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One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making Graham cracker gingerbread houses with my family.
It’s been one of our Christmas traditions for as long as I can remember.
We stock up on candy and make a bunch of icing, but more importantly, we make sure to have lots of Graham crackers. There isn’t any gingerbread here-the crackers are our materials. Growing up, it never even occurred to me that gingerbread houses would be made out of anything else! Who makes gingerbread houses out of gingerbread?!
My parents used to pre-make the houses for us and we would add on the decorations-the more candy, the better. I may have been caught under the dining room table one year eating someone else’s house!
Of course I still love the candy, but for me, the best part is coming up with a creative design. Over the years it has turned into a family competition with lots of rules:
- Everything must be edible (you may even need to prove it 🤣)
- You can’t use any kind of internal support to hold up your walls or roof
- No special or secret supplies-everyone has to have access to all of the decorations
- There are usually talks of a time limit, but some people decorate till the last second 🙋♂️
- At the end of the day, the houses are judged blind and judges get to decide the categories
Like so much of 2020, this year is going to be a little different. This is the first time we aren’t going to be together as we build our houses. Instead, we’ll decorate over ZOOM as we social distance. Most difficult of all, my Aunt Sue (who always helped judge the contest) passed away in August. We are all going to miss her contribution to our day, but I am so glad we have this family tradition to carry on. It’s a tradition filled with so many happy memories.
Whether you make it a competition or you want to build at your own pace, Graham cracker gingerbread houses are an easy and fun project that I hope becomes a holiday tradition for you.
What you need to make Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses
- Graham Crackers – Graham crackers make the perfect structure. From simple and classic house shapes to tall and intricate designs-the crackers are easy to cut and light enough to stack tall. We always buy family size boxes so there are plenty of crackers to go around. Depending on the size of your project, you will need anywhere from one to three sleeves per house. If you have a really ambitious project, you may need more
- Sharp serrated knives – To trim down and shape your designs, you need a sharp serrated knife to saw through the crackers. I use my favorite bread knife to get really clean cuts.
- Piping Consistency Royal Icing – Royal Icing acts as the glue. It has a thick consistency and holds everything together nicely. I like to add it to piping bags to make constructing clean and easy. You can also tint the icing with gel food coloring to decorate your house.
- Trays or Platters – You want to build your house on a tray or surface that you can decorate and move. Until the icing is dry, the house will be too delicate to move on its own. If you need to move it, all you have to do is pick up the tray. We usually use round pizza pans, but sheet trays and cake boards are great options.
- Candy – As much and as wide a variety as you can! I prefer small candies that can be used to make patterns. Some favorites are Necco Wafers, Mini M&Ms, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Gum Drops, Candy Canes, SweeTARTS, SnoCaps, fruit slices, Cadbury Holiday Candy Coated Chocolates, and Pull ‘N’ Peel Twizzlers.
- Edible Decorating Materials – We always have lots of extra edible decorations as well, like pretzels, marshmallows, sprinkles, Rice Chex Cereal, and powdered sugar.
How to make Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses
To make a simple and classic house shape, start with 8 Graham crackers. Use a serrated knife to cut the top corners off of two crackers. These will become the sides of the house and will create the angle for the roof.
You will use two solid crackers for the roof (one on each side). Cut the remaining four crackers down so they match up with the height of the sides. The front and back of the house will be made out of two crackers. To hold the two together, squeeze some royal icing onto one of the crackers scraps and gently press over the seam.
Let the icing harden for a few minutes before lifting it upright. Pipe lines of royal icing onto the edges and join all of the sides together.
Now you can attach the roof. Get creative and add dormer windows or a chimney. Use the icing to pipe additional decorations. A star tip makes a fun design.
Once the structure is up and the icing begins to harden, you can start to add the candy. Add as much or as little as you want!
Be sure to decorate the plate or board too! Powdered sugar is the perfect finishing touch. If you are feeling ambitious, make macaron trees for some fun edible greenery!
After you finish decorating, you get to decide when to eat the house!
For the Royal Icing (Piping Consistency)
- 66 grams egg whites pasteurized, from 2 eggs
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 360 grams powdered sugar sifted
- food coloring
Raw Egg White Alternative:
- 2 tbsp meringue powder
- 6 tbsp warm water
Gingerbread House Supplies
- Graham crackers 1-3 sleeves per house, depending on the desired size
- sharp serrated knives
- trays or platters for decorating on
- various candy and edible decorations the more, the better!
Make the Royal Icing (Piping Consistency)
- Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until foamy.
- Add the powdered sugar and gradually increase the speed to high.
- Mix for 5 minutes, or until the icing is very thick.
- Use the icing as-is or tint it with gel food coloring. It will start to harden almost immediately, so be sure to work quickly.
- Transfer to piping bags fitted with a couplers and various piping tips.
- Once the icing is in the piping bags, it’ll keep for several days. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.
Raw Egg White Alternative:
- As an alternative to raw egg whites, combine the meringue powder and warm water in the stand mixer and whisk until foamy. Continue with step #2.
Build your Graham cracker gingerbread houses
- Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the crackers into the desired shapes.
- Glue the pieces together with the royal icing.
- Pro Tip: Use cracker scraps to reinforce the crackers if necessary and allow the icing to harden slightly before building too high!
- Decorate the house with lots of candy and icing. Try out different piping tips for fun designs and remember you can use gel food coloring to tint the icing. Don’t forget to decorate the board or plate!
- After you finish decorating your house, you get to decide when to eat it!