Thursday, 15 December 2011

DIY SOS: Gingerbread House Disaster

Last year, PB (pre-blogging) I made a Gingerbread House. It was ginormous, more of a mansion, and took A and I the best part of the first three months of the year to eat it.

Following the success of the mansion, this year I decided to dabble in a little property development, and attempt a miniature village.

I think I expanded too soon. After last year's heady optimism about how easy this gingerbread house lark was, this year was, in the words of Craig Revel-Horwood off of Strictly, a 'dissssassstar'. To fix this, I needed the combined efforts of Grand Designs, DIY SOS and...erm... Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen  (Come back! Your crazy shirts are forgiven!).

It took no less than seven attempts, two different types of 'icing glue', several choice,  most un-festive words and I still had what I believe they call in the trade a 'structural deficit':

In other words bloomin' house No 1 collapsed. Was my gingerbread too soft (I'd left it a day before assembling)? Was my icing not thick and 'gluey' enough? Were my walls too wonky? Was it the festive Egg Nog(s) I'd consumed?

I was about to resort to using bloomin' Pritt Stick, when I remembered that actually, often in baking, its the taste that counts. I abandoned the concept of a village of houses and while gingerbread Lawrence surveyed the damage:

(Yes, this really is a sad faced gingerbread Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen):

A and I tucked right in. The gingerbread was real tasty. And this was the recipe:

125g soft unsalted butter
75g dark muscovado sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
100ml golden syrup
375g plain flour
Half a tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
Half a tsp allspice

To decorate the house:
1 pack of royal icing sugar
2 x packets of white chocolate buttons
2 x packets of red Jelly Tots or candy sweets
Edible glitter
Icing sugar

1. Pop the butter and sugar in the food processor and whiz until light and fluffy. Add the egg and golden syrup and whiz again until smooth
2. Add the flour, bicarb, baking powder, spices and a pinch of salt and whiz a third time until it forms a soft dough
3. Knead the dough lightly for a minute or so until smooth and flatten into a disc shape, wrap in clingfilm and chill until firm
4. Make the templates:
2 x roof panels: 6.5cm x 10cm
2 x side walls: 50cm x 10cm
1 x front wall: 7.5cm x 5cm, and an extra 3.5 cm to reach the roof
1 x back wall: 7.5cm x 5cm, and an extra 3.5 cm to reach the roof
5. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4 and line 3 large baking sheets with baking paper
6. Roll out the dough roughly 3mm thick and use a knife and the templates to cut out the roof panels and walls
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes and leave to cool
8. Then comes the fun bit....or not so fun bit in my case... Make up the royal icing according to the instructions on the side of the pack and pop in a piping bag. Pipe on the plate 'foundations' to secure the house and then along the edges of the walls and roofs to construct the house
9. When the icing has set, decorate! The white chocolate buttons/roof tiles and the red sweets are stuck down using more royal icing. When you've finished doing your best Lawrence impression, sprinkle generously with icing sugar and leave to set for at least 1 hour before devouring

Baker's notes...
  • I think I need to take some tips from the guys who constructed the World's Largest Gingerbread House. What was their secret? Cement?!
  • It was 23 foot high. I couldn't even construct a gingerbread house 23mm high. 
  • I prefer Mince Pies anyway

Baker's notes...


  1. Kate, my first attempt was a nightmare, so I've been merrily cheating with ikea kits, and perfecting my decorating techniques! Jude x

  2. Great tip Jude! I am definitely heading straight to Ikea next year...

  3. Yes I like that tip too Jude as I have always been scared by the amount of work these little beauties take to construct! Poor you Kate, but am pleased the gingerbread itself was yummy to eat xx

  4. Oh no sorry to hear about the disaster! what a shame! gingerbread houses are always one of the most fun Christmas traditions I think! and yes a warming hot chocolate would have to be paired with the hot chocolate cupcake for double decadence that's for sure! :)

  5. Oh sorry to hear that your gingerbread house collapse. At least they taste good as it really is the taste that counts. That really is a giant gingerbread house - cant believe it took 9 days to make. I do wonder who ate it all? :)

  6. Eeep! Sorry it was a bit of a disaster! I love the little Laurence Llwellyn Bowen though! I think you should enter him into the Great British Baking Club challenge! LOL xxx

  7. fucking GENIUS!!!! I laughed out loud reading this and then spat out my tea when I saw the gingerbread man... you've made my day x

  8. I had to laugh! I have had gingerbread house disasters and I should have made a Laurence for mine! LOL!

  9. I love the idea of a 'structural deficit' and I also love your sad gingerbread man - very appropriate!!!

    It looks a lovely recipe though - really dark and tasty looking, glad to hear it was enjoyed. After all, taste is most important.

  10. This is one of my favourite blog posts ever! Hilarious. I love your gingerbread man!

  11. I made one last year and I swore NEVER AGAIN...could I get the damm thing to stick together? NO...well not without half a ton of icing/cement...and a lot of cussing.
    These things are so hard to make, but no one tells you...yours did look very nice though before the gas explosion :-))
    Pass on my best to Lawrence won't you? x

  12. what a sweet post! sorry it did not work out. Moment of truth for me tonight as I made the pieces for a house yesterday and planning to construct today (a house not a village mind...!)

  13. Oh what a pity! I am yet to make a gingerbread house from scratch however I learnt during the Dr Oetker twitter party last week that the trick is to use royal icing to glue the base in place and allow that to dry hard before putting on the roof. Otherwise the weight of the roof makes the rest of the house collapse.

    I feel inspired to make one now!!

  14. Ohhh nooo! I did one last year which was OK, but instead of eating it I bashed it up. This year I made the gingerbread but then chickened out in favour of sitting on the sofa stuffing chocolate into my mouth! The gingerbread is still wrapped in clingfilm awaiting construction, at this point I really don't think it's going to happen!

  15. Good effort! I haven't even attempted to make one yet and I had really intended to make one before Christmas... looks like I may have to make an Easter Gingerbread house now instead! :)


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