Here’s my completely homemade gingerbread house recipe including how to bake, construct, and decorate with royal icing and buttercream. There are no rules when it comes to decorating gingerbread houses. The ONLY rule is to have fun!
One of the most common recipe questions I receive is how to turn my gingerbread cookies into a house. I’ve never really had a solid answer until now. I have it all for you today including:
- solid gingerbread cookie dough recipe
- a free gingerbread house template with the exact shapes you’ll need
- all my decorating tips and recommendations
- links to the products I use if you want to replicate this
Trust me when I say that I am NOT a crafty person, but I could EASILY decorate this beauty and I’m showing you exactly how I did it. This is perfect for beginners!
Let’s get started. Here’s the video tutorial to guide you along. You can watch me make this gingerbread house from start to finish, including rolling out the dough and decorating the house. Sprinkled throughout are my highly recommended tips and methods to guarantee gingerbread house success.
Gingerbread House Video Tutorial
Starting Your Homemade Gingerbread House
We’re using a cookie dough that’s similar to my gingerbread cookies. The gingerbread cookies are soft in the centers and crisp on the edges, but the gingerbread house shapes are much more sturdy and solid. Let’s compare the house recipe to the cookie recipe:
- small amount of baking soda for less puff
- less butter so the house shapes are harder
- less molasses so the dough isn’t as sticky
- add water to make a smoother dough
Other than that, the recipes are pretty similar. Chilling the dough is imperative—otherwise the house pieces will lose shape and constructing will be impossible. The dough is a little sticky from the molasses, so I recommend chilling in two discs before rolling out.
Why two discs? It’s easier to roll out smaller portions of cookie dough.
How to Construct a Gingerbread House
Use my gingerbread house template. This template will give you a small-medium house that’s totally approachable. I find large houses difficult to construct and decorate.
This house is approximately 7 inches tall with the chimney and 6 inches wide.
Click this link for the PDF: Sally’s Baking Recipes Gingerbread House Template
Print out the template and cut out the shapes. Each shape will be used TWICE. For example, two roofs, two sides, etc. Use a pizza cutter or small knife. The chimney is totally optional, but I think it’s a cute addition.
*Best Method for Rolling the Dough*
The most successful way to roll out this gingerbread cookie dough is between two sheets of parchment paper. It will stick to your counter no matter how much you flour it.
Re-roll the scraps so you have enough dough for the entire house.
Gingerbread House Icing
Every house needs sturdy walls, right? Royal icing is the “glue” that holds the house together. It’s also the glue adhering any candies to the walls and roof. As you can see in these photos, I covered the roof with royal icing before piping the buttercream on. As the royal icing dried, it gently dripped off the sides and looked like snow.
TIP: Use as much royal icing as you need to for constructing the house. It dries hard and will look like snow. Plus, you can cover up any messy parts with buttercream or candy.
Crusting Buttercream for Decoration
Though I love working with both, I’m much better at decorating desserts with buttercream compared to royal icing. And maybe you’re the same? So let’s use some STURDY and THICK buttercream called Crusting Buttercream. Made with both shortening and butter, crusting buttercream “sets” and doesn’t stay sticky—it’s ideal for decorating gourmet cakes, cookies, and gingerbread houses.
Two tools I highly recommend:
- A squeeze bottle for the royal icing “glue” around the edges of the house.
- A piping bag (reusable or disposable) + tip for decorating with buttercream. I only used 1 piping tip for the entire house: Ateco piping tip #32. This is a small open star piping tip and you can watch me use it in the video above. Makes a lovely design.
These baking tools would be great to add to your holiday wish list. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out my Holiday Baking Gift Guide. Lots of fun ideas in there, either for yourself or other baker friends!
Candies for Decorating a Homemade Gingerbread House
- candy canes (mini or regular size)
- peppermint swirl candies
- sprinkles (I used a holiday mix from Sweetapolita)
- edible metallic beads/dragees (I use Sweetapolita)
- coconut for “snow”
- cinnamon sticks, Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate chips, cereal pieces!
- icing decorations such as these snowflakes
I absolutely love the Wilton brand icing decorations you can find online or at craft stores. I bought them at Michaels craft store, which had a ton of gingerbread house decorating candies in the seasonal section including the pictured holly and these similar snowflake icing decorations. (Not sponsored, genuinely LOVE wilton and michaels craft store.)
Gingerbread House Ideas
I gathered a few links for you to use as decorating inspiration. There are so many beautiful (and SIMPLE) decorated gingerbread houses out there.
