How to build a Gingerbread House at the last minute | Parsley, Sage and Sweet

How to build a Gingerbread House at the last minute

December 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Candy, Cookies, Daring Bakers, Dessert | 88 Comments
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This isn’t really a ‘how-to’, but a facetious take on my Daring Baker modus operandi the last few months – unintentionally saving DB challenges for the last minute, then rushing, panicking and putting out something I’m usually less than pleased with.  I’m beginning to wonder if it has more to do with loving the pressure than actually being too busy.  Well, to be fair, I was doing a ton of baking throughout December, and well, that blue eyed guy ;D.

That being said, I’ve never, ever baked and constructed a gingerbread house, unless you count the mini graham cracker house I put together out of boredom with some leftover royal icing for sugar cookie decor.  Come to think of it, I’ve never even baked gingerbread cookies!  However, gingerbread houses always intrigued me, and I used to love watching the Grove Park National Gingerbread Competition prior to each X-Mas season.  In fact, I sort of thought about even taking part in it one day because they make it look so easy..so it couldn’t be that hard, right?  WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Here’s the deal, as some of you know, I tend to make things a lot harder than they have to be, so in wanting to do something different, I uhh..made it harder than it had to be.  I recall seeing all these great tips on those airings of the GB competition, but suddenly I couldn’t recall any of them..OH SHOOT.  How did Christine Banner (major GB House masteress and winner/placer in several of the competitions) incorporate that pattern into the gingerbread wall prior to baking?  How did she make her wreaths again?? I remember locking those tips up in my cerebral vault in case I ever built a gingerbread house, but someone must have broken in and stole them.  Hmm..what were they REALLY doing during my knee surgery?  Anyhoo, they were such simple and fantastic ideas, but now they were gone and I couldn’t find it on the net anywhere, not to mention there was no airing of the competition this year.  Okie dokie, I was going to have to figure most of this out on my own, and try to be creative and not too messy.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.  Thank you Y amd Anna..thank you for truly challenging me.  I’m still finding pieces of dried up royal icing on my kitchen floor!

Y and Anna each provided a recipe they liked, so I made half of each, using them both for my house.  Problem was, I forgot to label them, so I have no idea which was which, and therefore cannot comment on them fairly.  I just know one tasted better, and one was a bit better for building.  Oh, well.

As mentioned above, I wanted to sway from the norm a bit, and decided to go nautical, as in a Gingerbread Lighthouse ‘nautical’, even though it kind of just sits there on the beach and well, lights.  I perused the net, and it was the oddest thing – there were very few gingerbread lighthouses, even photo wise.  I only found one instructional Gingerbread Lighthouse at Coastal Living.  Naturally, things can never be easy – the templates to the lighthouse were missing  I wasn’t surprised, since I’m the walking, talking epitome of Murphy’s Law.   No matter how slim a chance of something going wrong is, it will sliver it’s way into my lair of responsibilities, interests and motivation.

For about a week, I tried to make my own templates, using the photo of the house..but if you know me, I’m a kind of ‘draw outside the lines’ person (architecture was obviously not something I was ever going to excel at in life), so that was scratched.  I finally resigned myself to building your basic square cottage like house - then ALAS, someone found a link to the templates on another site.  Here’s Gingerbread Lighthouse TEMPLATE NUMBER ONE and here’s Gingerbread Lighthouse TEMPLATE NUMBER TWO, considering Coastal Living seems oblivious to the fact that templates are umm..helpful and LIKE somewhat of a necessity!?!  Writing them several times resulted in diddly squat aka no responses, so they deserve the diss.

