The Gingerbread House

It hasn’t been a good day in the kitchen here at Hotly Spiced Headquarters.

I wasn’t going to make a gingerbread house this year; mostly because the December 25 deadline is hurtling towards me at a frightening pace and in the last few weeks I’ve been incredibly busy and I know from experience that gingerbread houses are enormously time-consuming and when you’re well behind and haven’t actually started your Christmas shopping you start to think of things you can omit from the schedule as a means of making up time.

But when Arabella asked me if I was going to make a gingerbread house, Alfie overheard and ran into the room saying, ‘You are, aren’t you mum?  You are going to make a gingerbread house, aren’t you?’  And I looked at his little face and there was such an expression of hope and expectation mixed with alarm at the very notion that there may not be one this year.

So on Friday I bought the ingredients with Alfie picking out the sweets he wanted stashed inside of it and yesterday I made the gingerbread, rested it in the fridge while I cut out the paper patterns, then rolled out the gingerbread, cut out the shapes, baked them then rested them on a wire rack while I headed off to Christmas drinks then Carols by Candlelight.

Today Carl took the boys to the Blue Mountains.  I had the house to myself and while I knew I should have been commencing my Christmas shopping, I instead made a batch of royal icing and began assembling the gingerbread house thinking it would be a lovely surprise for when Alfie returned.

A terrible photo of the gingerbread house

A terrible photo of the gingerbread house

It has been a very hot day and quite humid and I noticed the gingerbread wasn’t as hard as it normally is, especially one of the roof pieces.  I wondered if I should re-bake the roof piece to see if it would harden but instead thought it would be okay if I reinforced the underside with some criss-crossed skewers secured with royal icing.

So the process began and the day got hotter and hotter and there was a warm wet wind blowing through the house and the royal icing was taking longer than usual to harden.  But I finished the little house complete with windows and a chimney and a front door and a little path up to the front door and Christmas trees in the front yard.  I was preparing it for a photo shoot but thought I’d first take a photo on my i-phone, then have a shower before shooting it to show you.

I came out of the shower and this is what I saw.

The chimney remains intact

The chimney remains intact

That roof piece had imploded taking the rest of the house down like a deck of cards.

The roof was covered in chocolate freckles - Alfie's favourite

The roof was covered in chocolate freckles – Alfie’s favourite

I’ve been making these for many years and I’ve never ever had this happen to me.  And it’s the same recipe.  A few years ago I started assembling the house and had to abandon it halfway through because of an emergency dash to hospital.  I wasn’t back for two days (Alfie had ripped his toenail off and fractured his toe requiring surgery which got in the way a bit).  Walked in through the door, picked up the icing bag and carried on like I’d never been missing.

Not happy!

Not happy!

As for today, I’d love to blame the humidity and the heat and while I believe they did contribute to today’s disaster, I think I undercooked the roof piece so it didn’t harden properly.  It was too soft for the weight of that chimney.

So…there’s no gingerbread house this year but the pieces, well, not one for display at least but if anyone would like some, it does taste pretty good.

And for the recipe and a look at how this gingerbread house should look, please have a look at last year’s effort.


  1. I’m sorry that your gingerbread house collapsed. Are you sure Hansel and Gretel didn’t come by and snack on it while you were in the shower? 🙂

    I had some problems with my gingerbread today as well. My paper patterns were too flimsy but I made do and cut out the three sections for a 3-dimensional gingerbread tree. Then I ended up breaking one of the segments because I tried to move it on the parchment before it had cooled. I used some of the extra dough to replace the broken segment and made a nicer version of the first segment I had cut out and then … again … broke one of the 2 replacement pieces. (Sigh). So I’m eating big chunks of gingerbread cause I’m annoyed with myself for being impatient.

    I’m going to try to assemble and take pictures of the tree tomorrow. I’ve never made royal icing before either. Wish me luck.

  2. I had the exact same problems. Mine is finished but softening rapidly. I am praying it will keep until Christmas Day. It seems to be absorbing a lot of moisture which sucks. Sorry for your loss 🙁 it sucks when they collapse!

