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Decorating Gingerbread Houses- A Favorite Christmas Tradition

One of the earliest Christmas traditions we started after having our boys was decorating gingerbread houses. This has become such a special tradition in our house and is something my boys anxiously anticipate each year.

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Although our houses look a little different each year, part of our tradition is for every family member to decorate their own house. I like to prepare the houses so they’re already assembled and set a festive table where we can enjoy nibbling on candies while decorating as a family.

Today, I’m going to share a few simple tips that have made this tradition work well in our home. There are countless ways to do it, and if you prefer grabbing boxed kits and breaking them open at the table, that’s great too! Such a fun way to make special memories together.

Each year, I purchase enough gingerbread houses so we each have our own. I’ve purchased the pre-assembled variety and boxed kits that need to be assembled. All of them are great but I highly recommend assembling them and preparing everything in advance. I like to choose a special day to decorate gingerbread houses each year and start planning about 3 week in advance. It’s always disappointing when you want to decorate a house and it collapses mid decorating due to wet icing.

This year, I chose a boxed kit I found at Walmart. I chose a chocolate version because I love that the darker color favors real gingerbread. My favorite way to assemble the houses is using hot glue. It makes the houses much sturdier and dries way faster than royal icing. We never eat our houses and I’d rather set out extra candies and even cookies for snacking while decorating. If your kit comes with a piping bag full of icing, it’s perfect to save for adding candy decorations later.

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After unpackaging all four gingerbread house kits, I glued them together using hot glue and added a scrap piece of cardboard under each. Now, they’re ready for my favorite step, icing trim. You can definitely skip this step if you want to, I just feel like it adds a fun and special touch to each house. There will still be plenty of space for candy decorations and additional icing details.

For the royal icing, you’ll need a few simple ingredients, a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, a large piping bag, and whatever decorating tips you prefer.

Royal icing (makes enough to heavily decorate and trim 4-6 houses)

-1 1/2 cups egg whites (I use liquid pasteurized egg whites)

-1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

-2 (2lb) bags powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk at low speed until powdered sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to high and mix until peaks are easily formed. Once the icing is the desired stiffness, fill a large piping bag fitted with an icing tip and add trim to your houses. Cover additional icing with plastic wrap until ready to use.

After the houses are assembled and the royal icing trim is done, I just set them somewhere to dry and store them for our special day. This year, I kept our gingerbread decorating table simple and used things we already had. You can go as simple as you want or really dress things up and plan a fun themed table. Just before decorating, I set a plate filled with fun and festive candies by each house. We had a blast adding decorations to our houses together this year. It’s always such a memorable activity and I was amazed watching my boys pay such close attention to the detail and patterns they chose.

Our silly carrier elf also loves gingerbread house day and seems to always show up wearing his gingerbread costume. This year, he joined our family fun by watching from the dining room chandelier.

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