Anywayyyy, I was going to be able to do this lighthouse after all.  One thing, though, I had to order the candy.   Yes, yes,…I know, I could have subbed with your basic M&M’s, Necco wafers, candy canes etc..but NO, I wanted the candy they used for the lighthouse, and having been to Maine on a few occasions, I recall how great the little candy stores were.  PLUS, I really really wanted those Chocorocks!  I HAD to have them, and not only for the walls, but because I think they’re really neat.  I also wanted Gummi lobsters, but they were nowhere to be found around here (Oh, how I wish I had the time to pop into the city to Dylan’s Candy Bar – but forget parking during the X-mas season) SO, 2 weeks before this was due, I ordered, and ordered, and ordered and before I knew it, I had spent almost $60.00 buckaroos on bleepin’ candy (I could only get the chocorocks in bulk, as in 5 lbs of bulk, so that played a part – now, what else can I use them for??)..GEESH.  Naturally, the candy that was supposed to arrive within 3-4 business days took 6-7 business days, leaving me with approximately 4 days to knock this out, including Xmas in between, so in retrospect, that really counts as 2-2 1/2 days.  ACK.

Now, factor in the prep.  The lighthouse walls needed a coating of royal icing for the chocolate rocks (aesthetically more pleasing than just sticking them on brown gingerbread), and since I printed the templates at 200% (the 100% printing was so tiny.  Apparently, this lighthouse was meant to be quite small, and that didn’t sit well with moi), I had a lot more area to cover.  I made two extra walls in case of breakage, and guess what (Murphy’s Law)?  They BOTH broke, as did one of the main walls.  In between the drying, which was almost futile because out of the clear frucking blue, rain and humidity struck, (Murphy’s Law again, since the weather has been super cold, dry and crisp for months now) and the royal icing patch up attempts, I now had less than 24 hours to get this baby up and to make matters worse, had only 4 intact walls to do so, instead of the 5 that make this lighthouse a lighthouse..DAMN!

I need to find a tiny light for the windows.  I tried using a small candle (see up above) for a quick shot and ended up burning my finger and warping the roof.  Brilliant, huh?

Well, I persevered and knocked out a lighthouse with 4 walls that still looks something like a lighthouse, minus the tapered neck (4 walls does not allow for a tapered neck due to the lack of the octagonal shape that the 5th wall provides).  OK, now I feel like I’m speaking Japanese to you all, so I’ll stop here.

Here’s some things I did to this lighthouse that differed from Coastal Living’s, outside of doubling the size.

  • Gingerbread wreath coated with green royal icing, silver dragees and a strawberry leather bow.
  • Full pretzel railing, plus strawberry leather bows, and err, extra ‘snow’ aka, I F’ed up.
  • Multi-colored sprinkle milk chocolate nonpareils, cut into wedges, for the roof.  Extra snow *wink*
  • Silver luster dust outlining some of the rocks in the wall for added shimmer and dimension.
  • Candy coated chocolate seashells, along with the Gummi lobsters, on the beach
  • Lemon yellow, butterscotch and orange Lifesavers melted into the window cut-outs a la stained glass cookies.  Kind of meant to emulate the reflection of the sunset.
  • Ground up Pecan Sandies for the sand.  I forgot about the oil in the nuts, so let’s call it ‘wet’ sand.

Finally, royal icing..can we talk?  That stuff is like freakin’ mortar.  Blue eyes likened it to caulk, where if you make a mistake or have gaps, you just caulk it up.  Damn straight!  OH, that pretzel is off kilter..let’s caulk it up and call it snow!  Oh darn, there’s a gap between wall number one and wall number two – let’s caulk it up and stick a piece of cinnmaon licorice in it..there it’s gone!  My new mantra –  ‘When gingerbread houses give you cracks and gaps, make snow!”  That about sums up my messy, lopsided construction.  You could lay bricks with royal icing – I’m dead serious.  UPDATE:  The top wasn’t glued on, and it fell off as I was carrying it down some stairs.  It bounced on and hit every step hard, really slamming against the floor at the bottom.  I was sure it was a goner.  Guess what?  Not even a tiny chip.  I think I should carry this stuff in my purse.  Dentists should use it to bond teeth :P.

In keeping with the ‘nautical’ theme, I created Lobster Claus (Claus – Claws?) with leftover gingerbread dough.

Now that I’ve written my usual manifesto, please be sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see some really phenomenal Gingerbread Houses.  BTW, does anyone want a Gingerbread Lighthouse?  Please..take it off my hands!!

For the recipes and full instructions, click HERE.


