Every year my family makes a gingerbread house for the Christmas season. When my brother and I were young we made simple houses with lots of candy and little design. However, as the years rolled by my mom and I became more and more elaborate in our gingerbread house designs. It’s a wonderful tradition that is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. We’ve done Christmas in 100 Aker Woods, a ski resort, a log cabin, a waterwheel, and many others. This year, we drew our inspiration from Tuscany. Here’s a quick how-to guide.
First, the inspiration. Take some time to decide on your inspiration and map out the overall plan. This year we used Bramasole (pictured below) as our design, and we named our house “Seasons under the Tuscan Sun.” I wanted to capture all the seasons of Tuscany, so this seemed fitting.
When you don’t use a pre-made design you need to put on your architect hat and make your own!
It’s best to roll the gingerbread out pretty flat, and it needs to cool completely before you begin assembling the house.
The number one rule in gingerbread house making: flexibility. Things will likely go wrong at some point, so you need to go with the flow. This time we spent about 2 hours trying to work with small pieces of styrofoam to form the base of our hill, only to realize it was not going to happen and that we had a lovely, large piece of styrofoam which worked much better. Four hours into the morning we had a base!
You WILL make a mess.
Next we prepped the windows.
Typically we assemble the house next, but since we were doing terra cotta walls and roof we prepped these first. It’s important to use royal icing, which dries quickly and completely, and also high quality food coloring (not the cheapo watery 4-pack ones).
Part of the planning process is getting the right candy for decorations. We brainstormed using various colors of twizzlers for the terra cotta roof, and were thrilled when we stumbled on all the colors we needed in a store in California!
It’s best to assemble the walls of the house and let them rest for a bit to allow the icing to firm up before putting the roof on (but don’t let it dry completely in case you need to adjust the walls to fit the roof).
Typically we use the royal icing as snow in a wintry scene and put it on any sections that need extra support, so this was a trickier house since we didn’t use snow. But, our architectural plans worked and it stayed standing! You can use cans or other items to hold up the walls or other components as it dries if needed.
The past few years we’ve gotten into using fondant, which is pretty easy to make. This year we used a fluff+sugar recipe.
It’s all about the details!
Make sure you block out plenty of time in your schedule, as it will take longer than you think! This one took us 3 full days (and by full I mean up until midnight full). So worth it!
Fall: ready to harvest grapes
Winter: Christmas decorations
Working on this brought back so many wonderful memories of Italy!
Did I mention you’ll make a mess?!
The finished product: