Gingerbread house kits weren’t around when I was a kid, but they’re all over the place now. I hadn’t used them before I started this website, and I learned pretty quickly that they can be improved. And sometimes they need to be improved!
So, how do you make a gingerbread house kit better?
As a general rule, it would be easy to improve a gingerbread house kit by getting additional candy to use, and by changing out the icing that comes with the kit for homemade royal icing. Multiple kits could be combined together to make a larger structure, and a theme could be applied to a kit to use the structure but make the design completely different from the suggestion on the box.
There are a lot of ways to make a gingerbread house kit better, but first, you’ll need to choose the kit that you want.
Which gingerbread house kit is the best?
The best gingerbread house kit is basically going to be the cheapest one. These kits are made by so many companies now, you’ll be able to choose from a lot of options, but all of them lack a lot of candy for decorating them. You’ll probably need to buy extra candy, so keeping the cost of the house itself down is essential.
Gingerbread house kits have a long shelf life, so if you want to pick them up when they’re on clearance around Christmas, that’s the best time to get them. If you save them for a year that will be fine, just make sure to store them in a dry area.
The kits that I saw while shopping ranged from around $9 for a generic kit at Walmart to $20 at Michael’s for a branded company’s version. There are a lot of different houses made by candy companies now, but since you’ll probably have to add more candy don’t get suckered into buying one because you like the candy in it!
In all of the kits that I bought, the gingerbread pieces were wrapped and sealed in plastic, so long-term storage at room temperature shouldn’t be a problem.
And seriously, if you buy a gingerbread house kit, it’s not the same kind of gingerbread that you’d be making at home. The store-bought stuff is full of preservatives and is meant to stand up to being transported and stocked in stores for long periods of time, so it’s mainly intended for decorating, not for eating.
(For a bunch of templates to make your own gingerbread house, click here.)
One thing that did seem like it would be good, especially if you want to build and decorate at the same time, was the kit design that had notches in the wall and roof sections.
These are designed to fit together and to be held in place like puzzle pieces, so it’s easier to prevent the pieces from sliding apart. If you’re going to be letting kids put their houses together you might want to look for that kind of design.
I saw several different brands with this type of design, so shop around and you should be able to find them.
Improve the gingerbread house kit by adding more candy.
Most of the gingerbread house kits that I bought had barely enough candy in them to make the design on the house in the photo. This would be fine, but they also all had a lot of icing piped on them in decorative ways, and that isn’t something that most younger children (or adults) can do or would want to do. Adding more candy will give the person who’s decorating the house more design options.
Most people who decorate a house will just want to stick candy on in whatever pattern they want, they won’t follow the design on the kit box. If you only use the candy that came in the box you’re going to run out pretty quickly and have a sparse-looking house.
This was the entire contents of the Oreo branded house that I bought (half price, thank you very much.) I don’t know about you, but that isn’t enough to decorate the front of the house when my kids do it.
(I went ahead and ate the cookies for a snack because the number they provide was pitiful and I’ll have to supplement the candy on that house anyway.)
The candy in the other branded kit I got was a little better, but if you want to cover the roof with any of this there’s no way you’ll have enough.
The store-brand kits weren’t any better. I think that most of the kits use the icing as a way to make it look like the houses have a lot of decorations on them on the box, but that’s not what happens when you sit down to decorate a house with candy.
So the first way to improve a gingerbread house kit is to buy more candy to use. This is going to drive the cost up a lot, but by planning ahead throughout the year you can get post-holiday specialty candy on sale at deep discounts to increase your decorating stash.
Improve the gingerbread house by making your own icing.
Gingerbread house kits come with pre-made bags of royal icing, and none of them taste good. Royal icing is basically pure sugar, but when you make it ahead and package it, it will contain chemicals that are designed to keep it from drying out. The icing that came with the kits I bought were all pretty nasty, so making your own icing will improve the taste of the house if you eat it later.
There’s also a limited amount that comes with each house, so if you want to ice the roof white and put the candy on it, you’re probably going to run out of it.
Plan on making a batch of royal icing so that you’ll have enough to really spread it on the house if you want to.
Improve your house by using more than one kit.
The gingerbread house kits are all on the smaller side, so if you want to make a taller or wider house, you’ll need to use more than one kit to do that. Some kits are designed to make multiple houses for a village, so using those will allow you to mix and match the pieces to create a larger structure, or you can put two larger houses together to make a multiple-story house design.
If you plan on doing this, make sure that the house kits you’re buying all have straight walls so that they’ll fit together well. Some walls are angled, so they might not be as easy to combine.
You might have to cut the pieces in order to have them all fit together. To do this, use a serrated bread knife and cut gently through the piece bit by bit to avoid breaking it.
You can also use a utility knife to cut windows out of a kit, but you’ll need to work slowly to avoid cracking the pieces. Score the lines, then work your way through the piece you’re cutting, and be patient!
Improve your gingerbread house kit with a theme.
Including a theme for your house can take the kits from standard to unique pretty quickly. Adding seasonal decorations or gingerbread cookies decorated to look like animals or other objects can help add to the design. Use candy that looks like specific objects, like candy pumpkins for a Halloween-themed house.
The kits are a good starting point, but by adding a theme to them you’ll end up with a house that nobody knows started with a kit.
You can stick to decorating it all in one color (I recently saw an all-pink gingerbread house) or create one around an event or place. I’ve seen circus-themed gingerbread and there’s always the “weird gingerbread house” category, which is my favorite.
When I make larger gingerbread houses they always have a theme, so there’s no reason why you couldn’t do that with a gingerbread house kit. It takes more time, but it’s also more fun becasue you get to be more creative.
Gingerbread house kits have their pros and cons, but the best thing they do is save you time in baking. If you only plan to make small houses and you’re pressed for time, buying kits can be the way to go.
Just remember that you’ll probably have to supplement the icing and candy, so it’s a time-saver, but it might not save you money in the long run!
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