Oct 3, 2009

Haunted Gingerbread House



This gingerbread house centerpiece happens to be one of my favorite edible projects to date. The house is constructed out of a more durable gingerbread and "glued" together with a basic royal icing. I used fondant and gumpaste, along with other edible items for the figurines, decorations, and spoooooky graveyard.

Although I constructed this decorative piece a few years ago, I continually receive emails asking questions on the execution of the details. I regret that at the time of the making, I didn't have a blog, so I didn't take step by step pics. However, I thought I could at least give you a closer look at how the individual details were accomplished. I also wanted to share some helpful recipes along the way, that can be adapted to suit any gingerbread project that you may have in the works. (ya know, Christmas is right around the corner, YIKES)

As for the actual baking of the gingerbread, I have the recipe posted here, Gingerbread Construction Dough. I've also included the rolling, cutting out, and baking instructions. For the windows, I baked the pieces with the windows cut out, then used crushed suckers in the holes and re-baked just until the sugar had melted.

To assemble the house, it's helpful if you use soup cans to hold the walls up while you "glue" them together with royal icing. If you find that difficult, let it dry overnight before attaching the roof pieces. You can also use soup cans to hold the edges of the roof up while they dry. The mummy, pumpkins, and skull and bones were made with a gumpaste and/or MMF mixture, allowed to fully dry, then hand painted with food coloring mixed with a bit of vodka. The mummy was dusted with powdered food coloring to give him that "dirty boy" look after he had dried.

For the shutters and shingles on the house, I rolled out tinted fondant, cut into even strips, then cut out individual pieces. I let them dry just a bit then layered them on the house, using a dab of water (not royal icing) to secure them. Part of the charm is that I made the roof look ragged and some of the shingles appearing to be "hanging off", it is an old house after all. LOL It doesn't show up in the pic, but I brushed on an edible "glitter" dust to add a bit of sparkle to the roof, indicating the glow of the moon. The pebbles/stones on the chimney and in the walkway were made out of scraps of fondant after completing all of the other pieces. Then I spread out a tinted royal icing, that served as the "mortar" for setting the stones in place.

For the bushes and ivy on the roof and sides of the house, I modified a rice krispie treat recipe and used wheaties for a more realistic leafy look. You can find the recipe and directions here for the Cereal Treat Structures



The tree proved to be a bit more difficult than the other pieces. Plus, it was my first time making a "tree", so I kind of learned through trial and error. Basically, I made a wire sculpture out of floral wires. I twisted a bunch of wires together and made three large loops at the base for the "roots" of the tree and also so it would stand on it's own. I covered the trunk and each branch with floral tape, and bent (shaped) the branches. Then I applied strips of fondant in layers, shaping and tapering the branches as I went along. I used a fondant tool to further sculpt the trunk and add details in the branches. Then I painted highlights and lowlights giving the tree more dimension and depth. The noose and bat were an after thought, and I sculpted them on floral wires also in order to just hang them on the tree.


As for the ghosts...well, they didn't turn out quite as originally planned, but good enough. I knew that I wanted them to appear "floating" above the ground. So I used a floral wire with a hook on the end and shaped a small ball for the head, stuck that in styrofoam to dry while I worked on the sheets. Next, I rolled out a piece of fondant and cut out a circle with a cookie cutter. Once cut, I feathered the edges somewhat by rolling the edges even thinner, while keeping the middle thicker. I covered the ghost heads with the sheets then used a fondant tool to fluff out and shape the bottoms of the sheets. This helped give them the illusion of "floating". Once completely dry, I lightly brushed on pearl luster dust to give them a bit of sheen. I used the wires to stick them down into the styrofoam.



The coffin was easy...just fondant tinted black, rolled out and the panels cut. Once they were dry I assembled them, using a dab of water for the "glue" to hold them together. I made some-somewhat-recognizable-bones and threw them in there.

For the entire base, I used a large piece of 2" thick styrofoam, cut to fit into a breakfast serving tray that I had. Since it was a centerpiece for my dinning room table, this allowed me to move it out of the way when necessary. I had a basic layout for the house and graveyard before I began, then I carved out where I wanted the graves to go. Once the house, bushes, walkway, and tree were in place, I coated the exposed base areas with buttercream icing and pressed in a mixture of graham cracker and cookie crumbs for the "dirt". I also piled some dirt beside some of the graves. Then I positioned all of the other "do-dads" (as I call them) and the finishing touches.

I had a lot of fun with this project, especially since I hadn't done a gingerbread house since I was a kid. I'm itching to do one for Christmas, but I always seem to get caught up in other projects as well as the usual holiday baking and never get around to it. Maybe this year? Anyway, I hope that you find this information helpful and useful for your own gingerbread project!

17 comments:

Danielle said...

I have always admired this piece. I can't wait to see you Christmas one!! If you do it now....would it last? btw...for painting, what did the vodka do with the food coloring that water wouldn't do? just curious :)

Cathy said...

Absolutely amazing! This is so totally art, DD. What do you do with it after Halloween? Certainly, you don't eat it? My dad used to make elaborate gingerbread houses for Christmas that he sold in the bakery. I was so young, I don't remember what we did with them, but I know it was all edible. If I think hard enough, I can even remember the gingerbread smell.

Dajana said...

I've seen this piece before, but like every other time I had to stand still for a while before saying anything. It's so amazing. All these details when you describe them seem so easy and instead I know they involve so much work.
I always look forward to seeing your new projects.

Donna-FFW said...

This soun ds like a fantastic project to do with the kids, love how it looks!!

DDpie said...

Thanks guys!

Dani- the vodka evaporates faster than water, this allows to paint the piece w/o it getting gummy.

Cathy- this gingerbread is edible, but not palatable (rye flour??? LOL). You can keep them if you spray a couple of coats of polyurethane spray. I didn't keep this one, we have an "ant" problem every spring, so I chickened out. LOL

sguyot said...

A terrific project with very detailed and helpful how to's. When I read things like this blog I am often taken back by the effort that is required by such a project and become much more appreciative of what was done.

Bob said...

That's just awesome.

Patti T. said...

DD, I remember when you were working on this, so much work for you. The finished product is just amazing though. It is so sad to hear that you were not able to save it after all you put into it.

girlichef said...

WOW!!! You totally amaze me. First that amazing cake...and this...I wish I had the patience to make such detailed masterpieces. I want to touch it. ;)

Lele said...

I absolutely love this idea! I get bored with traditional gingerbread houses, but you brought it to a whole new level!

Spryte said...

Wow!!! You even baked windows!!!

How frickin' cool are you??!!!!!!

Awesome!!!

Angie's Recipes said...

Totally awesome! Fantastic...word fails me...

Lindsey said...

Fantastic gingerbread house!

Anonymous said...

Great project! However, I can't find the link to the Gingerbread Construction Dough. =/

DDpie said...

Apologies, the link has been fixed and will now take you to a printable recipe. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

Joseph Erdos said...

Hi,

I'm doing a slideshow of haunted gingerbread houses for HuffPost Taste and we'd love to feature yours. Can we have permission to use the photo (and link back to you)?

Thanks!
Joseph Erdos
joseph.erdos@huffingtonpost.com
www.huffingtonpost.com/taste

DDpie said...

Absolutely Joseph, and thank you for the request!