At Christmastime, we love to decorate our houses with festive touches and bake up dozens and dozens of cookies and treats to feed our families. One of our newer traditions is building and decorating a gingerbread house. In the past, we’ve sometimes built them with a store-bought kit and sometimes made the house pieces and icing from scratch. But we weren’t sure which method we preferred, having never done both in the same year. So we decided to put it to the test. We held a gingerbread-building showdown with our kids (ages 2-8) to see which was the favorite!
Our store-bought kit was a Wilton gingerbread village kit that I picked up on clearance after Christmas last year for $5 (knowing in advance that we wouldn’t be eating it, just building it!). It came with five sheets of crisp cookie (each sheet was one complete building) with scored lines to break off each house section, a packet of ready-made icing, and several bags of colorful candies. There was also a sheet of instructions that detailed how to assemble each small building. We set each of our four kids up with one building, which I helped them assemble with the icing. Then we tag-teamed helping each child put decorations on their houses. The whole process, from opening the box to cleanup, took about an hour.
Meanwhile, Theresa had already spent hours prepping her homemade house ingredients (using recipes from Simple Bites). She had mixed and chilled the dough, rolled it and cut it out, baked it, cooled it, stored it, and spent 10 minutes mixing the icing to assemble it.
We began to assemble the homemade house, but the icing wasn’t holding it together well. After over 10 minutes of holding roof pieces on, they were still not secured. Before we finished decorating the house – which most of the kids again helped with – the roof had fallen down and the sides were also caving in. (Fortunately, Theresa had planned all along to eat her homemade house, so the fact that it wasn’t house-like by the time we were finished wasn’t a huge deal.)
Considering the time Theresa had invested in the homemade gingerbread house project, plus the cost of some of the ingredients (most of a jar of molasses, meringue powder, candies to decorate with), combined with the fact that several of the ingredients aren’t commonly used or may be hard to track down, we felt that the gingerbread kit was the clear winner.
Not only was the kit faster by a considerable margin, but the houses held together. They were the perfect size for a child to decorate. The kit had a generous amount of candies, more than enough for each child to feel like they got a good share, but without much left over. (None, if your children are like mine!) Each child was able to decorate their own house, which was a nice bonus.
The verdict: If you’re looking for a lengthy project to do with your older kids – one that will consume an average of an hour each day for about a week – go with the homemade house. If you’re looking for a fun, quick, low-mess activity that can be completed after school one day, buy the kit. Even not on sale, it’s a better investment.
One caveat: the homemade house was delicious. If you’re a fan of gingerbread, make some gingerbread people or ninjabread people.