Candy: The Final Frontier

This is the third installment of our gingerbread house series. Read the first, focusing on recipes, here. Read the second, on templates and construction, here.

Congratulations! You've made the dough and constructed the house, now for the glitz and glam of gingerbread houses: the decoration! I started this series with this post in mind. People get hung up on the decoration of their house and it stops them from attempting to make one. The decoration can be overwhelming, have you seen the candy aisle recently? It is filled with every color and shape you can imagine. After a few tips that I have up my sleeve I'll show you some real life examples of materials you can use on your house and how to use them. We'll show you some samples that aren't attached to a house, so you can freely imagine them on your home without distraction.

Tips of the Trade

Color Scheme

Before you go shopping, pick a color scheme. Seriously. I'm not saying everything has to be one color, although that limitation definitely leads to creativity. If you look around and tell yourself to find all the green supplies you will begin to notice an amazing variety.

Pick a couple of colors and start there, that is the trick to a cohesive gingerbread house. It's easy to pick every candy that you think has great potential for a gingerbread house but when you get home and put them all together your house is going to look like a multicolored circus. Pick shades of one color or two colors to focus on. i.e pinks and reds, green and yellow, green and red, all blue and white...you get the idea.

Scale

Remember the scale of your house. Are you decorating a gingerbread house that is a few feet tall, or one that has a 5" tall roofline? This is going to affect your candy choices tremendously. Bigger elements like huge gumballs might overwhelm the smaller house, or be successful when you just use one. In the very large house scenario, gumballs would be one of the smaller elements. Keep that in mind when shopping.

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Get Weird

You don't want your gingerbread house to look like everyone else's, the best way to do that is to find a new material. I go to bulk food sections at nicer grocery stores and find things in my color scheme i.e. Those dried kiwi slices and wasabi peas. You don't have to decorate with just candy; dried fruits, nuts, and savory snacks all work well. Focus on the texture and color of the item. 

 
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Candies with Covers

Don't be afraid of wrappers, the bright colors and metallics will be an added punch of interest for your house. They also add variety in texture and sheen, using them will produce a more visually interesting surface.

Piping

I like to go heavy on the piping, icing is always going to be more detailed than candy. Candy is successful as an accent. When I pipe icing, I find the smallest round tip I can find, that is the key to detail! Remember that when you are using icing that is a thinner consistency, it will spread out from the original dot or line. Experiment with different icing consistencies, there is a time and a place for all of them. As you practice, you'll get a feel for what type of icing you need for each job.

Wiping out Mistakes

This one goes hand in hand with piping, keep a damp cloth handy so you can wipe off mistakes you made with the icing. When you are learning, and even when you've been making gingerbread houses for years, you are going to make mistakes. That being said, I'm here to tell you that they can almost always be fixed. Royal icing is extremely water soluble, if you see a mistake or a drip, just wipe it off. You will usually be able to erase your mistake with very little issue.

In the event that you realize you've made a mistake that can't be fixed by wiping it out, maybe it's dried, or it's in the middle of something else very intricate, just take a step back, breathe, and brainstorm. You can cover up a lot with candy, or royal icing. Your first plan isn't necessarily the only way to do things, come up with an alternate solution.

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Sprinkles

Spruce up seams with sprinkles, think sanding sugar or white nonpareils. You could also use this on lines or shapes of piping around your house. I would suggest doing the sprinkles first, before any other detailing is in danger of catching runaway sprinkles. Or if you choose to do this as a last step, make sure that the royal icing everywhere else is dry so you can shake (the most gentle shake in the world) off the excess.

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Material Samples

Pretzels: roof shingles, fencing, ground cover

  • Layer pretzels to add dimension
  • Stand up to create fencing
  • Create patterns; play around with the direction of the pretzels, alternate them facing up and down, attach at an angle

Gumballs: roof lines, edging, accents within piping

  • Use big gumballs at roof termination points, or the ends of fencing
  • Add piping detail
  • Stack to make edging a prominent feature
  • Use multiple colors to create patterns

String licorice: helloooo outlining. Rooflines, windows, doors, you name it and licorice can line it.

  • Use in the original roll for a bigger statement
  • Cut it into small pieces and create a design
  • Add piping and other candies to make them stand out

Brazil Nuts: my favorite stone wall substitute

 Add some royal icing mortar and you've got yourself the fanciest stone wall on the block!

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Swedish Fish can be used to create striking patterns, both vertically and horizontally.

I've shown you the fish both with piping and with gingerbread peeking through so you can compare and decide which is best for your design.

Chocolate Chips: don't forget about the simple options! Pair the chips with different types of piping to create different looks. These can be used in all areas of your house.

  • Roof Patterning
  • Roof line
  • Edges
  • Door and Window outline
  • Ground cover

Mix and Match

Now that you can see that all of these things can be used in many ways around your house, let's look at mixing and matching different candy combinations.

Now that your head is swimming with ideas, start determining the basics like color, and take a shopping trip to the candy store! We can't wait to see your houses that you make. Have more questions about the process? Leave your comments and we'll give you the best advice we can offer.

Happy house making!