Last year, I started a few new traditions, one of which was building a Gingerbread House (or any type of gingerbread construction project) every Christmas. This turned out to be challenging on so many different levels. I had never baked gingerbread before, never made royal icing before, and had never even decorated a pre-made Gingerbread House. After weeks of debating buying gingerbread kits, or a pre-made house, I just bit the bullet and decided to do it myself from scratch. I generally prefer to do things from scratch, as it gives me a larger amount of control over the project, and I knew the control-freak in me would not be happy with anything less than a project in which I had total control of every aspect of it.
So after weeks of planning in my head, I found an easy recipe, drew up some simple templates, and started the process. As it was my first ever gingerbread project, I wanted to keep it simple, mainly to test out the recipes, and the construction.
I think, for a first attempt, it turned out pretty well, especially considering all the Gingerbread House fails I had seen online during my research.
I encountered problems with almost every part of this process, and I noted them down here, so I could fix them for my next gingerbread construction project.
- I read a tip online saying that cardboard templates were a great idea. They are not. It took ages to cut the thick cardboard into templates and when I put it on the rolled gingerbread, it got stuck and bits of gingerbread came off the baking tray.
- I ended up making templates out of baking paper which is not the best idea as it is quite thin and very slippery.
- There was way too much ginger in my recipe. I like my gingerbread with a hint of ginger. I do not like it burning my throat.
- During baking, the gingerbread did not just expand, parts of it stretched, so the windows ended up off-centre. I fixed it by cutting them and making them larger but it felt like it defeated the purpose of templates in the first place.
- The well baked gingerbread hardened very quickly, so trimming the shapes after baking proved difficult.
Assembling and decorating
I am really glad I was smart enough to decorate the pieces before assembling them, because there is no way I could have decorated them after I had assembled them.
- The royal icing was HARD to pipe.
- I made the royal icing runny, so that it would be easier to pipe, but when assembling, it kind of just dripped down the gingerbread continuously.
- White royal icing really stands out against the brown gingerbread so when it ends up dripping all over the place, it really shows up.
So for my Gingerbread Project this year, I managed to fix most of the problems I had last year, which made the experience a whole lot better. Have a look at my Gingerbread Project, 2016, for my amended recipes and construction tips.