Kathy Boedeker says:

    Hi Courtney,
    I am putting together a Christmas Tea party for next weekend and decided I would do the houses this weekend. One thing I have found that is missing or that I missed seeing if it is here. I had to run to the store for more hot glue sticks earlier and now I have discovered I need A Lot more graham crackers. I noticed that someone asked about ow much icing above and see you only get two or three houses out of a batch. That is A Lot of powdered sugar.

    Would be very helpful to have all that in your DIY info. I am making 13 houses so it looks like I am going to need 5 boxes of Graham crackers for that. Then for the icing I will need at least 8 bags of sugar and 18 eggs. Everyone should be prepared to use a lot of glue as well.

    I love the beautiful little houses and I know the girls will have fun and love them too. However, between the supplies to make them and the supplies to decorate them I don’t know if it is something I would be up to doing again.

    Ill follow up after the tea party.

    1. Kathy, They are time intensive and yes it takes a lot of powdered sugar. I have adjusted to clarify, but these gingerbread houses are fully comprised of graham crackers and icing so graham crackers and powdered sugar are going to be the main elements. Some people use different size boxes and some only make a few houses while others make dozens so they’ll need more or less. Costco sells powdered sugar in bulk, FYI. It’s definitely a big project which is why we devoted a post to explaining it. Some people don’t find it worth it (we love pre-made houses from stores for their needs) but some do enjoy making their own – even if it does use a lot of ingredients. I’ll be sure to make it extra clear that people need a lot of the items, but this is definitely a big project! Thanks for your comment and good luck on your tea party! :

      1. Kathy Boedeker says:

        Thank you so much for adding the additional information and the reply. I didn’t end up with as many houses as I originally planned but made enough for the 8 kiddos that would be doing them. I have to hand it to you and your mom. Between the houses and the tea party set up this was a big big undertaking and for the first time I found myself not being able to create the entire image I had in my head.
        On the plus side the kids didn’t know what I was expecting so they were not disappointed. I’ll send some photos.

  8. Hello! Thank you for sharing.

    My graham crackers did not stay in the box with the hot glue gun. Any suggestions?

  9. Do you have the dimensions of the roof and triangles?! Every house I do is so different…. which is cute but more time consuming!

  10. Thanks for these fabulous instructions! These were so cute. I helped my teenaged daughters make them and decorate for the little girls they babysit. We all had fun. Question – we had issues with the icing sliding and not holding the scallops. The first house we piped was great but the others looked like an avalanche occurred. Any tips? We only made one batch of icing at a time and worked quickly.

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