12 Tricks for a Picture-Perfect Gingerbread House

Melty, misshapen gingerbread houses just don't have that same "wow" factor.

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Get the right base

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Without a sturdy base, your hard work could be ruined as soon as you try to move your gingerbread house. Cut down foam board the size of the spot you want to display your creation, leaving room for a sidewalk, trees, snowmen, or any other fun details in the “yard.”

Shape up

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Homemade gingerbread could quickly turn from perfectly shaped dough to a puffy blob while it bakes. Use a pattern to get the angles right, then let the dough chill for at least a few hours before popping it in the oven. Set the temperature to 300°F, which should be a low enough heat to keep the dough from rising. Check it while it’s baking and trim any misshapen edges midway through—wait until it’s cooled and you could end up with a crumbled mess. This guide shows you how to bake a box cake when you're missing one or more ingredients.

Think ahead

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Piping on intricate frosting patterns and attaching heavy candies is harder when your house is upright. Decorate your walls and roof while they’re still flat on the table so you don’t have to work against gravity at awkward angles or risk knocking down your creation.

Add a little vinegar

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Runny icing that makes decorations slip and slide off is the bane of any gingerbread builder. Add a little distilled white vinegar to your frosting help it harden so your creation stays how you want it. Here are more extraordinary uses for household staples.

Try a new glue

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Icing is the classic “glue” for gingerbread houses, but it isn’t your only choice for keeping those pieces together. Glue is an obvious option, but purists who want only edible ingredients can still get that durability. On a mission to make an “indestructible gingerbread house,” NPR found that melted marshmallows, gummy bears, or caramels create a sturdy cement. In fact, melted gummies make such a strong bond that it’ll be hard to clean up, so keep your table covered with newspaper, wear gloves, and don’t bite into those sections.

Keep icing from hardening

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Have your heart set on working with frosting? Don’t let your icing harden before you’re done working with it. Keep it moist and workable by covering the bowl with a damp paper towel. You'll wish you knew this hack for frosting cakes sooner.

Accept it will take time

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To keep your creation from collapsing, give your structure plenty of time to dry before you keep building on it. Leave at least an hour after sticking the walls together before you add the roof, then wait another couple hours before adding decorations. Work on it for a little every day throughout the weekend, spend the waiting time watching Christmas movies with your kids, or try one of these useful things to do at home when you're bored.

Think outside the box

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Even if you buy a kit from the store, there’s no need to limit yourself to those ingredients. Decorate your gingerbread house with nuts, pretzels, gum, and anything else you can dream up.

Stick with a theme

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Some of the most eye-catching gingerbread houses stick to a theme. Instead of plopping on any ol’ candy to decorate your creation, come up with a plan. Use peppermints, candy canes, marshmallows, and red sprinkles for a striking red and white color scheme, or stick with milk and dark chocolates for a monochromatic look.

Make accent trees

iStock/Ruth Black

An ice cream cone makes a great base for a Christmas tree in your gingerbread house yard. Just dip one in white chocolate mixed with green food coloring. Decorate it with M&M ornaments, or add Rice Krispies before dipping to create a pine needle-like texture. Don't miss these creative ways to decorate your real Christmas tree.

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