December 9, 2012

Faux Gingerbread Houses

With three kids, I've had many attempts at Gingerbread Houses over the years.  They love the idea of making a house out of cookies and candy, but every year we end up being disappointed by the final results.  We can never get the royal icing to actually hold the walls and roof together so the whole house ends up being lopsided, if we were even lucky enough to get it to stand up at all.  Then, that same darn royal icing ends up dripping and glopping all over the place when we try to attach the candy pieces.  If they don't get too frustrated, they do enjoy the process, but I knew I wanted to come up with a better idea for this year.

Check out our houses...

Don't they look cute?  They look like real gingerbread houses and they even SMELL like real gingerbread houses.  We got to plan our designs and choose fun candies to put on them.  They even have what looks like royal icing on them as decoration  ~ but we didn't have to deal with the real thing.  Best part, the girls and I had an awesome time making them.  (My son opted to let me make his while he watched his usual Sunday afternoon of football!)

Now, do you want to see what made this project so easy?  Check out what we used as our house forms...

That's right!  Our cute gingerbread houses started out as some unfinished birdhouses from the craft store.  

I realized that every year,  we enjoyed the process ~ designing, working with candy, snacking on some of the candies and seeing our finished houses ~ but we really never ended up actually EATING our finished, lopsided, drippy houses.  I figured, why not make an inedible house and save ourselves some of the hassle.  To add a little extra bit of fun, we scented our paint with some cinnamon so our houses actually have a slight gingerbread smell (and it really smelled awesome while we were painting them.)  For the royal icing look, we made some microwave puffy paint and to attach the candies we just used hot glue.

Here's what you'll need:

  • unfinished wooden birdhouses (less than $5 a piece if you use a coupon at the craft store)
  • brown acrylic paint 
  • cinnamon
  • paint brushes
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder (not baking soda!)
  • 4 tsp. salt
  • water 
  • squirt bottles (we used the Wilton ones, but any squirt bottles should work)
  • assorted candies (we used lots of non-chocolate candies ~ chewy Sweet tarts, gumballs, candy canes, peppermints, Mike & Ikes, etc)
  • hot glue gun
Here's what to do...

The first step is to paint your houses.  We poured some brown paint into a small container and then added cinnamon for the fun scent.  Mix it together, adding some water as necessary to get the right consistency.  You'll want it a bit thicker than regular paint, but still spreadable.  Once you have your scented paint mixed up, paint away.

The houses looked nice and realistic and it smelled AWESOME while we were painting!

For the next step, you'll want to mix up some microwave puffy paint.  We've done this several times, but I've never posted about it.  It's really simple though.

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour, 4 tsp of baking powder, and 4 tsp of salt (you can half or double the recipe if you need more or less ~ this was plenty for 3 gingerbread houses).  Next, gradually add water and stir until you have a mixture with a consistency of a thick pancake batter.  You want it squeezable but not too runny.  Put the batter in a squeeze bottle and start adding the icing details.  Now here's the cool part, after you add a few details (we did one side/section at a time), pop the house in the microwave for about 45 seconds.  The "paint" will puff up and dry instantly.  Now, you'll have a hardened icing look in just seconds. 
 (NOTE:  when we used the puffy paint on paper, we just microwaved it for about 30 seconds, on the houses, it seemed to take a bit longer about 45-60 seconds.  You'll want to start at about 30 seconds, see if your paint is setting up, then add time as needed.)

Once you have all your icing details in place, it's time to add the candies!  I allowed my 10-year old to handle her own hot gluing, but I did the gluing for my 7 year old (she gave me very precise directions on which candies went where!).

That's it!  We really had a fun time and the girls were so proud of their finished houses.  They still have a slight gingerbread smell and they look really cute.  I'm sure you could eliminate the cinnamon scent, but I figured since we had to paint them anyway, it was a fun little addition.  You could also try another type of  3-dimensional white paint for the icing details, but we loved the quick drying aspect of the puffy paint (and it really does look like icing!)

Oh, and we still got the fun of eating some of the extra candies too!

Here's one last look at a finished house...

gingerbread house ideas


  1. Such a great idea! We always have the same problems! :) Pinned!

  2. So clever! Thanks for sharing this project.

  3. WOW I love these what a great idea:-)

  4. OMG. These are AMAZING! Super smart and they turned out beautiful!

  5. Cute idea! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Adorable!
    I wonder if the candies were painted over with outdoor mod podge if the houses could really be used for birds outside, I seriously would love a bunch of these hanging in my trees!

    1. That would be so cute!! I think it's worth a try. I would just test out the "bleed" factor on the candies first ~ my concern would be that the colors in them might run when you paint them with the Mod Podge. If you do try it, let me know how it works!

    2. For outdoor use, just use beads and other non-edible decorations. for the icing, you could use non-sanded white grout (comes in an a squeeze tube). :)

  7. Genius! I'm so happy to find this. Now we can do this gingerbread house. Thanks Laura and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season.

  8. I love the idea of adding the cinnamon to the paint to get that fresh baked smell! Great idea! :D

  9. I'm thinking about faking it this year too. Normally we make graham cracker houses and it's near impossible to get them to stand. This will be the first year making them with my daughter (she's 2 1/2) and I think a premade form is going to be a must. Great idea using birdcages, and the puff paint really does look like frosting!

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