Not Martha

on the subject of gingerbread

I was craving gingerbread the other night so I made some in cupcake form. I didn’t have the light molasses that the recipe called for so I used dark instead and, well, the results were not so good. They were bad, there, just bad. It did make the house smell nice though.

Only slightly related – I’m looking for the best recipe for making the stiff gingerbread you use to make a house. Something that you can roll fairly thin but is very strong after baking, something that won’t puff too much while cooking. It doesn’t have to taste good, I won’t be eating the house, but something nice smelling would be great. Any good recipes you’d recommend?

· comments [34] · 10-29-2008 · categories:craft · food ·

34 responses so far ↓

  • 1 allisonlindsay // Oct 29, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Try the gingerbread cookie recipe from Baking Illustrated’s Best Recipes book. made it last weekend — absolutely delicious, and very strong. Good luck.

  • 2 Kindra // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I’ve had success with the Joy of Cooking gingerbread house recipe.

  • 3 sandra // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Dark molasses or blackstrap? I always assumed light molasses and dark molasses were like light and dark brown sugar. Hmm. Sorry about the fail.

  • 4 daniele // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    the first time i tried to make gingerbread, it was an epic fail. the recipe just said molasses – and at the time i didn’t know that there was a difference and grabbed blackstrap. wow…the strength of the bad taste was equivalent to the wonderfulness of the pungent spicy aroma. :-(

  • 5 lisa // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    I use the gingerbread in Joy of Cooking (I think its the 1997 edition). I also have found that if you aren’t planning to eat the finished product, the aroma is improved by doubling all the spices.

  • 6 Susan // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    The gingerbread cakes in the MS Baking Handbook is amazing. Skip the chocolate topping though.

  • 7 Donna Sue // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I made ornaments using applesauce and an entire giant container of cinnamon (with some ground ginger, clove, and nutmeg thrown in for good measure) with some white glue. It’s definitely non-edible, but my ornaments have lasted for years, and they don’t puff up during baking at all and are extremely sturdy. I didn’t use this recipe, but it’s similar. :)

  • 8 hannah // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Last year I made gingerbread houses with my inlaw. Each of us was supposed to find our own pattern and make the pieces. I used a really cute little template off of Martha Stewarts website and the recipe with it. The gingerbread turned out really hard and strong! My husband joked around it was like gingersnaps (he ate the extra pieces). At any rate, my gingerbread house went together beautifully and no pieces broke. My sister in laws house was a saggy mess, sadly. I’m not sure what recipe she used.

  • 9 Rachel // Oct 29, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I love the cupcake idea! I don’t have a good house recipe, but if you’re ever looking for slightly puffy cookies, it is ALL about the recipe in The Joy of Cooking!

  • 10 Mary // Oct 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I had a lot of success last year with the Joy of Cooking recipe, too (bonus – it’s tasty!). One crucial detail for construction is that you either need to:

    1. plot out your house so that it fills a cookie sheet, then cut the lines for the house both before and after baking (easiest in my experience – I was baking a bunch of houses to assemble with some kids, and I made a template which fits two houses per cookie sheet – the fact that all the pieces are up against each other means they don’t really spread, but you do have to re-divide them after baking) or

    2. *RE_TRIM* the individually-cut pieces after baking, but before they’ve cooled.

    Every recipe I’ve seen (or seen used) where you cut the pieces before baking spreads a wee bit, and that wee bit is plenty to make it much harder to assemble the house – the straight lines become ever-so-slightly curved edges, which don’t want to stick together as well (it’s possible, but it takes soooo much more frosting). If you want a house that’s really rock-like, re-bake the pieces at a low temp until hard, after the trimming.

    There’s also a recipe out there somewhere which lets you saw the pieces after baking into sheets – it’s thicker, very sturdy, and more suited to making huge projects (like, oh, the Globe theatre), but the dough is a pain to mix (too much stiff kneading!), the finished item tends to be really heavy, and I have somehow lost the recipe since then, anyway.

    Also, when assembling, it’s a good idea to let the walls dry for a few minutes before adding the roof, then let the whole thing dry a bit before decorating. It just makes life so much easier, especially if there are kids who want to firmly press gumdrops onto the ridgepole of the house.

    Good luck!

  • 11 Dana // Oct 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Do you have Nancy Baggett’s The All American Cookie Book? She has a recipe plus extensive instructions on how to use the dough. I live in Seattle and would be happy to lend if you would like.

  • 12 Suzi // Oct 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Having never made a gingerbread house – sad I know. I would go with a Martha Stewart recipe. It’s probably well tested to meet her standards.
    Perhaps this year we’ll make one. Just have to keep the dog from trying to eat it.

  • 13 Beth // Oct 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I absolutely swear by the recipe in “Gingerbread Things to Make and Bake” by T. Layman and B. Morgenroth. It has a large amount of corn syrup in it, and makes a cookie that can be rolled very thin and is structurally sturdy enough to make, say, a 3-foot-tall replica of the Empire State Building. (

  • 14 boutiquetucan // Oct 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Glad to know about the light and dark thing, I probably would have done the same thing without thinking about the taste difference…thanks for the heads up!