- picture of fun roof ideas
- slideshow of 40 cute gingerbread houses
- even more adorable gingerbread houses
- log cabin gingerbread house
- you could also cut windows out of the house’s walls before baking and add crushed hard candies, just as we do with stained glass window cookies
Ditch the “pinterest perfection” goal and get messy. The piped crusting buttercream on my pictured gingerbread house hid about 100 mistakes. Remember, there are no rules when it comes to decorating. The ONLY rule is to have fun.
Watch me decorate a gingerbread house in the video above. I added two decorated sugar cookies to the “yard.”
I can’t wait to see your gingerbread house creations! This was truly one of the most fun projects; it was a complete joy testing, decorating, photographing, and filming this recipe. I truly hope it brings exciting memories to your family this holiday season. And even though they make a beautiful Christmas decoration, don’t forget to eat all your hard work!!
Love to create and decorate? You’ll enjoy making this yule log, too! And of course, Christmas sugar cookies.
See Your Gingerbread Houses!
Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂Print
Gingerbread House Recipe (VIDEO)
- Prep Time: 1 day
- Cook Time: 18 minutes
- Total Time: 1 day
- Yield: 1 house
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Here’s my completely homemade gingerbread house recipe including how to bake, construct, and decorate with royal icing and buttercream. Everything can be prepared in advance, see my make ahead tip after the recipe instructions. House structure must completely set for at least 4-6 hours before decorating.
- 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120ml) unsulphured or dark molasses (do not use blackstrap; I prefer Grandma’s brand)
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) water
- royal icing (the “glue”)
- assorted candies (see post for suggestions)
- 1/2 cup (95g) shortening, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Print out my Sally’s Baking Recipes Gingerbread House Template and cut out the shapes. Set aside for step 6.
- Make the cookie dough: Whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, molasses, and water on high speed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine. On low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Cookie dough will be very thick.
- Divide cookie dough in half, flatten into discs (about 4-5 inches in diameter), and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Cut into shapes: Remove each disc from the refrigerator and roll each out in between two pieces of parchment paper. Watch me do this in the video above– gingerbread cookie dough will stick to your counter no matter how much you flour it. Parchment is best. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. You want thick pieces for your gingerbread house. Lightly flour the underside of gingerbread house template shapes. (The dough is sticky and the paper may stick to it otherwise.) Using a pizza cutter or small knife, carefully cut the dough into the gingerbread house template shapes. You will need TWO of each shape. Re-roll dough scraps so you have enough dough for the whole house. Use any extra dough to create fun shapes using cookie cutters. I made a few gingerbread stars!
- Carefully arrange gingerbread house shapes onto prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. If they lost some of their shape transferring to the baking sheet, straighten out the edges (see my video above).
- Bake house pieces for about 18-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Bake chimney pieces for about 12-13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow shapes to cool completely on the baking sheets or on the counter. A flat surface is KEY for cooling– the gingerbread house edges very slightly curl up otherwise. Cooled gingerbread house pieces can be made up to 1 week in advance, cover tightly and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months, thaw at room temperature before using.
- Construct the base of the house: Select a base for your gingerbread house. I used a wooden cake server. Watch my video above to guide you through constructing the house. Start with two pieces: the front of the house and 1 side. Using a squeeze bottle, run a thick line of royal icing on one long edge and one short edge of the side of the house piece. Stick it to your base. Use whatever you have around the house to help it stand up. You can see in my video that I use snack bag clips. You can also prop it up with soda cans, a tall cup, water bottle, etc. Run a line of royal icing along the bottom of the front of the house piece. Stick it to your base, adhering it to the side of the house piece. Hold the two in place for a few minutes until the icing is partially set, propping them up as necessary. Repeat with the 2nd side of the house piece and back of the house piece. Pipe royal icing inside any seams, inside and outside of the house, to fill any voids. Don’t be afraid to go heavy on the royal icing “glue” — when it dries, it looks like snow! Allow it to set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before adding the roof pieces.
- Add the roof: The roof pieces will be placed on top of the house base. Run a thick line of royal icing on the inside edges of one of the roof pieces and adhere it to the base. Hold in place for a few minutes. Repeat with 2nd roof piece. Run a thick line of royal icing where the two roof pieces meet at the top of the house. Hold in place for a few minutes.
