Advice needed: gingerbread house building (graham crackers)

Not sure I understand how that would be used for this…?

Here is a different idea if you want strength instead of using icing.

Try chocolate as a “glue”

Get a squirt bottle (like a ketchup bottle) and fill it with chocolate wafers.
Microwave the chocolate for 1 minute at 50% power. Take it out and squish the bottle around. Then microwave for 45 seconds at 50% power, take it out, squish it, and continue that pattern decreasing the time 15 seconds until the chocolate is melted. Always remember to only use half power, anything greater and you can burn the chocolate.

Then you have a handy dandy method of applying the chocolate.
It cools rather quickly and is fairly strong.

Sometimes it’s easier to shave the pieces than to saw them. If you’re making an angle, using a saw is great. For your curves, Hockey Monkey is right - you need a way to “sand” the edges.

Royal icing requires air in order to harden, so you can make batches of it at home, seal it carefully in Tupperware, as airtight as possible, and transport it 30 minutes. It’s not like plaster of paris, where it sets up rock-hard whether it’s exposed to air or not.

I made all the batches of icing required at my home and transported them to the school.


**swampbear ** paged me! My very first private message on the SDMB!

Question: Does it absolutely, positively have to be graham crackers? Can you bring pieces of real gingerbread? Because is you can I’ll send you the recipe for the gingerbread I use in building my houses. Believe me, it’s not difficult. I can send it out this evening, I’m at work now, on break.

I do know the royal icing recipe by heart.

1 cup egg whites, at room temperature if possible
8-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Whip the egg whites for a minute or two, until they become foamy. Add the sugar and cream of tartar, mix until moistened, then beat at high speed until the mix is shiny white and peaks hold their shape without sagging. Keep it covered, it begins to dry out quickly.

Graham crackers are a pain, they are too brittle and you can’t build them up too high. But the recipe I’ll send is cheap to make and doesn’t swell with baking, as it has not baking powder or baking soda.

Heck, I’ll post the recipe later, (with info about the book it came from). It is very strong when baked, and can be cut. I use a box cutter or a serrated knife, depending on the king of cut I want to make. Or, if you have a piece of sand paper around the house, and just need to smooth down an edge, the sand paper works great! If you emboss, or try to imprint lines or a pattern on the gingerbread piece before baking, they don’t bake out.

Please do!

Yes Baker, please post the recipe!

lol. everything that **baker ** said. :smiley: the cream of tartar makes all the difference.

i too used to do the annual gingerbread house for years wth a bunch of gal pals.

eventually, we stopped making the gingerbread dough and started using the graham crackers because it took less time. as it was, it was an all-day project for us to each complete one fully decorated house.

what we did differently and it may violate the rules in your case, but we made cardboard traced copies of the original cookie cutters that cut out the dough for baking, and THEN glued the shaped crackers to the cutouts with royal icing.

the roof came in two sections, so we would cut up brown paper bags and ice the roof pieces to the paper (kind of like a book), let it dry a while and then lay the ‘book’ down on thickly-iced wall edges and end pieces. worked great and you’d never know there was cardboard and paper behind the walls and roof. much sturdier too; my house was eight years old when i finally threw it out this fall. the only reason it departed this world was because the candy was beginning to look its age.

after a lot of trial and error, we all settled on using exacto-knives to cut to size for both the cardboard and the crackers. for the crackers we learned to scrape SLOWLY through the thickness of the cracker instead of actually sawing. with a little practice, we got good enough to create graham cracker latticework for our window shutters. we also used the knives to bevel edges or make curves.

best of luck and show pictures when you’re all done.

Well, shoot, I had a long post and when I hit reply it said I wasn’t logged in. So I’ve lost it. Right now I don’t have the time to do it again, but I’ll post it again tonight. The gist was the recipe and a lot of recommendations on technique.

I know I was logged in though, should have saved as a document. Damn.

I’m going to be at a karate studio; I won’t have access to a microwave. Good idea otherwise, though.

Yes, it does. The karate studio is providing them. We’re allowed to bring our own decorations, but the contest is to see who makes the best “gingerbread house” out of the graham crackers they provide. And keep in mind there will also probably be about 50 kids running like maniacs all over the place while some kids and some parents try to make their gingerbread houses.

Fortunately I don’t need them to go high–the posterboard mockup I posted a picture of earlier is based on a 6" x 3" graham cracker (so a little bit bigger than a real one) and the bottom four walls, the big ones that slant out, are each only one cracker. The whole thing is only one and a half crackers high, and a decent bit of that is a tiny spire.