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  1. WOW!! Amazing! Great job, I can only look and wish that someday I can make something as beautiful and detailed as this :)

  2. That lighthouse is so pretty! I like your take on that challenge! Beautiful!

    Best wishes for 2010!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. WOW. The photo’s are really good and the light house is fantastic. I bet it tastes good too. Once again job well done.

  4. So this is your version of a last-minute gingerbread house? Hun, it is simply fantastic! The lighthouse is perfect in every way! I cannot wait to see what you do with my challenge =D.

  5. I knew it would be worth the wait Lisa!! Your gingerbread lighthouse is freakin’ FANTASTIC!! I love all the details; the pretzel railing, the wreath, the windows, the details on the door, and the walls with the rock candies are perfect!! I was also amazed how easy it was to spend so MUCH money on candy! :) Great job–I just LOVE it!! :)

  6. I adore you and love the lighthouse. amazing work. it looks so cool and I am stunned by all the details. fantastic. just fantastic.

  7. I love this lighthouse! I love the whimsy in it and the originality of its design. Fantastic job!

  8. This is a fantastic gingerbread and to me looks like a tower of a castle where a beautiful princess lives…cute!!!
    And a pro’s job ,that too ur first time,u know we have a famous lighthouse called in sinquerim candolim,goa …
    Even as am writing this ,have scrolled up a couple of times back up to gaze @ur beautiful pics….lovely.
    HAVE NEW YEAR AND KEEP ROCKING…..

  9. Spectacular. I had contemplated a lighthouse but couldn’t figure out how to do the top, and you did a great job. Here’s to last-minute gingerbread houses!

  10. WOW! I love it from the top to the bottom, down to every last detail! Very impressive and exceptional!

    Happy New Year!

  11. yay for turning disasters into something awesome! looke great. neat ‘sand’ too.

  12. I had very similar problems because I used a home made template and the pieces lost the sharp edges after baking. I also assembled the pieces the same day I decorated so they weren’t completely dry. Live and learn…I guess.

    Your light house is beautiful, unique, and very creative, worth all the effort.

    Happy Holidays!

  13. Creo que sera de las mejores construcciones, sobre todo por lo original, me encantan los faros…y la alegoria, de la luz en la navidad…..es estupendisimo y espectacular lisa…..Merry christmas y happy new year

  14. Lisa, you have done an amazing job. I can’t believe you built a lighthouse. I actually started this challenge early but only finished on the 27th. How does that happen?

  15. Oh my goodness Lisa! How can you not like this? It is absolutely stunning. The lobsters are way too cute and I want some chocorocks too :) Everyhting about this is sensational, well done! (There are two open mouthed children looking at this while I type – they are super impressed).

  16. OH MY GOD, how did you do this? You need to enter those gingerbread contests!

  17. Holy moly, if this is what you’re capable of pulling off at-the-last-minute, then you definitely need to keep living on the edge! Awesome effort!

  18. I knew you’d make your creation amazing! You say that you made mistakes hence the extra snow, but if you didn’t tell anyone, we’d never know :) It looks incredible. I LOVE those chocorocks, just perfect!
    You’re right about royal icing, it’s cement, plain and simple, I’m surprised it doesn’t chip teeth when eating the stuff, lol!
    I love the sand, love the rocks, love the railing, love the bows, love it all. Fantastic job Lisa, as always!
    I wish you all the best for 2010 and look forward to another year of witty, clever & eye-candy filled posts from you *hugs*

  19. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by edison, edison. edison said: How to build a Gingerbread House at the last minute « Parsley …: The lighthouse walls needed a coating of roy.. http://bit.ly/6pcZiJ [...]

  20. simply outrageous! this is by far the grandest creation i’ve seen! great going! hope you have a great start to 2010 and wishing you all the best!

  21. thank you for reminding me why I didn’t do this challenge last minute, or at all. After 6 weeks of retail, I couldn’t focus this much energy on something my college age son couldn’t actually eat and enjoy. Sure hope I don’t get booted. You win on creativity for sure, the rocks are perfect!

