Image credit: thehometeacher.org
A big thank you to guest contributor Ruth Randall for this spooky and tasty tutorial!
Decorating gingerbread houses is fun anytime of the year, but at Halloween it’s even better, because the more mistakes the better…. er, spookier it is!
Here’s my method of making a haunted gingerbread house.
Before You Begin
We’re going to make this one from scratch. The good thing about making a gingerbread house from scratch is that the cookie dough obligingly comes out looking decrepit and well used – just like a broken-down haunted house should look.
(Note: if you’re really pressed for time, start out with a basic house kit. You can modify the front gable to be longer/taller, and you’re good to go!)
Plan an entire afternoon for your gingerbread house, and be prepared for a grand time with the kids. Let’s go!
Haunted Gingerbread House Materials
- Baking parchment
- Candy pieces (woohoo!) – follow our basics or substitute your favorites
- Decorating bags and tips
- A big apron
- House pattern on cardboard (an old cereal box will work)
- A free afternoon
- A haunted house kit or basic house kit, if you’ll be going this route
- 3 cups basic white flour (whole wheat is not recommended for houses)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ginger
- 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup oil
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 egg whites
- 6 cups confectioners sugar
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
Make Your Gingerbread House Pattern
To use my haunted house on the right, click on it for the full image. The shape in the guide is for the front and back of the house. Then measure rectangular walls and roofs with the measurements in the document.
Take the house shape you like and enlarge it to fill an 8-1/2” x 11” page. From there you may have to adjust angles or the height/width, by tracing it onto another sheet of paper so that it is just right.
Cut the pattern out of paper and then trace it onto poster board or light-weight cardboard (like a cereal box). Making a pattern out of paper won’t survive the first cut. Do this:
- Cut 2 of the shapes for the front and back.
- Decide how deep the house should be and mark that out along with the height of the wall to match.
- Cut out two rectangles for the roof pieces. Remember to make them large so they overhang, but not so large that the house can’t bear its weight.
Cooking the Gingerbread Pieces
- Before baking, decide if this house is going to be eaten or not; the baking time will be different, as well as the appearance of the house. I suggest making additional cookies to eat instead of trying to eat the house.
- Try to assemble the house before the kids are around. At this point they won’t be interested or of much help. It also means the house will be set and have less chance of collapsing while it’s being decorated.
- Turn your oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix the dry ingredients, then mix in the wet. I like the recipe above – it’s a trial and error modification from gingerbread cookies – but the basic cookie recipe is shown at the end of this article. Go with what you’re most comfortable with.
- Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment. I use parchment because it can be slid right onto the baking sheet- no moving house pieces and risking accidents or shape changes.
- Now it’s time to cut out the patterns! Sprinkle flour over the dough before laying down the pattern so that they lift up easier. Place your cardboard shape pieces on top and cut the patterns out right on the parchment. Lift away and clean and use your shapes next year.
- Slip the cut dough on a baking sheet and place in a hot oven.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. About 8 minutes through baking, take it out to re-cut the pattern pieces. This helps to keep the shapes the size they are supposed to be as they finish baking. (Or cut and separate them in the first place, but be very careful. Usually I just slowly peel away the dough between the shapes.) When done, remove from oven.
If the pattern is complicated, it is also very helpful in identifying which pattern piece is which. The pattern I used had several different pieces that were very similar. I labeled them with letters and then wrote the letters on the parchment before baking. It was very handy as they cooled!
Once they are done, let them cool.
Icing Your Haunted Gingerbread House
Using the recipe above, start by adding 1 cup of sugar to the other ingredients, adding one cup of sugar at a time while mixing. Whip this together for about 5 minutes and voila! Gingerbread house cement. Seriously.
Cover the mix with a damp towel so it does not dry out. You can also use 2 t of water and 2 t of powdered egg whites or meringue if you don’t want to use egg whites.
Then, feed it into a thick plastic bag with a small hole cut at the end.
There are two schools of thought about how to ice a gingerbread house: pre-assembly and post-assembly. I’ve done it both ways, and the only difference is how perfect the house looks.
Last year’s house was iced post-assembly and we were dismayed to see the windows run and drip. But in the end it had a rather eerie effect that we liked. Icing before putting the house together makes details much easier., but young kids may not be as interested, because … well, it doesn’t yet look like a haunted house!
You can also check out Pinterest for decoration ideas. I do!
What if You Don’t Have Time to Do it From Scratch?
Yes, creating your gingerbread from scratch can take a while, especially if you aren’t set up for cookie decorating with bags and equipment. Luckily, that’s where kits come in.
A kit comes with pre-cooked house shapes, icing, candy, and the decorating bags and tips. The kit I bought this year had bat candy – and it was already assembled. I just needed to decorate it.
It doesn’t get much easier than that!