You may not know this about me, but I am a champion gingerbread house maker. No really, when I was growing up I won the gingerbread house contest at the library three straight years in a row. Impressed? You probably should be. The ones I can remember were a Hansel and Gretal type cottage with a thatched (shredded wheat) roof, and a two-story English tudor style mansion. I really owe it all to my art teacher mom who taught us all the cool tricks to making unique gingerbread houses. When Emma suggested we make a house for the blog this year, I almost leapt out of my seat. I had Palm Springs on my mind at the time, and it seemed like the perfect style of house to "candify" for this project. Houses like this one are pretty involved, so instead of an exact DIY, I'll share my top tips for making a gingerbread house so you can make your own idea!
1. Think outside the box. Listen, any gingerbread house is cute, but to take it to the next level, try to think of an idea that's different from the standard house. Put your house in a tropical location, make a French country cottage, or maybe a Swiss ski chalet for a winter house twist. The more unique the location, the better!
2. Royal icing is your friend. If you've made a gingerbread house before, you can probably sing your own praises about royal icing. It's great because you can make big batches of it, tint it as needed, and use it in lots of different ways. You can spread it with a spatula for larger areas of color (like I did on the sides of my house), or you can put it into a baggie, cut off the corner tip, and use it as decorative piping or to glue something in place. I used this recipe this year.
3. Cheat! It's not the SAT/ACTs, people. You are free to cheat in any way you can think of when it comes to gingerbread houses. Since I was planning on covering all angles of my house with either graham crackers or icing, I didn't choose gingerbread as the base of the house and used a foam core structure instead. Another cheat is to use hot glue as needed. Even though the royal icing is what's holding almost everything in place, there were a few times I needed a little bit of hot glue to really secure the item. Ain't no shame in my hot glue game. Also, those palm trees weren't going to stand up that tall without a little help. I glued wire structures to the base so I could slide the cookie tubes down onto the wire. The palm tree leaves got some help from a thin wire as well.
4. First search for the candy versions of items you need (even if they are weird). Spending some time doing an Internet search or scouring your local candy stores before you try and make it yourself can really pay off (and you may be surprised at what you find)! I couldn't believe it when I found a chocolate mold for a prickly pear cactus, but it was exactly what I needed for my landscape. And since it was a mold that I could do myself, I was able to mix my own colors. Who would have thought that existed?!
5. Think about levels. Adding some levels to your gingerbread landscape can really give your house some depth and make it feel more realistic and interesting. Even though my house is a one story ranch-style house, the towering palm trees add a lot of height to the scene. I even made the base of the house two layers thick with foam core so I could cut out the pool in the top layer. That way it would actually sink into the ground.
6. Don't forget the details! I think gingerbread houses are really made in the details. It's the little things like mixing different colors of cacti and shrubs, adding little stone retainer walls around all the plants, placing an inner tube in the pool, or making two tiny pool loungers with a beach towel on the chair. And I know it's not edible, but isn't that vintage pink bug just to die for?? These are the things that really make the house come to life, so don't get so caught up in the big things that you miss adding some small touches too.
In case you're wondering what all the items are, here are a few charts to identify all the materials I used. With the exception of the cactus molds, the pink car, and the bulk order of green sprinkles, all the materials were found locally either at a candy store or just at the grocery store.
This is probably one of my favorite projects that I've done this year. It was just too much fun! I can't wait to start thinking of ideas for next year. What kinds of unique gingerbread house would you like to see? xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Project Assistant: Josh Rhodes. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.