We’ve long held the opinion that if you want to make a gingerbread house you actually want to eat, then you should do it yourself with construction gingerbread, royal icing, and a whole lot of patience.
What’s construction gingerbread, you ask? It has a uniquely low water content, has zero leavening agents, contains corn syrup, and has a very low ratio of fat to flour, making it like cookie Sheetrock. And like, we imagine, drywall, most construction gingerbread (including that of pre-packaged kits) tastes awful. However, if you make your own, you can build your gingerbread and eat it, too. As Stella said, “Made with butter, vanilla, and plenty of spices, construction gingerbread can be both tasty and strong—think of it as a very flat sort of gingerbread biscotti.”
Of course, with baking projects comes some gear requirements. To successfully make your own gingerbread house at home, it’s helpful to have the following equipment on hand.
Gingerbread House Pattern of Choice
Whether you’re following our pattern (it’s for a spooky house, but with the right decorations it can certainly be turned into a festive gingerbread house), printing one you found via a Google search, or buying and downloading one off of Etsy, you should pick your gingerbread house pattern before proceeding.
For mixing your construction gingerbread and royal icing, you’ll need a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Of course, if you own a stand mixer, use what you have, but if you’re looking to invest in one we have a breakdown of how all of the KitchenAid models compare to each other. (Our top pick is the KitchenAid 6-Quart Professional 600 Series Stand Mixer.)
For measuring out spices and vanilla extract, you’ll need a good set of measuring spoons. These ones have narrow heads that easily fit into spice jars, though you can find a few more of our top picks here.
Parchment Paper Sheets
While you can certainly just trim a roll of parchment paper to fit a half sheet pan, pre-cut parchment paper sheets make things a whole lot easier. You’ll need them for rolling out and baking the construction gingerbread, as well as any designs (like fences, railings, or trees). Of course, these sheets come in a pack of 100—so you’ll have them for cookies for months to come.
Half Sheet Pans
As noted above, you’ll need half sheet pans for baking your gingerbread pieces and designs. Our favorite half sheet pans are from Nordic Ware and, conveniently, come in a pack of two—which you’ll utilize for baking all those construction pieces.
You could use measuring cups to portion out the flour and sugar, but we recommend investing in a kitchen scale for accuracy so you can measure things down to the gram or ounce. Our favorite model from OXO has a pull-out scale for easy screen reading.
For rolling out gingerbread dough to an even thickness (about 3/16-inch thick, according to our recipe), you’ll need a rolling pin. And while there are a few different styles of rolling pins and ultimately the best one is the one you like/will use, we prefer a tapered or French-style rolling pin. It feels balanced in hand and is easy to control and long (helping you to roll dough out to an even thickness).
Utility Knife (or Just a Paring Knife)
While this is not entirely necessary, if you’re a fan of the brick-like look of this haunted gingerbread house, you can make bricks by wrapping a bench scraper’s blade with plastic warp and stamping horizontal lines onto the gingerbread dough before baking it.
Pastry Bags and Tips
For piping icing and decorations, you’ll need pastry bags and a set of tips. Any set will do—and if you’re in a pinch you can make a paper piping bag, though we recommend just buying some for such an intensive baking project.
While you could certainly just employ your fingers, for precisely placing decorations, a pair of small kitchen tweezers will help. You’ll find uses for tweezers beyond festive baking, too.
What’s the best gingerbread house kit?
If you’re looking for an easy kit that involves zero baking, we recommend these ones from Reese’s or Sweetology. We rounded up a handful of gingerbread house kits, built them all, and found these two to be some of the easiest to put together and have plentiful decorations and icing.
Should you buy or make a gingerbread house?
This is entirely up to you! We think homemade gingerbread tastes better and allows for more creativity, but, of course, making a gingerbread house will take a fair amount of time and require you have certain gear. If you’re interested in just buying a gingerbread house kit, we recommend trying one of the kits we mentioned above.