- Optional Chimney: The chimney is optional, but it’s a lot of fun. I recommend putting together the chimney separately, then adhering to the roof. It’s easiest to glue the chimney pieces together upside-down. Use thick lines of royal icing to assemble the chimney in the same way you put together the base of the house. (Except you’re not adhering it to a base because it’s going on the roof!) Allow icing to set by propping it up as necessary. Once set, adhere onto the roof. The chimney may not fit to the exact angle of the roof because both puffed up or lost some shape during baking and cooling, so use as much royal icing as necessary and you can cover any bare spots with buttercream during decoration.
- House must set: Before decorating, the icing on the entire house must completely set. Allow the entire house to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours, preferably 4-6 hours or even overnight before decorating. Cover and store leftover royal icing at room temperature or in the refrigerator during this time. It will be the glue for adhering candies to the house.
- Prepare the buttercream: Buttercream can be prepared up to 1 day in advance– cover tightly and store in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before piping/decorating. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the shortening and butter together on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Frosting will be very thick, which is what you want. If much too thick, add another splash of milk. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.)
- Use buttercream, leftover royal icing, and candies for decorating. See my candy suggestions in the blog post above. I only used 1 piping tip for the entire house: Ateco piping tip #32. This is a small open star piping tip and you can watch me use it in the video above. Makes a lovely design.
- Don’t forget to chow down on your beautiful creation if you’re in the mood for eating it. Use your best judgment here, obviously the food will taste old after a few days!
- Make Ahead Instructions: Royal icing can be prepared the day before, see recipe note below. Crusting buttercream can also be made the day before, see step 13. Cookie dough can be made up to 3 days in advance, see step 4. Baked and cooled house pieces can be made up to 1 week in advance or frozen for up to 3 months, see step 8. House can be completely constructed up to 1 day in advance, see step 12.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Rolling Pin | Pizza Cutter | Baking Sheet | Silpat Baking Mat | Meringue Powder | Squeeze Bottle | Wooden Server | Piping Bags (reusable or disposable) | Ateco Decorating Tip #32 | Christmas Tree Decorations | Snowflake Decorations | Mini Candy Canes | Candy Canes | Gum Drops
- Recipe Yield: One gingerbread house plus 6-8 3-inch cookies. Gingerbread house is about 7 inches tall (with chimney) and 6 inches wide.
- Royal Icing: Decide how much royal icing you want to use. I suggest making the entire royal icing recipe so you have plenty for constructing and decorating. You can make the royal icing the day before– cover and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight. Let it come to room temperature before using. You can freeze leftover royal icing (instructions in that recipe) or use it to decorate Christmas cookies. As you can see in these photos, I covered the roof with royal icing before piping the buttercream on top. (Let the royal icing dry before adding the buttercream on top.) As the royal icing dried, it gently dripped off the sides and looked like snow!
- Shortening: Shortening is what makes this buttercream “crust” or “set” after a couple hours. If you want a sticky buttercream, you can replace the shortening with unsalted butter.
Keywords: gingerbread house
Reader Comments & Reviews
Sally, I love you! I am obsessed with all your recipes and your blog is the first place I look when I want to try something new and want to make sure it works! This recipe is such a blessing because I know my family will have so much fun making this together this Christmas! It’s definitely going to be a strange Christmas because we can’t travel to family due to Covid but this will totally bring the Christmas spirit. Just curious if you think the buttercream will work with coconut oil instead of shortening? Merry Christmas and thanks again!
I love this recipe and the frosting is amazing. Thing is, I have no experience with piping, and when I piped the frosting it broke in the middle. It didn’t keep going. Could you show me how to pipe?
Hi Samantha, Did you watch the video in the post above? Right at the 3 minute mark you can see sally starting to pipe the buttercream. If yours “broke” it sounds like there was simply an air bubble in the piping bag. You can always scrape off the frosting if you don’t like how it looks or just keep going. For more tips and tricks you can see this piping video.
Great recipe! The first gingerbread house I’ve made with my 6 year old and he loved it. The trickiest part was putting it together- next time we’ll be more patient in letting the icing set. But it worked out anyway and looks amazing!
I made this gingerbread with my kids this year. We make houses every year. This has been the best recipe so far. I will use again next year. Though me use our own cast iron molds to make the houses. This gingerbread was great as far as solid for construction yet soft like a cookie. And great flavor.
My son and I had a blast making this. I didn’t have the piping nozzle you had so I just improvised with another one.
Is there any tricks to assembling it?
I weighed out my ingredients and found this dough to be nightmarishly sticky and impossible to remove from parchment paper after rolling out (despite chilling in fridge overnight). Ended up kneading extra flour into the dough.
I could have written your review word for word, and I had to check your name to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind!!!LOL Two stars because, although I had to freeze them a little to get the parchment off the dough, and mop the floor of the extra flour I had to use, and shorten the times, and they baked up beautifully and deliciously.
