How To Decorate a Halloween Gingerbread House
Gingerbread houses aren't just for Christmas — just ask Hansel and Gretel.
Halloween has planted its flag firmly in gingerbread land, and you can find DIY gingerbread house kits pretty much anywhere you buy Halloween decorations. Constructing and decorating a Halloween gingerbread house is a great project to share with the family, whether you make one from scratch or buy a kit.
If you bake your own from scratch, give yourself enough time to let the pieces cool and firm up, and do the construction in stages so the icing can set up. I've learned from experience that if you rush the construction and try to add the roof pieces before the side pieces are firm, your hard work will fall apart. Believe me, take your time and you'll end up with a gingerbread house that will last for as long as you'll let it.
- 1 gingerbread house from scratch or from a kit (like this one: $30 at Williams-Sonoma).
- Royal icing (I like Royal Icing II, which uses meringue powder instead of raw egg whites)
- Base for the house - A large platter or sheet pan would work. (I covered a square sheet pan with brown craft paper)
- Pastry bag with decorating tips (you might like this kit: $20 at Bed Bath & Beyond)
- Halloween candies
- Small Halloween decorations and toys
Making the Halloween-themed gingerbread house from scratch is typically spread over several sessions:
- Mix the dough and let it rest for at least 1 hour
- Cut out the pieces, bake them, and let them cool completely for 8 hours to overnight
- Ice together the sides of the house and let the icing harden for at least 2 hours
- Add the roof and let the icing harden for at least 8 hours to overnight
- Make the dough. (Try this recipe for Christmas Gingerbread House.)
- Roll out the dough and cut pattern pieces. (Just Google "gingerbread house templates: and you'll find tons of downloadable patterns.)
- I find it easier to work with a small piece of room temperature dough at a time, wrapping the rest of it in plastic to keep it moist. I roll it out to about 1/4" thickness on parchment, then use a sharp paring knife and scissors to cut the pattern, parchment and all. This keeps the pieces from stretching out when you transfer it to a baking sheet.
- Bake following recipe instructions. Let pieces cool completely on a rack so they'll firm up.
- Make royal icing, add food coloring if desired. (I colored mine orange.) If you're not using it right away, cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down onto the surface of the icing to keep it from crusting over.
- Construct the house following recipe instructions.
Now comes the fun part — decorating! Here's how my house came together:
Tips for Decorating Your Gingerbread House
- I find that it's easiest to glue the decorations using the pastry bag with a medium writing tip.
- The pieces don't have to fit together perfectly; a thick dab of icing will fill in any gaps.
- If your icing gets a bit too stiff to squeeze through the decorating tip, loosen it up with warm tap water, stirring it in a teaspoon at a time.
- For this house, I used Mellowcreme pumpkins, black licorice, gum drops, candy corn, Necco wafers for the stepping stones and premade Halloween icing decorations for the ghosts and the bat over the door.
- For the non-candy decorations I found miniature trees at a craft store, and cut up an inexpensive pumpkin necklace to make "lights" to hang in the tree. My ground cover is black beans and crumpled foil made a pond on the side of the house for miniature pirate ducks. I just wish I could have found tiny Hansel and Gretel figurines.
Here's my best tip: You put a lot of work into decorating your gingerbread Halloween house, so don't just toss it out. Redecorate it for the holidays instead. A generous coat of white icing and a few new embellishments will easily transform your gingerbread house from witchy to winter wonderland.
Related: Here are more tips and tricks for constructing gingerbread houses, including storage tips if you want to store your Halloween house until you redecorate it for Christmas.