Tips from the Architect: Gingerbread Architecture 101

December 20, 2017

This holiday season, we invite you and your family to join us in the time-honored tradition of homebuilding - with gingerbread! We've created a guide for building a classic Cape Cod-style cottage that is simple enough for beginners and small helpers to join in on the fun!



The house design is a 3/8” scale copy of a basic house – the perfect size for the small hands of pint-sized helpers (and to fit on a baking sheet!). The finished house will be 6” x 9” x 8” tall. Don't worry - it is much simpler than the shingle-style projects you see on our website - and much tastier! Once you've built your house, you can add your own edible architectural details, such as cereal-square roofing shingles (try Cinnamon or Chocolate Toast Crunch), chocolate mint stepping-stones (such as Andes), and a few dashes of confectioner’s sugar to simulate freshly fallen snow.



  • 13” x 18” baking sheet
  • A plastic zip-top bag (for icing)
  • #2 and #10 piping tips (#2 for details, #10 for construction)
  • A sharp knife (for cutting out gingerbread walls and roof)
  • Parchment paper (for rolling out the gingerbread dough)
  • Cans or jars for supporting cottage walls during construction

Hint - To avoid drips, pipe the window and door trim while the pieces are still lying flat. Let the icing dry completely before assembling the cottage.



½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
½ cup molasses
3-1/2 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cloves
1/3 cup water

  1. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the molasses and continue mixing until well incorporated.
  2. Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together. With the mixer on low-speed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the water.
  3. Turn the dough onto the counter and knead the dough lightly until it becomes smooth in consistency.  Divide the dough into two balls and wrap each in plastic wrap, pressing to form a rounded rectangle. Chill the dough thoroughly.
  4. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/8-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into rectangles using the cottage templates, cutting out windows if desired. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until firm but not browned on the edges, rotating baking sheet from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool cottage pieces to room temperature on the baking sheets so they remain flat.
  7. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.
  8. Once cottage pieces are cooled, decorate with royal icing.


ROYAL ICING (For Construction)

5 Tbsp of dried egg whites (also known as meringue powder)
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup cold water, plus additional water to thin the icing

  1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix the egg and confectioner’s sugar at low speed until combined. Bring the mixer speed up to medium, and add the water slowly. Continue beating about 2-3 minutes until the mixture is fluffy. Remove half the icing to a zip-top bag fitted with a #10 piping tip – this will be the “mortar” to hold the cottage pieces together.
  2. To the remaining icing (still in the mixing bowl), add a few drops of additional water (up to a tablespoon) and beat until combined. Remove this icing to a zip-top bag fitted with a #2 tip for decorating.



Decorate the windows and door using royal icing only, or cut out the windows and create “glass” using caramel or hard candies.

For Caramel: Pour hot caramel onto parchment paper, in rough rectangles slightly larger than the windows. Pipe the window muntin bars with a #2 tip onto the cooled candy, and allow to dry. Using the #10 tip, pipe royal icing around the edge of the caramel and paste the back side of the cottage wall you are working on (the caramel window will be on the interior, so all you will see from the outside is the rectangular gingerbread window opening.

For Candy: Crush any color of hard candy (Jolly Ranchers work well) in a zip-top bag.  Pour a thin layer of the crushed candy onto parchment paper, in rough rectangles slightly larger than the windows. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes to melt the candy. Allow to cool, then slowly peel back the parchment to release the candy “window”. Decorate the window and apply to the cottage as in caramel option above.


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