Scubaqueen: yeah that would violate the rules–the whole thing has to be edible. And the party is only from 6-8pm so it can’t take all day! Fortunately as I said, the house I’ve designed is very small. The mockup is 6" x 6" at the base and 9" high, and that’s overestimating the size of a graham cracker. I figured if I did something small I’d have time to get more complex with the details, rather than spending the whole time trying to assemble something big.

Thanks for the tips, guys! I think I may call around and see if any local bakeries sell that icing–I don’t know that my $6 store-brand hand mixer is up to the task of making it from scratch!

Baker: I look forward to the repost. (If you hit backspace twice really quickly sometimes, depending on what browser you are using, you can get back to the reply page and the form will still be filled in.) I couldn’t sleep last night so I planned the whole thing out in Illustrator. I’ll upload the “plans” in a sec, in case anyone is curious.

Ok keep in mind that this is me unable to sleep and thus making busywork–this is not me actually getting this anal about a graham cracker house! Heh.

The Plaaaaans!

It’s done to my logic–not sure if everyone else will follow or not. Anyway you can see how small it is. It takes about 17 crackers total, assuming none break.

Well, even though you can’t use real gingerbread I will post the recipe I use, as requested.

It is found in two books, Gingerbread for All Seasons, by Teresa Layman, and Gingerbread: Things to Make and Bake, by Teresa Layman and Barbara Morgenroth. I can’t praise these books enough, both have tons of pictures, recipes, advice on construction, and patterns for structures pictured. If they aren’t still in print they shouldn’t be too hard to find online, and are worth the search.

To avoid copyright issues I’ll print off the recipe but used my own words for describing mixing.

6-3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups light corn syrup
1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup margarine

To vary the color of the gingerbread you can use dark syrup, or molasses, or honey, or darker brown sugar

Sift together the dry ingredients. Place the brown sugar, the margarine, and the syrup in a heavy saucepan, and on medium heat stir the mix until the margarine is melted. Pour it over the dry ingredients and stir. It will get stiff, you may have to use your hands to mix completely. Let the dough chill for an hour or until it’s room temperature.

The dough can be rolled to any thickness, I usually roll a little over 1/8 inch. Place pieces on parchmant paper on sheet pan, bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

To make “glass” windows cut a hole for a window in wall pieces. Bake until almost done, remove pan from oven, and into the hole spoon crushed hard candies, like Jolly Ranchers, lollipops, and the like. Put pan back in oven. It won’t take long for the candy to melt, fill the hole, and bond to the edges of the hole, without glue. You can even use different colors, for a “stained glass” effect.

You can save this dough but it gets pretty hard in the refrigerator. If you take a lump and put it in the microwave, for about 10 seconds, it softens up without being cooked.

This recipe gets pretty hard, it can be cut with a box cutter or serrated knife. To smooth down a rough or uneven edge I use sandpaper.

If anyone has any more questions I can try to answer.

And I want pics of this affair! I’m a karate student too, but our school is very small.

That’s going to be quite the house! Good luck with it!
I often “do” gingerbread cottages for the whole family. That means baking all the bits, making all the icing to glue them together and allowing my kitchen to get turned into a warzone for one Saturday in December.

Wow! Who knew there were so many gingerbread house experts on the Dope (I knew Baker was one, but I wasn’t awake enough this morning to think of PM’ing her).

That design looks amazing, Opal. You’ll post pictures of the result, right? Good luck!


Assuming I don’t end up with “Entertaining Ruins” then yes, there will be photos :wink:

I don’t feel real smart right now or I’d post a link to Baker’s Norwegian Stave Church gingerbread “house” she did this year. I’m bettin’ she has pics to share if y’all ask real nice. It’s just the jakiest gingerbread house… errr… church evah!

I wouldn’t have the patience to do this with kids running around and a tight deadline. I don’t have much to contribute, except this. Judging by the shapes and angles required for the panels, it may be easier to use a fine coping saw to make the curves and angles that you need.

Good Luck!

BTW, nice work with the cardboard mock-up. This puts you ahead of the game since you’ve got your templates…clever cat.

So… How did it go???


We got there a little bit later than we hoped and all of the frosting was already “claimed” by other house-builders, and we hadn’t been able to find any royal icing for sale at any bakery, which meant that I was forced to try to build the structure of the house out of the decorative icing we’d brought, so I had to eliminate one whole section that it wouldn’t support. As such it didn’t really work out. I am in Atlanta right now for the holidays, but when I get home I will post a picture of the thing as it did come out. I kind of lost heart after not being able to do the whole thing, so I put in maybe 25% effort after that. Meh.