The after school gingerbread project: prepping

Yesterday I introduced our little gingerbread house project, five steps to be broken down into manageable tasks, ideally headed up by the kids after school.

Many of you chimed in on social media with enthusiasm and I was thrilled with the response. Excellent! Let’s get started then.

One list and one shopping trip is about the best thing you can do to start off on the right foot. Having everything ready to go at the beginning of the week will ensure the project goes smoothly. Hopefully, you won’t have to buy much; we made do with picking up a few candy canes and were able to work from a well-stocked pantry for the rest.

The After School Gingerbread Project Day 1: Assemble ingredients and equipment

The Base:

I like to build my gingerbread houses onto something portable, with sides that contain the inevitable crumbs, candy shards, powdered sugar, etc. This year we used a paella pan that I knew I wouldn’t be needing over the holidays.

base for gingerbread house

It’s rustic, perhaps not very festive, but it worked and it was very easy to move the house around afterward. You could use:

  • a plastic tray
  • a shallow wooden box
  • a cake board (found at cake supply stores)
  • a large platter

I’d suggest a cookie sheet, but you’ll be needing that in the coming weeks! The gingerbread house has a base slightly smaller than an iPad – 7.5×7.5 inches, so look for something that will hold it with room to spare.


I’m assuming you have the kitchen basics, so I won’t list mixing bowl, measuring cup, etc…

  • A printer, or access to one, to print the plans (we’ll be using Marian’s free printable).
  • A rolling pin, essential for the dough
  • Tweezers, toothpicks, scissors and a small knife, for adding/trimming the candy
  • A soft dishcloth, for ongoing clean-up
  • Aprons!


We’ll be making one big batch, enough for the house – and a tray of cookie for snacking! Don’t start mixing just yet (tomorrow) but be sure you have these ingredients on hand:

  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 egg

candy for gingerbread house


Rather than go out and buy a bunch of candy you don’t need, do a thorough search of the cupboards first and see if you can amass any candy scraps. Any candy goes – just ask the kids!

We seldom have candy in the house, so I bought the varieties above on the tray, favoring red, white and green for a classic look. The green candy melts and the dark chocolate squares we used for the roof and windows, but feel free to get creative when the time comes.

My gingerbread house decorating favorites:

Royal Icing:

  • Powdered sugar – about 3 cups
  • Meringue powder. I know. It’s expensive, but it lasts from year to year, and with children making and eating the icing, it really is the safest bet.
  • Bag. If you have a piping bag, great, if not, just use a sturdy Ziplock bag, with one corner snipped off. No need to go out and buy one just for this project, although, if this is going to be an annual event, a piping bag is a small investment.

Now you’re all set!

Coming up:

Introduction to the after school gingerbread project.
Day 1: List of ingredients and equipment.
Day 2: Make and chill the dough.
Day 3: Cut and bake the pieces.
Day 4: Prepare Royal Icing + assemble the base.
Day 5: Decorate!

Day 6: Outtakes


Hashtag your gingerbread house projects on Twitter & Instagram with #TASGP, and I’ll share a few photos in my next weekend links!

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. What a fun after-school activity for the kids! I love making gingerbread houses!

  2. I’ll wager your gingerbread recipe is wonderful, Aimee. Maybe we’ll use it for our gingerbread men this year. I’m afraid we are committed per-assembled gingerbread house people – especially this year! But, what we skip in house making we make up for in decor! Love this tradition.

  3. What a fabulous “how to” guide – Aimée – I’m going to save these for next year when I can plan enough in advance to perhaps make these with one of my classes. Too late for this year but I’ll follow along with interest!

  4. I’m excited for this project and I don’t have children or any nieces/nephews yet. 😉

  5. Great tips for attempting this fun project!

  6. What a fabulous project!

  7. What will happen if I leave out the allspice?

  8. I’m really thrilled that you’re sharing this. I had debated on making a house from scratch because all of the prepackaged kits I’ve found aren’t nut allergy friendly.

  9. Can’t wait to see the progression! xo

  10. just curious I have four kids and I am thinking of them each working on their own. So do I need to quadruple the dough or do you think I could get away with just doubling it? I am so excited to be doing this with our kids! Thanks for this fantastic idea!

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