  3. What a shame! I definitely think the humidity has been playing havoc with baking this year. I’ve never made a gingerbread house before but I would love to one day! And my gosh – Archie needing surgery because of his toe… OUCH!!

  4. I had the same thing happen to me last year, more or less. I had a very stressful time making the actual house (this was it: ), but then when it was finally done it proudly sat on our dining room table from the 23rd till Christmas Day. I was going to take it up to my aunts house where we have Christmas dinner, but we were all sitting in the lounge room when we just hear this noise from the other room.

    I’m not sure if I grabbed a picture of it, but it looked a lot like your second pic! This year I made a much smaller gingerbread house at pastry school, but after my youngest niece decided to play with the reindeer and open and shut the door, they ended up devouring it instead of keeping it till Christmas.

    At least it’s still good for eating! 😉

  5. As many before me, I totally feel your pain. When I was a child I helped my mom make our very first gingerbread house and it too collapsed under the weight of the iving; my Dad took photos of the house collapsing!
    I love those roof candies, I would gladly eat the broken house anyway! Last years version was beautiful too.

  6. Oh no, Charlie! All that work. Poor Alfie, poor Charlie, and poor house. It looked so great before the big collapse.

  7. I feel your pain. I just spent the last 2 days prepping and working on the special op gingerbread project with my boys and I swore I will never, ever make a gingerbread house again. To add to the fun and stress my directions were all written in Japanese as well. I am sure your GB pieces tasted wonderful and we can at least check this one off our lists for a project completed. Done!!!! Wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday. BAM

  8. I think you are amazing for even trying to fit in making a gingerbread house along with everything else. And I bet it tastes great.

  9. Oh, Charlie, how sad that the gingerbread house collapsed, but with a bit of humor, which you so abundantly possess, I’m sure you made the most of it. And at least there is the terrific photo…Wishing you and your family a loving Christmas.

  10. Oh, so sorry both for you and Alfi. Although I’m sure eating it was delightful anyway. I’d definitely blame the humidity — that’s what I always do when something goes wrong in baking! (And it’s actually sometimes the case.) Anyway, I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday.

  11. Oh dear! The bright side is you rarely mess up anything in the kitchen so you are covered for several months. I bet it still tastes good!!

  12. LOL I know I shouldn’t laugh at the House, but it did bring a smile to my face and like you said it still tastes nice. Have a wonderful Christmas 🙂

  13. Taste is all that matters! But wait, did you say lollies INSIDE? THAT IS AWESOME.

  14. Oh no!! I intended to make a gingerbread house this year but like you, time got away.
    I have been making quick and simple treats instead!

    I know if I did make such a gorgeous masterpiece (2011 house). I would be devastated if I found it in pieces. 🙁

    At least it will still taste delicious 🙂

  15. Oh sweetie, it really wasn’t your fault! I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve made zillions. Poor littlej worked so hard making her very own gingerbread from scratch with no help from me at all, and it’s soft and floppy too. We’ve had some rain, and with evaporative cooling blowing damp humid air around, the gingerbread didn’t stand a chance. This post of yours was actually encouraging to her (sorry!)
    If it’s fine tomorrow, I’ll re-bake the pieces too dry them back out, and she can try and put it together.
    Good luck!
    Merry Christmas to you all sweetie, xox

  16. Aw, phooey! I hate baking disasters…especially when they are a planned blog post :(. I have a feeling your kids still found joy in eating the collapsed house…I know mine would have! Merry Christmas, my friend!!!! xo

  17. Dear Charlie,

    Sorry to hear about your gingerbread house. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of how to even make one, better luck next year. Wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas and new year!

  18. Oh Charlie you poor thing! I can’t imagine your horror when you came down from the shower! I’ve only made one gingerbread house before and it survived thank goodness. I did load each piece up with a few skewers for reinforcement though. I was so scared of it collapsing! I was in charge of dessert for a dinner party and that’s what I was bringing. Every time I walked into the room I’d brace myself for it to be in pieces.

