by Heather Harris Brady
Building a gingerbread house is much like building a real house – it’s going to take longer, cost more and create a bigger mess than you expected. But at the end you’ll feel like you really accomplished something. Last year we used a kit (the best option for anyone with a short attention span) but this year there were big dreams in the little house. Still, the kids (a teen and a tween) didn’t believe me when I told them this project was going to take all day – they were washed and ready to get on the job at 9 am. The final lifesaver went down about 8 pm. It’s not constant work, to be sure there’s plenty of time when things need to dry, but it’s a long process. It’s also a good learning process – my son took a photo of the lighthouse and scaled it into a pattern using 1/2″ graph paper. Before we cut from the dough he made a scale model out of cardboard to make sure the pieces fit.
In the last post I provided the recipe for the dough, and here I will give you the recipe for the icing as well as some lessons learned the hard way. Before you even contemplate a building project make sure you have plenty of meringue powder on hand. It’s your new best friend and it looks like this:
Our lighthouse took nearly two large batches of icing, one for coating the pieces and one for final assembly. You use the same icing, in different thicknesses, for everything.
Royal Icing, Makes one Batch
- 1/2 c. meringue powder
- 9 c. powdered sugar
- 1/2 c. water
Combine the meringue powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whip in the water a bit at time until you achieve a thick frosting. Continue to beat for another two-three minutes until thick and glossy.
Icing and assembly step one: Coat all the exterior pieces and let them dry. If you like the brown color you can skip this step and just decorate each piece, then let it dry. But our lighthouse is red and white and so it must be painted!
We piped a dam around the edge of each piece and then frosted inside the outside with a slightly thinner frosting.
The windows got sashed with thick piping, the roof and trim pieces were painted red.
After the exterior paint was dry we were ready to stand up the first walls. Make sure you have a good base here, we used an 1″ thick board covered in aluminum foil. Also have lots of things on hand to prop up the walls while they dry. If you have a small fan handy to speed up the drying process so much the better. Start building from the ground up.
Attach the walls at the corners with a thick band of icing. Add some supports while they dry.
Once you’ve got two walls standing you can add the other two. Let it all dry, then add the roof. With our gable roof we added the bottom sections first, let them dry, and then added the top.
Keep the supports to make sure your roof panels don’t slide under their own weight! Finally, once the roof is set, you’re ready to decorate. The fun part!
This is one of my favorite parts – the lighthouse has a yellow M&M light in it and there are lifesavers handy all around.
The finishing touch – a final sprinkle of some fresh powder(ed sugar)! I’ll be scanning the pattern pieces and adding a link here if you want to build your own artistic interpretation of the Point Betsie Lighthouse. It can be done!