I love crafting, especially for the holidays! Making simple crafts is a great way to spend time with your kids.
Learn From My Mistakes - I Had to Learn the Hard Way
Tonight I helped my granddaughter put together and decorate a pre-fab gingerbread Christmas village. What a freakin’ pain in the... oh, oops I mean what a wonderful memory we will share.
Maybe there are some really crafty people out there that this Christmas project would be a cinch for, but I’m not one of them. If you haven’t done this before and are thinking about building a gingerbread village, let me give you a few tips to smooth the way. Perhaps you can learn something from my mistakes.
Tips for Avoiding Gingerbread Disaster
- If you are building gingerbread houses with kids under about 12, you'll be better off if you put the houses together yourself first. They won’t be able to help and it can be very frustrating for them. The decorating is really the fun part anyway.
- The box says the gingerbread houses need to sit for an hour after assembly before you decorate them, I would say this is the bare minimum. I would recommend leaving them for at least three hours before you make any attempt at decorating them.
- Do not attempt to move the gingerbread houses immediately after assembly, they tend to come apart if you move them too soon. Choose a cool place where the finished houses can sit safely for a while until the icing sets.
- If you are building from a gingerbread village kit with more than one house, like I did, cut the pieces of one house out, then assemble it before cutting up the next one. Some of the pieces look pretty similar and you don’t want them to get mixed up.
- If you have a pastry bag, that will make putting the gingerbread pieces together somewhat easier, those plastic icing bags that come in the kits really don’t work very well.
- Don’t expect your gingerbread village to look like the picture on the box. Although, if you follow these tips it will probably come out looking considerably better than mine did.
If this helps even one person be more successful with assembling their gingerbread village, my job is done. I’m posting pictures of the results, but I really wish I had taken one of the colossal mess we made.
Oh well, enjoy the holidays and don’t let the grinch get you!
More Gingerbread Follies
This is a hilarious video. I especially like her use of a soda can to keep the roof from sliding off. However, I don't think it's actually "impossible," as ItsJillStrif on YouTube says, to make a great looking gingerbread house. It just takes practice and patience.
A Nice Gingerbread Village
This is a high speed video of building a gingerbread village with a more positive result. It's the same kit I used; I'm guessing that Jarrod Davis from YouTube has done this before.
He was much neater during the process than we were, we had a huge mess to contend with when we were done (at about midnight). I noticed in the video that the kids were present, but did not really participate in the process.
© 2016 Sherry Hewins
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on October 24, 2017:
Hi Sherry - I love the title of this one so had to read it. The video was great! We used to make homemade gingerbread houses. I'd make up the gingerbread ahead of time and we sort of duplicated our own home. It turned out so well no one would eat any of the candy and it sat around for months it was just that cute. We made one where everything was perfect but after everyone wandered off the whole thing collapsed sending tons of candy and goo all over the kitchen.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 17, 2017:
At one time, my mother had a mold pan for a gingerbread house. It made an actual, solid cake, but would not be edible, as in order for it to stand up, stay together and not crumble, the directions called for adding a considerable amount of extra flour to the gingerbread mix. It was a snap-together mold, and even with the thickened batter, it did leak some, and made a mess in the oven!
LOL! At least it did not have to be assembled; just frosted and decorated.
On the whole, though, I think such elaborate creations are best left to professional pastry chefs! ;-)
I did, however, think up a couple of possible solutions, based on my experience with a very different hobby, and my somewhat sketchy knowledge of cake decorating, based on both my daughters having taken the 'Wilton' classes.
1) Take a tip from the hobby modeler's toolkit, and use 't-pins' to hold all the bits together until the icing dries.
2) Try frosting the roof first, while it is laying flat, then assemble to the walls, and use those t-pins to hold it until dry.
3) Use 'royal icing' instead of regular, (even if thickened). Use it for both the frosting and the "glue." That is the stuff that gets HARD at room temperature.
It's what you're getting when you buy those pre-made letters and numbers that are "edible" in the cake decorating section. (Yeah--edible if you want to break a tooth!)
It's not hard to make; you just need some meringue powder, powdered sugar, and very little liquid...and beat the holy cr** out of it with a mixer for about 5 minutes. It will also keep for a couple of weeks or more in an airtight container WITH a layer of plastic wrap over the top, and touching the entire surface of the icing.
Have fun if you try it again!
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 16, 2016:
That sounds like a pretty intricate project, and not cheap either. Tasty though.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 13, 2016:
I definitely do not have the patience for a project like this. More power to you for trying, Sherry!
This weekend on The Kitchen they built a completely edible holiday log cabin. They started with a huge block of cream cheese, then added bread sticks as the logs, lattice type pretzels for windows, rye crisps for the roof tiles, pepperoni for the shingles, a small block of cheese as the chimney and used canned cheese to hold each piece together. It was really pretty when they were done and it looked easy to do.
teaches12345 on December 10, 2016:
I have tried making them before but they did not turn out like the picture on the box. I may just give it another try some time. You posted such a creative and enjoyable topic post.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 03, 2016:
Blond Logic - At least we had fun.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on December 03, 2016:
It was something I always wanted to make, but never did. I didn't even know they made kits.
I may give it a pass now.
In the first video when she panned to the house, I couldn't stop laughing, I think we have all had a disaster and tried to make the best of it.
In the second one, you're right, the kids didn't help much so what kind of memories is that making.
Sorry yours didn't turn out, but it sounds like you're in good company.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 03, 2016:
Adele - that's great advice!
Sharkeye11- It sounds like that plastic canvas one would last longer, and the gingerbread draws ants.
Mills P - I don't think we will be eating it. It will be pretty dusty by Christmas. We ate some of the candy though.
Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on December 03, 2016:
I hope that the house at least tasted good.
Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on December 02, 2016:
This made me smile, Sherry...but not at you. I am just sympathizing from a distance. I remember one year we attempted the gingerbread house kit (and we were teens at the time!) It turned out to be such a messy disaster that we gave up and made a 3-D gingerbread house from plastic canvas instead. It was a REALLY elaborate plastic canvas pattern that involved making tons of tiny parts...and it was way less frustrating than the gingerbread kit! (It did take longer though.)
SO, my heartfelt condolences on your crafting adventure. Still, those did turn out rather cute, and I'm sure in a couple of years this will become a fond memory to share. :)
Adele Jeunette on December 02, 2016:
I "built" one from a kit. As I remember, I glued some boxes of Jello to the inside to get the thing to stand up. I think my piece of advice would be--forget about making it edible and do what you have to so the thing will hold together.