Most sources recommend using royal frosting to glue your gingerbread house pieces together. This works, but it takes a long time to set up, which means you need to find ways to keep the house propped up while it dries.
We glue our houses together with boiling sugar. It's dangerous but very effective. I have no idea where we got this technique, but it's easily the most exciting/terrifying part of the whole process.
The technique is simple - pour 3 or 4 cups of sugar in a large cast iron skillet and heat it until it starts to boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to the lowest setting or turn it off completely. If it starts too get too thick while you work, hit it with a bit more heat.
You have to have everything ready and you need two people. Wearing gloves helps in case you accidentally drip hot sugar on yourself, but it's best if you also have a big bowl of ice water next to your work station, just in case. Hot sugar causes terrible burns, so it pays to be safe even if you don't end up needing it (my sister and I both came out unscathed this year).
One person should dip the edges of a piece in the sugar and the other person will hold the other pieces ready. The sugar cools quickly, so you have to work fast. Press the pieces together and hold it for 5 seconds or so while it sets up.
Here's how we did it, specifically.
- Kick all pets and children out of the house. Or at least out of the kitchen.
- One person holds the front and back of the house up. The other person dips the edges of a house side wall in the sugar and then carefully positions it between the front and back pieces. Repeat with the second wall. Set the base of the house aside for at least 5 minutes (this gives it a chance to really set up, which will make it sturdier for the next step). If you work assembly line style, you can get all the house bases set up and then go back down the line and attach the roofs.
- The roof is the tricky part. One person should hold both roof pieces while the other person picks up the entire base of the house and dips the top edges in the hot glue (this is where you are most likely to get burned, so be careful). Set the base down and press the roof pieces in place. Let it cool for 5 - 10 seconds and then tip the house over again and dip the roofline in the sugar (this just ensures that the roof is nice and secure).
- Have a base ready. We just use a rectangle of cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Dip the bottom of the house in the sugar and position it on the base. This keeps your house from shifting around, which is critical if you're going to transport it. Add the door, if desired, by dipping one edge in glue and sticking it on the house.
Voila! Finished houses that will not come apart, no matter what you do and are completely edible.
extreme gingerbreading! I love itReplyDelete
Oo thanks for the tip about the sugar! I probably won't be trying this because I'm going to do a gingerbread house with my younger sisters but perhaps another time : )ReplyDelete
wow,what an intense process. they turned out so well!ReplyDelete
I love making gingerbread houses but had no idea that I could glue them together with boiling sugar!ReplyDelete
Then again, I live in a dry climate so the royal icing dries pretty well here. In any case, it's a fun gingerbread house.
We donated the one we made to charity which was a fun way to do it. Instead of sitting aroud our house, our gingerbread house was enjoyed by nearly 80,000 people and raised a little money for a children's hospital. Makes the whole process even more enjoyable.
I think the idea is that the boiling sugar can't be seen and doesn't make messy glued edges. Think of it like the cars we drive being assembled with something that looks like white silicone holding all the parts together. Using royal icing you just can't get away from the snow trimmed look to do something more elegant and classy. Royal icing dries just fine in humid Florida weather too.Delete
Does the boiled sugar hold better than the icing?Delete
Thanks for the tips! I have always wanted to try something like this.ReplyDelete
I'm very impressed by the effort that goes into this!!ReplyDelete
wow that post kind of stressed me out. that boiling pot of sugar is like hot lava!ReplyDelete
Haha I can't believe you bowl sugar (yes agreed, most fun and most terrifying all wrapped in to one!)ReplyDelete
We use boiling sugar too. Chop sticks work very well when you want to get the hot sugar in a very precise spot. We also attach the roof while the house is upside down. That way if the sugar runs down the sides it it the inside of the house that is marred and not the outside that everyone sees.ReplyDelete
I'm loving these hard-core gingerbread house making tutorials.ReplyDelete
i like a little danger with my baked goods!ReplyDelete
so very impressive, they look amazing! your holiday skills shame me.
Gingerbread really makes me think of Christmas. And it makes me hungry!ReplyDelete
wow, that is amazing. thanks for the instructions! have a great weekend.ReplyDelete
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS TIP!! I just tried it today and while I was beyond scared of burning myself, my gingerbread house actually stayed together!!!!! Happy Christmas!!ReplyDelete
Do you stir the sugar while it's heating? Thanks!ReplyDelete
The article stated stir occasionally. Why do people ask questions that are already answered in the information? It is like they don't bother to read it.Delete
Katie - yes, you do stir it while it heats, but you don't have to stir it constantly. Just keep an eye on it.ReplyDelete
We have an annual gingerbread decorating party for young girls and the first year tried just the icing. It took so many things to prop it up that we took longer holding them together than decorating. We changed to the burnt sugar 3 years ago, and just have the houses together before they get here. Much faster and with no props. Must have 2 people, but defiantly worth it!ReplyDelete
This is way my mom made gingerbread houses with my sister and I when we were little and now I do it with my girls. Love this!ReplyDelete
I just tried this.. After trying everything to get them to stick and a lot of collapsing!! Its works brilliantly I think I'm permantley scarred bUt so much fun!! Thankyou! XReplyDelete
So glad it worked! I hope you didn't get burned!Delete
Any hints on cleaning up the leftover sugar which is all over my pan and woodend spoon. I started soaking it, and I'm hoping for the best.ReplyDelete
Never mind, just soaking in hot water cleaned it all up without even having to boil the pan with water in it. Changed the water a few times to keep it hot.Delete
Geez. People amaze me. I think it is a wooden spoon.Delete
Thank you !!! I tried this last night and while i made multiple mistakes (pan too hot, didn't remove it from stove to sugar burnt and dipped too much so got lots of caramel all over the walls lol) it still stayed together and I'll do better next try !!!ReplyDelete
It takes a little practice! And we definitely have years where we burn the sugar even after all this time. I find it best if I turn the heat off once most of the sugar has melted, even if some clumps remain. Then I have to reheat it briefly a couple times, depending on how many houses we're gluing together. Glad it worked for you!Delete
I made my gingerbread houses to decorate as haunted houses, I used sugar glue it does work great! However, I made mine a couple days ago and they've been sitting on my counter and now my "glue" is sticky and a few pieces and moved/ shifted. I'm just trying to figure out why.... it dried hard but now is tacky. 😝ReplyDelete
Ah, sorry I'm so late to reply! This won't help now, but I find that if humidity is high the sugar can get tacky (water is the enemy of sugar). I find the once the houses are frosted it gives the sugar some protection. If it's rainy, I usually try to assemble the houses no more than a day or two before we decorate and that seems to solve the problem. It's usually dry as a bone here, so humidity/rain is rarely an issue for me but we had one year where December was a nonstop deluge and the houses fell apart no matter what we did. Sadly, you can't control the weather!Delete
Have you ever decorated the cookie first then dipped it? What does the heat do to your decor?ReplyDelete
I host a Gingerbread house decorating party for my grandkids and some friends' kiddos. This year I had 8 houses to assemble. Looking for a quicker way to build (no cans to support the houses while they take a seemingly long time to set) I came upon your blog post. Wow! Completed all 8 in about 3-4 minutes each! Woohoo!!!! Thanks.ReplyDelete