9 Genius Tips From a Professional Baker to Build the Perfect Gingerbread House

This sweet insider intel will set you up for gingerbread house success (finally).

Gingerbread house decorating tips
Photo: Getty Images

We dream of the holiday season all year long. When else is it par for the course to perfect three types of pie, bake a bouche de noel, and ice some six-dozen sugar cookies—all in the span of a week?

That said, taking on a gingerbread house can be a treacherous endeavor (and we mean beyond the obvious Hansel-and-Gretel reasons). Baking, building, and beautifying an entire structure is daunting. Many go for the pre-cut gingerbread house kits, which is a fine choice.

But if you think this might be the year to finally try one yourself, we've got instructions. And we spoke with Kathy Krupa, culinary expert and food stylist at Wilton, about what you should know about gingerbread before you're knee-deep in icing trying to keep the roof from crumbling.

01 of 09

Set Aside Plenty of Time and Space

According to Krupa, the top tip for gingerbread house decorating is to take your time with the prep work. Clear a large portion of your countertop or kitchen table to lay out your cookie pieces, icing, piping bags and tips, candy melts, gumdrops, sprinkles, and so on. Clutter will cause stress and spillage. To truly make your life easy, use a turntable.

02 of 09

Trim Your Edges Until They're Even

"Make sure all your pieces are even and flat," says Krupa. "Personally, I like to put the pieces back to back and shave the edges with a sharp paring knife or a micro planer to make sure they are even." When you eventually seal them together with icing, the sides of each piece will be perfectly flush with one another. This will help make the gluing process (literally) seamless.

03 of 09

Decorate Before You Build (Seriously)

Here's a smart tip you might not have considered: Decorate your house before you assemble it. According to Krupa, starting with the embellishment sets you up for success. "It's a lot easier for me to decorate the house pieces while they are flat," she says. "You can rotate the pieces so you can get to every spot and nothing will get in your way."

When you're done decorating, let your designs set for 30 to 60 minutes before you assemble. Once you've put the house together, cover your seams and add your finishing touches.

04 of 09

Apply Icing With a Less-is-More Approach

When binding the house together, Krupa warns against using a heavy hand with the frosting, especially if you decide to assemble the house before you decorate. "I recommend using a piping tip to pipe a line of icing over the edge of the panel," she says. "Then hold it in place for 30 seconds. You can also use cans or jars to help hold the house in place."

05 of 09

Leave Plenty of Time to Dry—and Stock Up on Candy Melts

If you are assembling first and decorating second, it's essential to give your gingerbread house time to dry before you decorate. Krupa says that four hours is ideal. "However, if you want to speed this process up, try using candy melts as your 'glue.'

Carry out the assembly by piping candy melts along the edges of the house. "Then place the gingerbread house in the fridge for about 15 minutes, and you'll be ready to decorate." Bonus: Candy melt disks serve as an excellent shingled roof.

06 of 09

Go With Buttercream Icing

While royal icing and buttercream frosting both work well, Krupa recommends the latter. "Buttercream spreads easier, it's easier to pipe, and it takes to color well if you decide to add food coloring." Either homemade or storebought is fine. Whatever type of icing you choose, have plenty on hand.

07 of 09

Find the Right Icing Consistency

The consistency of your icing is incredibly important. Before you start working, Krupa recommends squeezing the icing into a bowl and stirring it well. If it seems soft, add some powdered sugar or cornstarch—one teaspoon at a time. If your icing seems too stiff, you can add water—just a few drops at a time. Seriously, we're looking for just right.

08 of 09

Practice Before You Pipe

For a perfect-looking house, draw it before you pipe. "You can use a FoodWriter
[edible marker] and a ruler to draw perfect windows and doors," says Krupa. "You can also use round cutters to help draw a perfect wreath and scalloped garland." Many of the Wilton gingerbread kits are now embossed with doors and windows to make it easier to create that perfect house, too.

09 of 09

Don't Forget to Detail It

Adding details to your house can take it to the next level and make you a pro in no time. Try using a spatula or spoon to ice the board around the house. For a perfect snowy wintery scene, dust your board with sprinkles. You can create some easy ombre trees for the yard, too: Simply tint the icing in a variety of shades of green and use star tips like Wilton tips 199, 21, and 1M to pipe.

"If you have ice cream cones, use that piping tip on an upside-down cone to create an evergreen-looking tree," Krupa adds. "And a little dusting of powder sugar on top of each creates a magical winter wonderland!" If you don't have any cones, try using the same tip and pipe them on parchment paper. Let them dry and place them on your board.

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