Decorating homemade gingerbread houses is a holiday tradition in my family. I think we made them every single year when I was little. My mom would bake copious amounts of gingerbread and my Dad would play amateur architect constructing the houses with melted sugar. My sister and I went crazy decorating with candy oblivious to all of the hardwork it took to actually create these things from scratch. This year I decided we should revive the childhood tradition and veganize the gingerbread recipe. Results = most fun I have had in a long time!
Blackstrap molasses, cinnamon and ginger give the gingerbread the most amazing festive flavour and ground flax replaces the need for eggs in this recipe. It is a bit of process to make these things but I promise it is totally worth it. We made the dough Friday afternoon, baked the gingerbread pieces Friday evening, let the pieces dry overnight and then assemble and decorate on Saturday. If you aren’t up for the full-out gingerbread experience, this recipe also makes some really good cookies! The smell of gingerbread baking in December cannot be beat.
I should clarify that the gingerbread recipe is vegan but not all of the candy pictured is. We went to the Bulk Barn and got a little crazy with nostalgia! BUT you can totally do this vegan – just takes a bit of research on ingredients. Check out PETA’s list of accidently vegan food or Vegan Nutritionista’s guide (link here) which tells you what ingredients to watch out for.
To build your gingerbread house you need to create 11 pieces (pictured below): A front wall, back wall, two gable side walls, 2 rectangular roof pieces make the basic structure. We then add a chimmney and a front door (the smaller pieces pictured below). Use the dimensions below to make a paper pattern you will use to cut the gingerbread dough using the following dimensions:
- Back & Front Walls: 3.5 x 7 inches (with windows and door as pictured)
- Gable side Walls: 5 inches wide, straight sides are 3.5 inches high, then slant up to a point (total height of 7 inches)
- Roof Pieces: 5 x 8 inches
- Front & Back of Chimmeny: 2.5 inches high, 1/2 inch wide at the top, 1 1/4 inches wide at the bottom
- Sides of Chimmney: same, except for a 1 1/4 inch tall triangle cut out of the bottom
- Door: Use same dimensions as the door shape you made in the front wall
The picture above is of the melted sugar – yes that is what sugar turns into if you heat it (who knew!). Use the biggest saucepan you have (it should be wide enough for you to dip the pieces in for assembly). If you can’t fit the gingerbread pieces in the pan to dip, you can also use a spoon on popsicle stick to spread the melted sugar on the edges. You need to work really quickly and carefully when assembling – the melted sugar will be very hot and it also dries really fast. You can either assemble on a purchased cake board as we did, or can also use a piece of wood or other hard surface covered in tinfoil – just make sure you have enough room for a nice front yard 🙂
Before you add the roof pieces, reinforce the inside of the roof pieces with popsicle sticks (this will help your roof stay sturdy and avoid it caving in).
Once you have succesfully built your house, it’s time to decorate. Use a vegan royal icing recipe or buy an eggless icing mix (we used Virgin Ice brand Royal Eggless Icing Mix available at the bulk barn in Canada). The decorating phase is where you can let your personality come out. You will see my house is more traditional (you could say “type-A”..) whereas my sister’s house is totally different. She tiled candies all over the base to create a candy flower-garden and cut diamond-shaped windows into the sides of her house.
Vegan Gingerbread Houses (or cookies!)
- 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax combined with 3 tbsp water)
- 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegetable shortening
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ginger
sugar-glue for assembly
- 2+ cups of white sugar
- vegan icing of your choice. We suggest Food Network’s Vegan Royal Icing Recipe or Virgin Ice brand Royal Eggless Icing Mix available at Bulk Barn in Canada
- vegan pretzels
- vegan candy of your choosing
prepare gingerbread dough
- In a small bowl combine flax and water, let sit to thicken for 2-3 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine flax egg, molasses, sugar, shortening and baking soda. Beat well.
- In another bowl stir together flour and spices. Add the flour mixture to to the wet ingredients and beat well. The dough will be very thick.
- Chill dough in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
- While the dough is chilling draw the gingerbread house pattern on white paper and cut to use as templates.
bake gingerbread house pieces
- Take dough out of the fridge and let it warm up for a few minutes. When you are ready to make the pieces, form dough into a ball, warming it up with your hands.
- Roll out the dough directly on a cookie sheet (no greasing required) using a marble rolling pin. Roll carefully starting from the middle and rolling outwards. The rolled dough should be smooth with no cracks and should be fairly thin (approx 1/8 of an inch thick or less).
- Place cut pattern on top of dough and trace around the template with a knife.
- Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. Do not undercook the gingerbread. Depending on your oven it may take a bit of trial and error to find the exact right baking time. Once cooled the pieces should be sturdy with no soft areas in the middle.
- As soon as you take out of the oven, place the pattern over the piece and again cut around with a knife. This ensures the pieces have straight edges and will fit together. You need to do this as soon as it is out of the oven before the gingerbread crisps up.
- Let cool on tea towels overnight. Do not try to assemble right away or the pieces will not be dry enough and your house will not be sturdy.
- Before you start assembly make sure you have a good base on which to build your house (we used a large cake base board from bulk barn, but you can also use a piece of wood covered in tinfoil)
- Melt sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat (do not add anything other than sugar). Stir frequently (do not leave unattended) until the sugar forms a sticky liquid substance. You will need to work fast and very carefully when assembling the houses as the sugar glue will be extremely hot and dries very fast.
- Starting with the sides of the houses, dip the edges of the pieces in the sugar glue and stick on to your base. You will need to hold in place for a few minutes until the sugar hardens. Take a look at the pictures in the blog post to see how to assemble.
- Don’t worry about the sugar dripping, the house should look a bit rustic, plus you can cover it up with icing and candy after.
- Prepare icing according to recipe or package directions.
- Use an icing bag to pipe icing on to the house (use to outline windows and edges as well as to attach candies of your choosing).
- Get creative!
Happy gingerbread making!