  • 15 Mariko // Oct 29, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve been attending a gingerbread house-making party since I was a kid, and that family has used the same recipe! It’s from an old Sunset magazine. It is a crisp and sturdy cookie that tastes as wonderful as it looks! I can e-mail you the recipe if you’re interested!

  • 16 Sharon // Oct 29, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I host a gingerbread house party every year and make 25+ houses with this recipe:

    I usually start baking in mid October and freeze the parts until a few days before the party (mid December). It always holds up well…not a collapsed house yet! I also use royal icing to put them together the night before the party.

  • 17 Donna // Oct 29, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Everyone has already left some great recipes, but I wanted to point out that if you want a recipe that doesn’t puff up, look for recipes that don’t contain baking powder. A cookie recipe with baking soda will make a nice crisp cookie that doesn’t rise–that’s what the baking powder is for.

  • 18 Lilly // Oct 29, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    See, I think that gingerbread you made looks awfully good to me….

  • 19 dana mccauley // Oct 29, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Sad! I hate the overpromise of something that smells great but doesn’t deliver on taste.

  • 20 Sarah // Oct 29, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Black Sticky Gingerbread on 101 Cookbooks is a great dark, cakey gingerbread. Not your stiff gingerbread, but a delicious recipe that can be made into a cupcake using blackstrap molasses. Not sure the difference between blackstrap and dark molasses.

  • 21 Sarah // Oct 29, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Ooops, there is the link.

  • 22 Susan // Oct 29, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    I make gingerbread cookies from the Colonial Williamsburg recipe. They are very sturdy, and not brittle. You might even be able to cut windows in them once they were baked if you so desired (and you seem the type who would!). Let me know if you can’t find it on line. I have it written in the back of one of my cookbooks.

  • 23 Julie // Oct 30, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Well, if you want a strong house try baking some chicken wire in between two layers of gingerbread.

    Yeah… that’s right. I said chicken wire.

  • 24 Sara // Oct 30, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Alice Water’s gingerbread recipe is really good, and very sturdy. I think it’s in the Chez Panisse Desserts book.

  • 25 April // Oct 30, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I used the Williams Sonoma recipe several times last year for making houses- and it’s yummy.

  • 26 Andrea Pratt // Oct 30, 2008 at 9:21 am

    I make a different gingerbread house every year. One year I even built a scale model of my own house – a nightmare but it turned out great. I use what I call Architectural Gingerbread which uses shortening instead of butter and only 1/4 tsp. of baking powder for 5 cups of flour. The secret to good fragrance is to double the measure of the spices, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Another trick which has saved my sanity more than once is to roll out the dough onto sheets of heavy duty foil and transfer the cut pieces using the foil right onto the baking sheet. Moisten the counter top to keep the foil in place. Ask if you want the recipe. Have fun.

  • 27 Andrea Pratt // Oct 30, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I have a couple of tips. Take your time. Assemble the walls and let dry overnight. The next day apply the roof. Do not decorate until the whole house has dried for at least a day. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

  • 28 Marjorie // Oct 30, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    What a coincidence – I too made gingerbread in muffin form. My daughter was having a Halloween party at her school and I sent some along with her – I made mini muffins for the kiddies and large ones for us. I have a recipe that was passed down from my Nanny and you can use any kind of molasses and they are awesome. Happy to share the recipe – just drop me a note. Don’t have a recipe for the house version though!

  • 29 KarWar // Oct 31, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I like your cupcake cups

  • 30 Maureen // Oct 31, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Marjorie..I’d like that recipe.

    All these posts make me …almost..want to do a gingerbread house. ;-)

  • 31 sue // Nov 5, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Lebkuchen cookies are strong once baked. They’d be good for smaller scale houses. I have German recipe I could send you. I make Lebkuchen cookies every year at the holidays; recipe makes 4 to 5 dozen. Ice with royal icing. Vey good with coffee. They have a large amouont of sweet butter, but are not crispy-crumbly.

  • 32 Laura // Nov 11, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    If I have only dark molasses, I do one of three things: I use about half of what is called for, and chuck in some applesauce to make the measure called for.( most successful sub.) I mix the dark molasses with corn syrup, but this made for a very sticky GB. (least successful). Lastly, I sweeten with honey and some dark Mo’, and cut back the sugar. Honey always changes the nature of a baked good, but in a way I like. My favorite GB is from Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking

  • 33 Louie Glenn // Nov 12, 2008 at 3:39 pm


  • 34 sarah // Dec 3, 2008 at 11:25 am

    My sister always uses Joy of Cooking. Be sure that the roof pieces are not thicker/heavier than the walls though! (That’s just general building practice, but sometimes you have to make the mistake before you realize just how dumb something is.) JoC has patterns too.

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