  22. Holy cow, girl… blowing us away once again! Awesome job!

  23. Oh Lisa it’s ADORABLE! I love lighthouses! For some reason they seem so romantic to me and I collect all kinds of lighthouse paraphernalia so your light house gingerbread speaks to my heart!

    You did a fantastic job! I did not take part in the DB challenge but I do have lots of gingerbread creations on my blog today, as I took photos of the Gingerbread Extravaganza going on at Le Parker Meridien Hotel on W 56 St in Manhattan –and they were all baked by big-o bakeries, like Rolling Pin Productions and Magnolia’s! They are part of a competition that benefits the City Harvest charity. Your adorable lighthouse could have fit right in!

    Wonderful wonderful wonderful! Can you save it now to display it next year? I often wondered it there was soem way to preserve gingerbread houses to display for a few years? Or are you going to eat it? $60 worth of candy was some investment!

    I just love it! Congratulations of pulling it off in time and doing such a fabulous job!

    Hugs, Pat

  24. PS Just wanted to wish you a very Happy Yew Year! I hope all good things come your way!

  25. Wow, that is pretty fab! I love the stones in the lighthouse. It looks great. Hopeyou have a happy and healthy new year.
    *kisses* HH

  26. Oh my! I love the rocks on the side – what a terrific idea! I could totally see $60 worth of candy on your lighthouse but it was worth it (until you toss it in the yard waste bin, at which point you’ll cry).

    So creative!

    Jenny
    http://purplehousedirt.com

  27. Oh, honey, you done gone and made the challenge harder again! :-) I love, looovvvveee the lighthouse!! And if I could I’d come pick it up from you right now. But I would feel a bit guilty after hearing about the sixty bucks (!!!) worth of candy that went into it! You are so dedicated to the cause. :-)

    Happy almost new year!! xo, Laura

  28. Wow, I LOVE your lighthouse! Very original and well done!

  29. OMG. Love the lighthouse. Way to rock the challenge!

  30. Fabulous! It looks great and no one would ever know of the troubles you mention! Seriously amazing!

  31. How fun! I do like a unique gingerbread house and this fits the bill beautifully :-)

  32. Fantastic!!! wow!! Your lighthouse gingerbread house,…or tower looks fenomenal, Lisa Michele!!!

    Very apart,…you marvellous creative person!!

    I am truly amazed by your creative culinary skills!!!

  33. I LOVE your gingerbread light house! You’re amazing! Oh wow $60+ for candies?? And I was complaining about my $20+ on candies! :P One of the grocery stores here in OR sells the chocorocks in bulk (don’t remember how much per pound tough)…if you’re interested, I can check ‘em out next time I’m there.

    Gotta agree with you on the royal icing! I had cracked walls and roofs that didn’t fit(actually I forgot the roofs and used my kids’ wall as MY roof instead) …I pretended I was Bob Villa (should have pretended I’m Tye Pennington instead), and just caulked ‘em up! ;)

  34. Definitely an OH WOW Gingerbread House! Sorry it was a pain for you, but it’s definitely an OH WOW gorgeous lighthouse!

  35. And so this was last minute? I LOVE it! It’s super cool and original!

  36. Lisa, that lighthouse is just insanely great. I love the choco rocks in the royal icing mortar. Worth the investment! What a great idea. And very nicely executed.

  37. This is absolutely gorgeous Lisa, and very brilliant for the first time! Kudos!

    I did mine for the first time too and very much in the nth moment as well.. :D

  38. Wow — that’s an impressive gingerbread lighthouse!

  39. I’ve never seen a gingerbread lighthouse before — it’s amazing! And such a creative idea. I love all the details. You clearly put a ton of work into it — unlike slacker me who didn’t even make gingerbread. Hope you had a wonderful holiday. All the best in the new year!

  40. Wow…I’m impressed! That is one neat gingerbread house!

  41. If this is last minute, I’m afraid to see what you’d come up with if you had LOTS of time! }:P

  42. Absolutely beautiful and beyond creative! Your gingerbread lighthouse and all the embellishments are amazing. Happy Holidays!