  19. I thought about making one since the olds are here for Christmas but it’s been really humid up here. I’m glad I didn’t. I went out and bought mangos and lychees and told them it was a Christmas tradition to have crumpets with fresh fruit for Christmas Eve breakfast. See how easy? 🙂

  20. Tricky business gingerbread when the elements are against you – thank goodness for iPhones. the gingerbread men at the party last week were a touch on the soft side (just the way I like it actually) and a few fell apart in the party bags. My sister is a queen gingerbread house maker but sadly only makes them for decorating the house at Christmas and then it gets thrown out after Christmas – what a sin! Yours looked great last year. Merry Christmas.

  21. That’s such a shame. Now I know I will never attempt such a task – hehe!

  22. Oh Charlie!! You poor thing. Humidity is such a challenge in and out of the kitchen, but at least you can say you tried – and there are plenty of pieces for the children to eat, which maybe is all they care about?! I hope the rest of your Christmas preparations go smoothly – and a very Happy Christmas to you and your family xx

  23. Oh Charlie lucky you took a photo before the shower you mud-st have had a premonition. Never mind Alfie just wanted to eat the gingerbread and lollies any way. Its pre disassembled fort him. Hope you have a disaster free day tomorrow and Santa brings you lots of things for being a very good Mother

  24. What a shame, Charlie! It’s just further proof that no good deed goes unpunished. At least it still tastes good.

  25. Oh how sad, but at least you did it, and then you saved what you could, all amidst the dramas that your family is so good at! Congratulations, you are a real trooper.

  26. Aw! That darn humidity. Well, at least it’s still tasty looking!

  27. What a tragedy! It looks like a natural disaster happened. LOL. What luck you took a photo with your iphone or we would never have believed you. Actually the ruins look rather intriguing and definitely edible. You could start a Christmas tradition – the post-apocalyptic gingerbread house.

  28. I am so sorry about your disaster;I love doing houses.I have done Autumn Houses and Easter Houses, too.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  29. I’ve never made a gingerbread house, I really would love to. I feel so nervous about this great feat. How did the kids react when they saw what happened?

  30. When you mentioned making a gingerbread house in the title, I asked myself how you will be doing that with the humidity and heat around. I was really excited to see how you would do it, so that I could learn something and finally solve the humidity and heat cookie killer problem here. No I didn’t dare to make a gingerbread house after battling with a gingerbread softness problem. lol Kudos for doing soo much at the last minute Charlie, the gingerbread house could have been at least so kind to remain intact for a 10 minutes shoot.

  31. Oh no! It was a good effort though, Charlie!! Next year, go with the kit they sell. Then the fun in all about the decorating 🙂

  32. Until this day I’ve never made gingerbread house! My kids made small version at school, and I refuse to bake and make the gingerbread house at home. It’s quite terrifying as I have no experience in making growing up. >_< But I know kids would love decorating the house with all kinds of candies… 🙂 I love the roof!!

  33. Awww, I am so sorry, that is so frustrating! I never thought about the heat being a factor, but good to know for sure. Well you can’t say you didn’t try right? It did look beautiful in the beginning:-) Hugs, Terra

  34. OH, so sad!!!!!!!!!!!!! You must have been heartbroken. All that work and nothing to show for it. Yes, they do take a lot of time. I haven’t made one for several years for that reason. I hope that your son wasn’t heartbroken as well! I hope, too, that you had a lovely Christmas!!!

  35. Awww what a shame Charlie that the gingerbread house fell apart, but I’m sure Alfie still appreciates it and you are seriously SUPER woman! Being able to make a gingerbread house in such short notice!!

  36. I have been making gingerbread houses for a while now & I know that I had failures too! Maybe it is the gluer you used to tie everything together??? I love your house anyway!!

    I hope you celkebrated a lovely Christmas with your loved ones!


  1. […] those of you who were following my blog last Christmas you might recall I made a gingerbread house that imploded.  I had just come home from being away on an eight-day business trip and it was now but a few days […]

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