When I was growing up, every year during the holidays my mom would host a gingerbread making party. It is one of my favorite holiday memories, and just a fun and low-key party you can throw together pretty quickly. I did it up through high school, and even a few times after we got married with some of our couple friends, so don’t think this party is just for little kids!
Here’s a few tips to making your party successful and stress-free (and below I’ll show you how to make a house, and I’ll share my mom’s icing recipe):
1. Keep your crowd small. When I was growing up, my two sisters and I each got to invite one friend, so there were only ever six of us. We had seven kids for this party (plus three moms), and I’d recommend staying somewhere around there. Also this kind of party is best for slightly older kids and up…Fos is three and any younger than that needs a lot of help and gets bored easily.
2. Have an icing bag for every child. Last year I didn’t have enough bags, and figured that sharing would be fine. But it was chaotic and frustrating for the kids when they wanted icing and couldn’t have it right that minute. Also, I highly recommend having decorating couplers and real icing bags for everyone…I’ve tried an icing tip in the corner of a plastic ziploc bag and the tip doesn’t stay put, which leads to a lot of frustration. And, this year I had the idea to put clips on the ends of the bags to keep icing from going everywhere, and this made a huge difference. Everyone stayed really clean!
3. Ask everyone to bring candy to share. As the host, you can provide all the houses and icing, and then ask everyone to bring a bag or two of decorating candy to share. Of course you can decorate with anything, but here are a few of my favorites we’ve used over the years:
- pull and peel licorice (makes great strands for christmas lights, bows for wreaths, lines for front paths, etc)
- pretzels (great for fences or roof shingles)
- red hots
- mini m&m’s (or chocolate covered sunflower seeds (from trader joes), which we used this year)
- marshmallows (perfect for making snowmen in the yard)
4. Prep the night before. Get all the graham crackers cut (instructions below) and cardboard squares covered in foil the night before. You can even make the icing and build all the houses the night before, although it’s not completely necessary since the icing dries very quickly. But definitely all the houses should be made before the guests arrive so they can jump right into decorating!
5. Let the parents join in on the fun! My friends were hesitant to have me build them a house to decorate, but since the kids were all pretty self sufficient, it was fun for us to just sit, chat, and decorate our houses. This party is not just for kids!
The trick to these gingerbread houses is the icing! This recipe is basically like glue, and makes for a really sturdy house that won’t collapse as you decorate it.
3 egg whites (must be at room temperature)
1 lb powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Place all three ingredients in room temp mixing bowl and beat until icing is VERY STIFF. After I think the icing is ready, I mix for about 5 more minutes.*
Keep bowl of icing covered with a wet cloth as it goes hard very rapidly.
*this really stiff icing is great for making sturdy houses, but makes it difficult for kids to squeeze out of the icing bags if it’s too stiff. I made two batches of icing; the first I mixed for the extra 5 minutes and used to build 10 houses. The second batch, I skipped the final five minutes of mixing so it was still stiff, but much more manageable for decorating, and used that to fill 10 icing bags.
Now to prep your houses. I used regular HoneyMaid Graham Crackers, and cut them with a serrated bread knife. You’ll cut three sizes of crackers — square, pointed, and rectangular. Each house needs two of each of these pieces. Follow the pictures below to build your house.
Now invite those friends over, crank up that Christmas music, light a festive candle, and it’s time for a gingerbread house party!