This worked great for me.
The dough was sticky but I found the same technique i use for getting slime off my hands also worked.
I rolled mine between 2 sheets of clingfilm and even cut it out with the clingfilm still on both sides. This worked great for me. I peeled the clingfilm off easily.
I need to practise my building – i was in too much of a rush but overall delighted with the result.
So I didn’t have enough molasses to make this dough. I substituted half the molasses for brown sugar. Therefore, my dough had only 1/4 cup molasses (I increased the brown sugar by three tablespoons to make up for the loss of molasses.) No problems whatsoever with rolling out between parchment paper. (My house is at 68 degrees) Once the dough got warmer, it did get a little sticky, but not difficult to handle. I think it tastes alright. But I don’t make gingerbread houses to eat them, so, ♀️
Worked great, so easy to assemble and tastes great! Had a fun afternoon making three houses with my kids
Melanie I am about to embark on three myself! Feeling a bit daunted did you have to make three full lots of gingerbread dough?
Yes, I made three lots. I made the dough the night before and wrapped it in film in batches of 4. It’s quite sticky, so lots of extra flour when rolling between grease proof paper.
Then I cut out and baked the following morning.
For 3 houses I used 600g icing sugar, + 3 (smallish) egg whites added one at a time in mixing bowl and beat for about 2 minutes. In a piping bag, it was thick and I had the 3 houses perfectly assembled in no time! About half was left to decorate.
This is by far my most successful attempt at houses.
Let me know how you get on!
I have tried so many different gingerbread house recipes through the years, making them with my kids every year. This will be my “go to” recipe from now on. I love the tutorial, the taste is amazing, and the buttercream is the best idea. This was the easiest of all the recipes we’ve tried, by far. Sally never steers me wrong!
I just finished my house and it turned out incredibly well! The recipe was so easy to follow and the templates were great! I added a touch of cardamom to my dough because I think cardamom makes everything better, but otherwise stuck to the recipe exactly. Had to give the dough a few minutes out of the fridge to soften it up before I could roll it out, but there was exactly enough for the house and few gingerbread men and women. I used Royal icing for the whole thing (with meringue powder) because I knew it would sit out on my table for a while and didn’t want to worry about butter or egg whites going bad. Overall I’m so pleased with this recipe, as I usually am with Sally’s recipes and would definitely use it again
Hi Hann, You can use all butter instead (so one full cup of butter total) but just remember that the shortening is what helps the buttercream to “crust” so yours will stay soft.
This is just the best house recipe. So glad to find this that didn’t poof so much that the edges were bad, and did not use so much of the spices. So far superior to others. It rolled out great with no problems, and could not be overbaked it seemed. The smaller pieces cooked in prescribed time, but our very large panels, we cooked for 40 minutes with no ill effects. The pieces were stiff, not brittle, very clean on the edges. Beautiful recipe. We made a large house and the pieces looked like the came from a box.
I can only rate the crusting buttercream because I didn’t make the gingerbread recipe for my Gingerbread House. I did decorate my house very similar to this one because I absolutely loved the roof and door. Super easy and beautiful! The buttercream was a perfect consistency as is, I didn’t have to add a thing. Thank you!
Great recipe to go off of, but made some slight alterations, as it is a very wet dough! Added a cup of flour and eliminated the water, and it worked out perfectly! I made 6 houses for my family’s gingerbread house making party. The dough was easy to work with, and the cookies were very stable, fragrant, and tasty! I’ll be using it again next year
Came out great!! Thanks for giving me the confidence that I could do this. The extra cookies were very good and my 5 year old and I stayed busy for two days working on this.
As Sally and others have mentioned this is a sticky dough. I have a rolling mat (from a kitchen shop? I flour it well and spread flour around the edges of the mat also then I roll out the dough with flour sprinkled on top of dough and parchment paper or waxed paper. After I have about a 6 inch shape I take the free edges of the paper with the dough under and rotate the rolled piece into the floured edges then back to centre and roll some more..repeat the rotate, always keeping the dough loose from the mat and from the paper covering the rolled out dough. Now flour the templates a little and cut. Next use a floured thin edge lifter to transfer the pieces to the parchment lined cookie sheet. I did not find the pieces too floured after baking. I made the mistake of rolling the dough between was paper and parchment paper at first and had a sticky mess. I have been baking gingerbread cookies for years so went back to my old tried and true method..no stick! My grandkids are going to build the house.
