Every month, we choose a food topic that intrigues us and hold a showdown with our families. Last December, we chose to have a gingerbread house showdown, featuring a homemade gingerbread house competing with a gingerbread house from a kit. And it was a lot of fun…but the moment the post about it went live, a friend mentioned to Theresa how her family makes gingerbread houses, and we knew that we needed to test out this new method. So we pitted last year’s clear winner, the gingerbread house kit, against…graham crackers!
For this showdown, we gathered together our two families, including four adults and six children, ages 2 through almost 10. I had purchased a Rudolph-themed gingerbread house kit with house pieces, icing, and candies; and Theresa provided graham crackers and candies and made some icing to hold the graham cracker houses together.
One of the big things that the kit had going for it last year – the ease of using the pre-cut house pieces and the pre-mixed icing – were trumped this year by the creative possibilities of the graham cracker houses. The graham crackers themselves are scored, but we all know that they can break in places other than the scored lines. They can be snapped, broken, or cut (using scissors or knives, depending on your preference) into many shapes and sizes. This allows for much more variability and individuality in the houses than the kits; and, bonus! – each child can easily make their own, for about the same price as a kit that is difficult to have more than two people helping with at a time.
Each of the children made their own gingerbread house, and I think it’s a testament to how much they enjoyed having their own personal houses to create that hardly any of the kids were into helping with the Rudolph kit. I mean, it’s one of their favorite movies, so that’s a big deal, right?
In the end, the graham cracker gingerbread houses were the clear winner. Each of the children was able to make their own house. The younger children made smaller houses (easier to keep them stable!), while the older children (and Theresa) made more elaborate structures. The homemade icing was quick and easy to make, and really held together well (non-setting icing was an issue last year with the recipe we used).
So, if you have a passel of children wanting to make gingerbread houses, opt for the graham crackers! You’re sure to have a passel of happy children at the end, proud to show you what they made.
Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses:
For the icing:
- 2 egg whites
- 1 t. lemon juice
- 1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
- storage bag or snack-sized bags
- graham crackers (amount will vary – our families used just more than 1 box to make 7 mostly-small houses)
- candies (we used gumdrops, starlight mints, skittles, candy corn, and animal crackers)
To make the icing: In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the lemon juice and continue to beat until frothy. Add the confectioner’s sugar slowly. Carefully place icing in a plastic freezer bag, seal, and then snip off a corner to squeeze icing through. (For a large group of kids, divide icing into several snack-sized bags so that each child, or pair of children, can have their own.)
To assemble the houses: Break graham crackers into desired shapes. Glue pieces together with icing to make desired structures. Allow houses to set for a few minutes before beginning decoration process. (This helps with stability, especially with very little children doing the decorating.)