Lisa Anderson Author of “No-Bake Gingerbread Houses for kids” shares secrets to success when it comes to making gingerbread houses with kids.
No-Bake Gingerbread Houses for Kids
Lisa Turner Anderson
My 4 favorite candies:
• Gumdrops and other jelly candy: these are great because they come in lots of bright colors, you can easily cut them into different shapes, and they’re incredibly sticky so you can use them to stick pieces of candy together (royal icing doesn’t always work when trying to glue two pieces of candy together). I’ve used them to make tulips, mushrooms, penguins, trees and flower bushes, and more.
• Green sour straws: these are the best candy for making grass and flower stems. You can cut them into small strips and they really look like grass!
• “Gourmet” jelly beans: a big bag of these comes in so many different colors, and the speckled ones can be used to make cobblestone paths and stone houses.
• Chiclets: these are great for making windowpanes. You can use the yellow ones to make the windows look like they are lit up, or the purple ones to make the windows look dark. They can also be used as bricks or shingles.
2 tips for no-bake gingerbread houses:
• Royal icing is a must because it is so strong and dries to a hard finish. It will keep the house together as you’re working on it and will make sure it stays put together once you’re done. My best tip is to use meringue powder—it’s much safer to eat than raw egg whites, and it’s so easy to use. You just add water, beat it until stiff peaks form, then add powdered sugar. Meringue powder is available anywhere cake decorating supplies are sold.
• Cookie stacks: to easily make a cylindrical structure like a tower for a castle, glue cookies together in a stack.
Recipes and project instructions
Meringue Powder Royal Icing
1/4 cup meringue powder
1/2 cup water
4 cups powdered sugar
Beat the meringue powder and water together until the meringue has formed stiff peaks. Beat in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until mixed together and smooth.
The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
2/3 batch purple royal icing
1/3 batch green royal icing
13 (2 3/4-inch) soft bakery cookies
Graham crackers (see diagram)
Green licorice snaps
Rainbow Airheads Xtremes
Green sour straws
1. Using the purple icing, “glue” eight cookies together in a stack. This will make the main part of the shoe. Cut the remaining cookies in half. “Glue” six cookie halves together in a stack. Turn the stack flat side down and place it against the stack of whole cookies. “Glue” three cookie halves together in a stack. Place this little stack at the end of the sideways stack to make the toe of the boot.
2. To make the roof, cut a half cracker in half diagonally to make two triangle pieces. “Glue” one triangle piece upright on top of the whole-cookie stack, at the back. “Glue” the second triangle on top at the front of the stack. “Glue” a half cracker on each side to make the roof.
3. Frost the entire shoe, except the roof, with purple icing. “Glue” green licorice snaps to the roof using green icing. Use green icing to make shoelaces.
4. Make the windows using yellow Chiclets for the windowpanes and Airheads Xtremes for the shutters. Make grass from green sour straws cut into small pieces. Use bits of gumdrops to stick the grass to the shoe. Make mushrooms from pieces of red and white gumdrops.
1/2 batch brown royal icing
1/2 batch royal icing divided into hot pink, turquoise, yellow, purple, and green
Graham crackers (see diagrams)
Vanilla wafer cookies
1. To make the front and back of the hut, use brown icing to “glue” a horizontal point graham cracker to a whole graham cracker along the long edges. “Glue” a quarter cracker across the seam to help the two pieces stay together. Repeat with the second triangle piece and another whole cracker.
2. To make the roof pieces, cut a whole cracker in half diagonally to make two long triangles. “Glue” a triangle to a whole cracker along the long edges. “Glue” a quarter cracker across the seam. Repeat to make a second roof piece.
3. Put together the hut using the front and back pieces and two half crackers for the sides. “Glue” the roof pieces on top, so that the shortest edge of the roof is at the bottom and the long pointed edges meet at the top.
4. Cover the hut, including the roof, with brown icing. Cover the roof with pieces of Shredded Wheat.
5. “Glue” two Andes Mints horizontally to the front of the hut to make the door opening.
6. Using the different colors of icing, draw a door frame and designs on the front of the hut. Draw a tiki mask on either side of the door frame.
7. Make palm trees by “gluing” pretzel rods topped with pieces of spearmint leaves and position them next to the hut. Make bamboo torches using pretzel sticks with pieces of orange gumdrops stuck to the tops for flames. Stick the torches into spearmint leaves and place them in front of the hut.
8. Crush the vanilla wafer cookies in a food processor to make sand. Spread the sand around the hut, making sure to cover the bottoms of the torches.
Pink Castle in the Clouds
1/3 batch white royal icing
1/3 batch pink royal icing
1/3 batch purple royal icing
33 vanilla wafers
5 ice cream cups
5 waffle cones
Graham crackers (see diagrams)
Purple jelly candy
Pink candy sticks
Pink cotton candy
1. To make one front tower, use white icing to “glue” five vanilla wafers together in a stack. “Glue” the bottom of an ice cream cup to the top of the cookie stack. Repeat to make the second front tower.
2. Breaking off small pieces at a time, gently remove about 1 inch from the top rim of a waffle cone. (This will help it fit better into the ice cream cup.) Using a serrated knife, gently saw about 1 inch off the bottom of the cone to make a hole for the candy stick. Turn the waffle cone upside down and “glue” it into the top of one of the towers. Repeat for the second tower.
3. Repeat the first two steps to make the two back towers, except use seven vanilla wafers for each tower. Make the center tower in the same way, except use nine vanilla wafers. Be careful with the towers—they can easily fall down until they’re stabilized.
4. To make the front of the castle, “glue” two three-quarters crackers together along the long sides. “Glue” a quarter cracker across the seam to help the two pieces stay together. “Glue” the two shortest towers to either side of the graham cracker wall.
5. Make each side of the castle by “gluing” a three-quarters cracker vertically between a short front tower and a medium back tower.
6. Make the back of the castle by “gluing” the remaining two three-quarters crackers together along the long sides. “Glue” a quarter cracker across the seam. “Glue” this wall between the two back towers.
7. Place the tallest tower inside the castle and “glue” it against the back wall.
8. Cut brick shapes from purple jelly candy. Frost the entire castle except the waffle cones in pink icing. While the icing is still wet, stick the “bricks” to the towers and walls. Draw a castle gate using purple icing.
9. Frost the waffle cones with purple icing, then put a candy stick inside each waffle cone hole. Cut flag shapes out of pink gum and “glue” them to the top of each candy stick.
10. Spread cotton candy around the base of the castle for clouds.
For more tips and projects, visit Lisa’s website at nobakegingerbreadhouses.wordpress.com.