Recipes and Creative Ideas for Making Gingerbread Houses

The history behind gingerbread houses, plus recipes and lots of creative inspiration to help you make your own gingerbread house at home.
Author Headshot
Olivia Higgs
Dec 7
3.5 mins
Dec 7
3.5 mins

Gingerbread houses are a fun and festive tradition that has been around for hundreds of years. They are made of gingerbread dough (recipe below), and are decorated with colorful candies and icing to create a whimsical and festive scene. They're often seen as the centerpiece of Christmas celebrations, and the creative possibilities when making your own are endless.

The History of the Gingerbread House

The origins of the gingerbread house can be traced back to the 16th century in Germany. It was customary to create elaborate and ornate gingerbread creations during that time. Houses, churches, and other buildings were made to look like the real thing, with colorful decorations and intricate designs.  

The Brothers Grimm popularized the custom of creating gingerbread houses in the 19th century with their story, “Hansel and Gretel.” In the story, Hansel and Gretel come across a house made of cakes and sweets, which was likely a gingerbread house. This story was so popular that it became a Christmas tradition for many families to make their own gingerbread houses.  

In the 20th century, the popularity of gingerbread houses continued to grow. Companies such as Nabisco and Betty Crocker began selling pre-made gingerbread house kits, which made it easier for people to make their own versions at home.

If you want to get creative and show off your baking skills this festive season, you'll find a recipe for gingerbread dough below and plenty of ideas to inspire your creation.

Recipe for Gingerbread Houses


  • 4 cups/500g all-purpose flour  
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda  
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon  
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger  
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves  
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt  
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick)/113g unsalted butter, softened  
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar  
  • 1 large egg  
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml molasses  
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
  • Royal Icing  
  • Gumdrops, candy canes, and other decorations  


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.  
2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, molasses, and vanilla until combined.  
3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.  
4. Divide the dough in two and flatten into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave to chill in the refrigerator for 2+ hours.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Roll your dough out until about 1/4 inch/approx 1/2 cm thick. Cut out the shapes for your house.
6. Place shapes on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 25-30 minutes.


No two gingerbread houses need to be the same. Bakers have experimented with different styles from quaint cottages to elaborate manor houses and churches. And it's not just the structure of the house but the surrounding winter scene complete with trees, logs, woodland creatures, street lamps, snow, garden fencing and more.

Photo credit:
Photo credit: @modernglam
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Royal icing is often used to give the gingerbread house a more secure hold and for decorating it with different patterns and trims. You can either buy pre-made icing or make your own:

Recipe for Royal Icing

  • Egg whites from 3 eggs
  • Powdered/icing sugar - 500g
  • Flavoring of your choice - vanilla, lemon, almond

Whisk egg whites until frothy with an electric whisk. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and flavoring. Once combined, turn the whisk up to high speed and whisk into stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag and start decorating!

Photo credit:
Photo credit: Bibby's Kitchen @36


Common decorations include gumdrops, candy canes, licorice, and nonpareils. Other ideas include sprinkles, nuts, and cinnamon sticks.

Photo credit:

Alternative Materials

If you want to take your gingerbread house to new heights, have a go at the below:

  • Lighting - to bring a warm glow to the windows of your gingerbread house you can use LED tea lights or put string lights inside.
  • Leaf gelatin sheets - for mimicking glass. Once you've baked your gingerbread dough, glue the sheets to the inside of the windows with icing or melted sugar before constructing the house.
Photo credit: @ellen.hanssons
Photo credit:
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