Delicious dough and it baked up really well! I can’t wait to put it all together. I will say though, whoa nelly that parchment paper trick did not work for me. It could have been my hippie compostable parchment paper. It rolled out fine but when I tried to get the pieces off they were stuck. I just scraped it off and rerolled it with a bunch of flour and it was totally fine. If you have this same problem, don’t freak out! Just use a dough scraper to get the dough off the parchment and try again with flour.
How long will the house last (decorated and all) sitting out on the counter before it goes bad? I am trying to figure out how far in advance I can make it before Christmas.
Hi Laura, Use your best judgment here but it should be ok covered for few days.
Hello Sally, I made the log cabin gingerbread house last year and it was a huge success. This year I am passing the project to my grandchildren and I don’t remember if the sides are the same for the roof. Please advisee.
Hi Geri, The pieces for the roof are slightly larger than the pieces for the sides of the house. But all of the shapes are in the template linked above!
Really really hard gingerbread.
It doesn’t need to be this hard to make a house. Great for the building, but not for eating.
Hello! I am making mini gingerbread houses with this recipe , how long should I bake them for, they are very small cutters. Thank you!!
Hi Natalie, You can use our gingerbread cookies as a guide. We use a 4 inch cookie cutter and bake the cookies for about 9-10 minutes. If your cookie cutters are smaller than 4 inches, bake for about 8 minutes. If your cookie cutters are larger than 4 inches, bake for about 11 minutes.
I just wanted to ask if there is any way to either get a good molasses substitute or how to make it at home .
Hi Zoe, Unfortunately, molasses is what gives gingerbread its signature flavor and color (along with the ginger/spices). There aren’t many good substitutes and a lot of flavor will be lost without it.
I was wondering if you could make the dough in advance, how long it could freeze for, or would that not be recommended? Thanks!
Hi Madison, Yes! Unbaked cookie dough discs freeze well – up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then continue with step 5.
This was my first time making a gingerbread house from scratch, and I chose this recipe because it was described as easy. I didn’t have too much trouble with rolling out and shaping the dough, but didn’t care for the taste of the finished product. However, the main problem that I faced was constructing the actual house (took almost an hour). I found that it was incredibly hard to hold the walls in place and the recipe for the icing proved to not be strong enough to hold the walls together. The house turned out nothing like the picture, but is still standing as I write this review.
Hi Christine, thank you for trying this recipe. Once the icing dries, it should keep the walls firmly in place. I wonder if you didn’t use enough icing for constructing or if the royal icing was thinned out too much? Meringue powder is key in the royal icing– it helps it firm up when it dries. Thanks for the feedback!
My husband had the “great idea” (sarcastic tone) of making homemade gingerbread houses instead of buying them from the store a few years back. I found a recipe with a huge yield however it was horrible to work with. I just tried your recipe for the first time and while the yield was just one house, it turned out perfect! It looks just like the store bought house but so much better! I will be using this recipe for years to come. Thank you for sharing.
Hi Sally, can I use honey instead of molasses in this recipe (can’t get it in my country)?
I use honey for baking my gingerbread houses. They are very solid, but I prefer the cookies a little bit softer; they become very hard. But maybe it’s because of the other ingredients in my recipe, the balance… So maybe if I use your recipe and use honey instead of molasses?…
Hi Kristin, Some have used honey but we cannot personally comment on that since we’ve never tried it. The flavor and texture of the cookies will change without molasses. For an alternative, you can try these chocolate sugar cookies!
I am making a house for xmas and this recipe is perfect!
I can’t get molasses so can i use light corn syrup instead?, it’s the only thing that i can get so i really hope you can.
Hi Gili, I don’t recommend light corn syrup as a replacement for molasses. If you can’t get your hands on molasses, try using my sugar cookie dough instead of this dough. You can add these amounts of cinnamon, ginger, and allspice to that dough if you’d like.
Hi there. Could I speed up the chill process of the dough discs if I put them in the freezer? Thanks in advance!
Using the freezer is a great shortcut sometimes, but it wouldn’t evenly chill or firm up this dough. I strongly recommend using the refrigerator.
Perfect amount of spices. Hard enough to keep the house together but still soft enough to eat.
Would this work with any other type of cookie dough, for a family that dislikes gingerbread? 🙁
Hi Anne, You can try it with rolled out sugar cookie dough or chocolate sugar cookie dough but we haven’t tested either of them for this exact project. They are both softer cookies so if you try it you may wish to increase the bake time so they are a little bit more sturdy. Let us know if you try it!
We actually made it today with your sugar cookie dough and it worked great!