Gingerbread Houses part 2: Decorating

We decorated the gingerbread houses yesterday. We constructed them in advance and allowed them to sit overnight so they would be set.

To decorate the houses, make up another large batch of frosting, adjusting this recipe as needed, based on the number of houses you are covering.

Frosting “glue” recipe:

1 lb. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. milk

Blend powdered sugar and butter together, add vanilla and milk, beating until smooth. Add more sugar if the mixture is too runny, or more milk, one teaspoon at a time, if the glue is too thick to spread.

Set each child up with a work station: their gingerbread house on its stable platform and a place to corral all their candies.

I bought all kinds of vintage candies this year at a local farmer’s market. Any candies that the kids like will do, but I thought it would be fun this year to experiment with making old-fashioned looking houses.

We had peppermint sticks and peppermint chunks, crystal clear rock candy, sour cherries, licorice, hard candies, coconut, chocolate wafer cookies, Smarties, sprinkles, colored sugars, Swedish fish, jelly beans and mini marshmallows. You could also use pretzels, Frosted Mini Wheats for snowy roof shingles, gumdrops…the sky is the limit!

To attach the candies, fill a sandwich sized ziploc bag with frosting. Press out all the air and seal the bag. Push the frosting to the corner of the bag. It can be hard for little hands to hold the bag in such a way as to keep the frosting in the corner…tying off the top (empty) part of the bag with a rubber band can help. Cut a very small corner off the edge of the bag and pipe the frosting out through the hole. If you make this hole too big it will end up very messy!

Our youngest children found this way too frustrating and ended up slathering on the frosting with little spreader knives and even with their fingers.

Show the kids how to pipe rows of frosting on the roof and sides. They won’t need help figuring out how to place the candy! From here on out, your main task will be ensuring that they put at least as much candy on the house as they do in their mouths!

As I wrote in Gingerbread Houses: Construction, I had trouble making part of the roof and used cardboard. It didn’t stick that well on a couple of the houses. My 3 year old had the idea of using a cookie, which worked just fine and looked great!

Everyone was proud of the results!

One thing I enjoy about this activity is that I can see each child’s personality reflected in their creation.

My orderly child made this house.

One of my children is very artistic but completely disorganized in an oblivious kind of way. Here is his house.

All my boys seemed to focus more on the landscape around the house than on the house itself. Large portions of the houses were left bare, but they used gobs of mini marshmallows to construct fishing snowmen, lumberjacks stacking peppermint logs, blue frosting ponds stocked with red Swedish fish, a peppermint stick “North Pole” and snowmen tending flower and vegetable gardens.

The grandmas and I surmised that girls “decorate” while boys “build”.

One little boy got a little carried away with his house. We set the houses aside to dry and when we came back later, his looked like it had been hit by a candy avalanche. The weight of the candy on top caused the roof to cave in so that it needed to be propped up with long peppermint sticks!

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