  43. What a beautiful and very creative Gingerbread lighthouse! You have done an amazing job. Have a great New Year also!

  44. Lisa, I just LOVE it! Well done… but what I am more intrigued about – who is the blue eyed boy?!

  45. Hee…hee, just re-read your post about spending $60 on chocko rocks! They do look cute but i don’t envy you chopping your way through the rest or maybe finding another project for them!

  46. You funny! I’m flippin surprised you carried the thing down ANY steps knowing how “graceful” you are.. Glad it was just the top that fell off and not like you taking a tumble after it. heeeeee!!!!

    Well.. you know I had to say it. :P

    Anyhoo, the funniest part is that you weren’t happy with it.. OMG Lis, it’s fakkin GORGEOUS. That looks better than any real lighthouse I’ve seen in my time! You totally rock. :)

    Love you!
    xoxoxoxo

  47. OMG I am rolling on the floor laughing! I think you and your lighthouse are brilliant and I love the crazy! Fab idea for a gingerbread house and I am in awe of everything you went through to make it happen. It’s wonderful! And then it can join mine in the bin because no one but the dog wants to eat it. Happy Happy Holidays, Lisa!

  48. Wow, wow and more wow! Lisa you’ve really outdone yourself! This is absolutely amazing and brilliant and just so wonderful I just had to call my husband over and show it to him! You are just too clever girl! :D

  49. wow Lisa, c’est vraiment trop génial ! quelle excellente idée ce phare ( j’adore les phares ) ! Bravo !

  50. Wow! Your gingerbread lighthouse is FANTASTIC!! love all the details! amazing! =)

  51. This turned out so cool. I put this challenge off too…I think it was a good idea for a challenge but just not one I was personally excited about. Now I wish I had embraced it and gotten more creative!

  52. I saw your lighthouse on the Daring Bakers forum and thought it was amazing! The milk chocolate rocks totally make it. I was hesitant about this challenge but it did turn out to be a lot of fun. Royal icing is the bomb!

    Also, love the wreath. Fabulous job all around.

  53. LM!!!!! Amazing amazing amazing! Your lighthouse is just too awesome for words! I love the candy rocks! And who is this blue eyed guy??? :-)

  54. Wow — that’s marvelous for your first one ever. Heck, it’s marvelous for your tenth. I absolutely love those rocks on the walls. Great job!

  55. [...] rest is here: How to build a Gingerbread House at the last minute « Parsley … Posted in Lighthouse. Tags: beach, even-though, from-the-norm, gingerbread, Lighthouse, norm, [...]

  56. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the lighthouse–very creative! Your write up is hilarious, too. 60 bucks in candy OUCH. Great job.

  57. Lisa,
    Amazing, fabulous job on this challenge!! We’ve had a lighthouse on our list of gingerbread possibilities should the opportunity arise…with John being a retired Navy Deep Sea Diver, he LOVES anything nautical! Again, beautiful job and love your write up! Happy Holidays and have a great New Year’s Eve!

  58. I knew you would come up with something I would never guess in a million years, and indeed you did! You lighthouse is simply mind-blowing, and that “imported” candy was worth it, it’s a great effect! Bravo, and a very happy new year to you!

  59. You are so freaking amazing!! I am still making my house *right now*

  60. Hello Lisa
    what a wonderful job you did, and its so beautiful, I love lighthouses, yours looks so real, with the rock stones candy, and the round top and the beautiful stained windows, the railing , oh my friend you are so amazing…
    I couldnt participate in the challenge, I have several individual orders from savoury to desserts, plus I catered two big office parties for the hospital.

    Wishing you and your loved ones and Happy, Healthy and prosperous new year,lots and lots of amazing photos and recipes,and maybe a bistro too, I might come and help you…
    Cheers my friend!!!

  61. Last minute!? I wish I had your skills to pull of something THIS AMAZING with a deadline approaching. I’m blown away, this is so great.

  62. Lisa, you’ve done it again with not just being different, but making such a beautiful lighthouse. Wow!

  63. [...] How to build a Gingerbread House at the last minute « Parsley … [...]

