Save your gingerbread house from ho-ho-ho-hum

Want to make memories with your kids or grandkids during the holidays? No judgment if you dropped that gingerbread house kit into your grocery cart.

You don’t have to make everything from scratch, says Chef Andrea Huerta, San Jacinto College culinary arts program director. (In fact, don’t try Huerta’s gingerbread sheet recipe unless your KitchenAid mixer can handle one gallon of molasses and 14 pounds of flour.)

Gingerbread house
Culinary students' gingerbread houses

Each year, San Jac quantity baking and cake decorating students construct a massive gingerbread village to display at the North Campus Cosmetology and Culinary Center.

Students put the final touches on this year’s project Dec. 2, and the village will be on display at the North Campus until Dec. 8. Afterward, it will go to the MD Anderson Hospital for a fundraising event for The Child Life Project. Students will recreate the village in the hospital lobby alongside other donated gingerbread creations from Houston businesses.

You might not be constructing a gingerbread village, but you can take your gingerbread house kit to the next level. For starters, ditch the icing packet.

“The icing that comes with these kits is not stiff enough, and often the houses come crashing down,” Huerta said.

She shares her royal icing recipe to keep your small-scale project from collapsing and these tips to make it rise above the ho-ho-ho-hum. Happy decorating!

Royal Icing (makes enough to fill 18-inch pastry bag)

Ingredients:

  • 2-pound bag of powdered sugar, plus more if needed
  • 6 egg whites from pasteurized eggs

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or by hand with a whisk, blend the egg whites into the sugar. Icing should be very stiff but not dry, resemble buttercream icing, and hold its shape without flooding back together.
  2. To adjust the consistency, add more powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time) to make stiffer or add egg whites or water (1 teaspoon at a time) to make looser.

Pro Tips:

  • When you assemble the gingerbread house, join the walls together with the royal icing and wait 15 minutes for the icing to set. Then put on the roof and also allow it to dry about 15 minutes. This will stabilize the structure so it can bear the weight of candy and decorations.
  • Let kids pick out extra candy for decorating. There can never be enough.
  • We live in a very humid environment, so keep hard candies like peppermints, Jolly Ranchers, and lollipops wrapped. These candies tend to melt on the house and get sticky if left on display.