At breakfast the other day with my friends Michael and Orlando, we reminisced about candy houses, gingerbread, and other sweet treats at the holidays.It brought back great memories of my kids (when they were toddlers) sneaking into the kitchen to steal a lick of the candy. I wish I had those photos to capture forever! Though my time is limited now that I’m working, I’d love to dig in and make another magical mansion.
For years, my family tradition for years was to create a magnificent sweet house each Thanksgiving Day. While the turkey cooked and the parade and football games played, the kids and I would assemble and decorate a festive house that would become the centerpiece of the kitchen. When we lived in Frederick, Maryland, I was inspired by the pre-Civil War era brownstones that lined the streets of this wonderful town.
We all have different styles, but for me, a house that endures is the best treat ever. Though I’ve baked gingerbread houses in the past, I prefer to work with a solid base constructed out of cardboard. When covered with pounds and pounds (literally) of royal icing, the effect is the same, but the durability increases. Some houses I’ve made have lasted for many years when stored in loose plastic covering.
For the Frederick brownstone pictured above, I used confectioner’s sugar mixed with cocoa powder to achieve the “bricks.” To achieve the snow dusting, I simply filled the palm of my hand with a bit of confectioner’s sugar, then blew puffs of the sugar onto the wet icing. To make the windows, I start with graham crackers arranged on a baking sheet. Decorate each cookie individually, and apply to your sweet house with additional royal icing, holding in place for a few moments to ensure a secure attachment.
After you’ve enjoyed your house at home, you might consider sharing with a local children’s hospital or retirement home. I’ve done this with every house I’vc made, and the gesture is always appreciated and enjoyed. It’s always nicer to share the joy!