Sometimes you’re working on a gingerbread house and something happens to it to cause damage to the house structure. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not a reason to give up on the house!
I’ve heard of people posing toy Godzillas next to a broken house, but if that’s not your style, you probably want to know how to actually repair a house that’s been broken somehow.
As a general rule, the best way to fix a broken gingerbread house is to reattach the pieces together and to add some type of extra support to the broken sections. This can be a piece of light cardboard or flat cookies if you want to keep the entire structure edible.
Using royal icing, attach the cardboard or cookies to the side of the broken piece that will be on the inside of the house, allow the repair to dry completely, then continue decorating the outside.
I’ve used thin cardboard from cereal boxes to fix broken pieces and support larger sections of gingerbread, and it’s an effective way to provide extra support for broken sections.
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How do you stick a broken gingerbread house together?
To stick a broken gingerbread house back together, you’ll need to assess the damage to see if you need the extra support of a piece of cardboard or not. If there’s one large break, you may be able to use some royal icing to attach the pieces together and allow it to dry thoroughly in order to use the piece. However, adding a piece of cardboard at the site of the break, or on the back of the entire piece, can be a better way to make sure that the gingerbread doesn’t break again.
This is going to be more important if the break is on the roof of the house, because the roof sections are much more likely to break again because of gravity. If there’s nothing supporting a large flat section, it’s much more likely to fall if there’s an initial break in it.
If the break was in a wall section, it’s less likely that it will break again because it will be supported by the surface it’s sitting on. You’ll need to be careful when you’re decorating it, but it’s not going to collapse down into the house like a roof section would.
How you would fix it will also depend on what kind of gingerbread was used to make the pieces, and how humid it is.
Why do gingerbread houses fall apart?
When a gingerbread house falls apart, it’s often because of the recipe that was used to make the pieces. If the gingerbread is too soft, the pieces can soften and crumble. On the other hand, if the pieces are baked for too long, they can be too brittle and prone to cracking. Getting a good balance of the right recipe for building gingerbread houses, plus controlling the moisture in the gingerbread, will make the pieces less likely to fall apart.
When you make a gingerbread house, the recipe that you use shouldn’t be the same as the one that you use for gingerbread cookies. Those are usually too soft and won’t work for constructing houses.
Construction gingerbread is stiffer and not as delicious as cookie gingerbread, but it works a lot better for building large structures. It doesn’t puff up like a gingerbread cookie when it’s baking, so you can cut the pieces out and not worry about as much spread or rise during baking.
Houses that are made from gingerbread cookie recipes will stay softer than construction pieces, so they’ll also be more prone to absorbing moisture over time if the air is humid.
When I was a kid we lived in Florida and it was REALLY hard to make our annual gingerbread houses. The humidity in the air would soften the gingerbread, and it also made the royal icing take a lot longer to dry. The benefit was that we could actually eat the gingerbread after the houses were made because they didn’t get rock hard as they sat out.
On the other hand, gingerbread houses can fall apart or the pieces can break if the sections are designed to be too large and cut out too thin when they’re baked, because that can make them too dry.
How big should you make the gingerbread house sections?
To avoid breaks to the sections of a gingerbread house, you should make sure that they’re not rolled out too thin before they’re baked. Rolling the pieces out to be about 1/4″ thick is a safe thickness to assure that they’ll be sturdy enough. Any thinner than that could end up being too thin to support the weight of the decorations, especially for a roof section.
The larger the piece will be, the more risk you’ll be running if you’re using that piece for anything where it isn’t supported. I’ve had large roof sections crack before, so I have no problem using inedible supports for sections that might need more support to prevent breaking.
I know that some people want everything in the house to be totally edible, but after making enough houses and 3D cakes that required a lot of internal supports, I’m not against it.
For smaller houses, the section size won’t be an issue, but for larger houses with bigger roof sections and walls, you may need to use some type of internal armature or supports to help keep the house from caving in.
I would say that any large square or rectangular section that has a side 10″ or larger should be evaluated to see if it will need extra supports. In general, upright sections like walls will usually be fine, but the large roof sections are the ones that you should look at to see if they’ll be okay structurally.
One thing that you can do if you want to avoid using inedible supports is to provide roof support that’s made from more upright pieces that hold up the roof sections. if there are supporting vertical walls that hold the roof up in different areas, it can help to keep the roof from cracking.
When you design a large gingerbread house, make sure to provide enough support to the larger pieces, and you won’t have a problem with breaks from stress.
If you do need to fix a broken piece of a gingerbread house, don’t feel too bad if you decide to go with an inedible internal structure. It can be the best way to make sure the break stays fixed and your house stays standing!
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