  64. O my goodness…. when you say challenge you really mean challenge right?? Building a lighthouse… that would have just been too much for me…lol… But I love it! It looks very good!

  65. Wow, totally amazing! You deserve a medal.. and a parade!
    Such an incredible achievement.
    Happy New Year!

  66. You are one talented girl! I wanted to do a lighthouse so bad. And I did but really it is not at all how I had envisioned it. Yours is just so beautiful. Its everything I would want in a lighthouse/gingerbread house.

  67. [...] How to build a Gingerbread House at the last minute [...]

  68. Wonderful job, Lisa! Though I’m not surprised despite your insistance and taking the road less baked. Ha-ha! Btw, good call on the candy rocks they really kicked it up a notch.

    Happy New Year my friend. Looking forward to more candy rock filled creations in 2010! :) (Only four more pounds to go.)
    ~ingrid

  69. Hi ,did a little birdie tell ya that u won an award with a special message jus for u and it awaits u at my blog-no????
    well since my system was down and the little birdie is meee eee,here i am-do hop over and pick it and so muc hope u’ll like it…

  70. Although you claim to perform your challenge at the last minute it doesn’t show a bit.
    There’s only one word I can say- Wow!
    That’s definitely the most original piece I’ve seen in this challenge-
    Shaping the gingerbread cookies as a lighthouse is a brilliant idea
    And all the work you’ve done here is amazing-
    You are truly a talented baker, wtg for the fabulous job!
    Inbal

  71. Maybe it wasn’t fun to make, but it is tremendous fun to look at and dream about making. Thanks for sharing!!!

  72. Up to the wire seems to agree with you…the results are spectacular! I adore the rocks on the mortared walls, the pretzel railing and those cute lobsters on the ‘wet sand’. Having made too many gingerbread housed over the years to keep count of, I agree that royal icing is an amazing substance and ‘snow’ covers a multitude of sins. Great take on the challenge!

  73. Sorry I’m been fighting fires/floods on my mum’s station (farm) so I was away for most of the month so couldn’t join in the fun. I’m just catching up with December challenge and am visiting the DBers blogs. Your gingerbread lighthouse is so special and looks so good well done and all in 2 1/2 days wonderful work. All your work paid off so well. I hope the New Year is joyous and happy for you and your family. Cheers from Audax.

  74. Lisa, Happy New Year! Hope you had a nice holiday…your gingerbread lighthouse is absolutely gorgeous…so cute! I can imagine how much fun you had in making it…very nice!

  75. Happy New Year, Lisa!

    This gingerbread lighthouse is one of the best I have seen in DB challenge! Love all the details especially the ribbons, the wreath, and the wall texture! Brilliant!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,
    Kris

  76. How did you do that last minute? That is awesome! And I love your gingerbread lobster too!

  77. Hola Lisa,have another little suprise award awaits u on my blog-hope u like it….with ur little message and thanx for makin me happy

  78. What a neat gingerbread house and the lobsters are just adorable! Happy New Year!!!

  79. A-MAZING! Seriously… This is the most creative gingerbread “house” I’ve seen come from this challenge. Way to push the envelope!

  80. Wow, great job! And I love your lobsters!

  81. I love the lighthouse idea and all of your details! The fruit leather bows are just perfect!

  82. Love the lobster cookies! they are a hoot!
    By the way, i am giving away some goodies I got from Lebanon in case you are interested!

  83. WOW WOW WOW!! This is so good, I love your take on the classic gingerbread house, its so good and love the lobster cookies, they’re so cute heheh!!

  84. Your photos are so elegant and your design so creative and interesting and well-executed. I love reading your blog, so I’ve passed on one of those food award blog doo-das. You’re welcome to pass it on or ignore it or whatever you like. :)

  85. Wow, this is AMAZING! I’ll take some time and read more of your posts – you are sooooo creative!

  86. [...] plus, I knew she’d give us a goody, and she did.  It’s just too bad I’m such a royal icing slob, with shaky [...]

  87. love it

  88. As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you


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