"MISS BETTY'S HOUSE"
This house was created to be raffled off during a holiday bazaar, to help raise money for a local childcare center. The design of the house was based on a photo from a book of Victorian architecture.
And, as usual, my wife is my partner on the job.
I started out with pencil sketches, which I translated to graph paper. After the plans were drawn out, I traced the pieces on to cardboard (which is the approximate thickness of the baked gingerbread), and I cut out the traced sections. The pieces were then assembled, to be sure everything fits properly. Here is the cardboard model. Each part of the house is labeled, then disassembled.
Now it's time for the dough. You can find our gingerbread recipe HERE. Most of the houses displayed here, used this recipe, with all the ingredient amounts multiplied by 10!
After the dough has chilled, it is rolled out on Teflon baking sheets to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. The baking sheets go back into the fridge to chill again (cold dough is much easier to cut). Once the dough is chilled again, I arranged the pieces of the disassembled cardboard model (which will now serve as cutting templates), onto the dough, making sure to arrange them to make the best use of pan space, while also being careful not to place pieces to close together.
When the dough bakes it will expand, and you do not want your pieces baking into one another. I made a simple sketch of the layout on a sheet of paper, so as not to get confused later.
Then, using a small knife, I cut around each cardboard template, (remembering to also cut out any windows or other opening which are needed). When all the pieces were cut, I removed the cardboard templates. At this point, we usually will cut small details into the walls, such as brickwork, and architectural details. Any thin, shallow cut, with a sharp knife, will become accentuated as the dough bakes and expands. Once all the details are finished, we then carefully removed all of the dough from around the cut pieces, leaving the house sections undisturbed.
After all of the cookie pieces were baked, construction could begin. While the cookies were still soft and warm, I compared them with the cardboard templtes, and trimmed the cookies with a serrated knife, where they may have distorted or warped.
Our houses are constructed on a base of 2' x 2', 1/2 inch plywood. The "footprint" of the house is drawn on the board, to use as a guide for construction. The "cement" and "glue" for our houses, is called "Royal Icing". The recipe is HERE. This icing is very thick, and hardens like rock after a day or two. For large sections of the house, which could break easily, we spread a layer of icing on the backs, to add strength. We use pastry bags to pipe the icing onto the edges, and corners of the house walls. Like building a house of cards, the first two sections of wall are the most important, and most difficult to keep in place. Unopened cans of soup make great wall supports, as the first four walls go up. The cans can be place inside and outside of the walls, to keep the walls vertical.
Below, you can see the first four walls, after the icing had hardened. The windows were made from yellow Lifesaver candies, which we crushed, and sprinkled on aluminum foil (which is on a baking sheet), then carefully melted in the oven. The melting only takes a minute. We allowed the candy to cool slightly, then with a knife, carefully scored the warm "puddle" of candy into rectangular shapes. After refrigerating, the candy becomes hard, and peels off the aluminum foil, then easily breaks along the scoring. The candy window panes were then attached to the inside of the window openings, using icing. Here you can also see the porch, with its candy cane pillars already in place.
Sugar wafers make great architectural details. Piped colored icing is used to create greens on the window sills, and candles in the windows. The icing is colored with paste food colorings.
Now the roof and porch are built, and along with a couple of waffle ice cream cones, the main structures are complete. Note the coffee mug, used as a turret support.
Here you see the roof, as it is being "shingled" with mini colored chiclets. From this point, we let our imaginations go wild, as we determine how to decorate the house, and and surrounding landscape. Hard candies make great looking wrapped gifts on the porch, and candy root beer barrels are placed under Twizzler rain spouts. There is also a snowman, which we made from our Royal Icing, whic
h was mixed with extra confectioners sugar, until it formed a dough.
Different sized, stacked gum balls, make the finials, and peppermint lifesavers are the porch balustrades. We soaked coconut flakes in green coloring, toasted them, and attached them to ice cream cones, to make evergreens. Green icing was piped around the house, to make hanging greens, and wreaths.
Licorice chimney pots, pink sugar wafer chimneys, and PEZ roof tiles, peek out from snow covered gables.
Almond slices are used as shingles on the porch roof, and candy "sprinkles" and candy silver cake decorating balls, adorn the greens and wreaths.
The railings of the
deck (above), and the small wreaths hanging on the peppermint posts (below), were "drawn" with colored icing, on waxed paper, using the pastry bag. When they hardened, they could be easily removed and attached to the house.
The house address numbers are made from colored alphabet noodles.
And the dog house also used alphabet noodles!
Assorted hard candies were great as wrapped packages and suitcases.
White, mint Lifesaver candies used as porch rail details.
Gumball finials and cinnamon stick wood piles.
We made the pond from melted, blue mint hard candies.
Walnuts served as around the base of the rear foundation.
The house was won by somebody, and taken away. We never saw the winner, and we don't know what happened to the house. But the raffle raised quite a bit of money for the school!