In the interests of home bakers everywhere who would rather settle in with a book and a festive sherry than wrestle with dough and icing for three hours, Good Food tests a range of gingerbread house kits.
Every year I try to make a gingerbread house and every year I abandon construction halfway through and eat the candy canes for dinner.
Making a gingerbread house from scratch is hard yakka. Before you can begin decorating, there’s a tedious process of designing templates, rolling dough and forgetting that gingerbread changes shape in the oven and your little chimney no longer fits its gable.
I stuff up the dough by adding too much golden syrup or not enough brown sugar and the house collapses and I throw in the icing-covered towel.
By the time next Christmas rolls around I’ve forgotten any lessons learnt and the process starts again.
This December I decided to protect my sanity and invest in a DIY gingerbread house kit. Amateur bakers may scoff but I’m not an amateur baker. I’m a bloke who would prefer to see the new Rocky film than deal with three hours of stencils and muscavado.
It was difficult to know what kit to buy, however, as there are many on the market and very little independent research on the quality of each.
Is Coles’ ginger shack better value than Woolworths? Is Aldi’s house more delicious than IKEA’s harbargera? These were questions that needed to be answered and so Good Food’s Gingerbread House Battle Royale was born.
Eight houses were constructed according to packet instructions over a 24-hour period and judged for taste, ease of assembly, design, structural integrity and, where applicable, decorations and icing.
Here my top pics.
BEST IN SHOW
- Phillippa’s Gingerbread House Kit, $45, phillippas.com.au
This elegant A-frame from Melbourne-based baker and cookbook author Phillippa Grogan really puts the ginger in gingerbread.
Maybe too much ginger if you don’t enjoy a thwack of heat from the ground root on the back of your throat, but I find it’s perfect with a Highland whisky and The Great British Bake Off.
As much as this is a gingerbread house for grown-ups, it’s also beaut for kids, thanks to dead easy construction (there are only four panels) and a broad canvas to decorate with clinkers and jubes.
Icing: Not included. Grogan supplies a recipe to make your own.
Base: Sturdy foil cake board.
Extras: An iced Christmas tree that was the most delicious thing tasted over the course of this quest; a little gingerbread boy and gingerbread girl.
- IKEA Vintersaga, $7.95, ikea.com
Sweden’s No.1 meatball and homewares shop has created this cute little vintersaga to provide "serene shelter from the winter cold".
The compact size makes construction a cinch (no need for an Allen key here) and big windows mean you can fix leaf gelatine to the inside for a stained glass effect.
The hollow chimney is cute but it takes the patience of Saint Nick to hold together while the icing sets. A biscuity texture is welcome and the taste is on the sweeter side. Icing: Not included.
Don’t be tempted to buy the IKEA "baking glue" at the time of purchase either. I found it to be difficult to squeeze and apply, even after massaging the tube under warm water for a lengthy period.
Base: Not included.
Extras: None, but IKEA stocks many lollies and gingerbread folk to pimp your yuletide pad. Its gummy horses are a favourite of the Good Food office.
BEST FOR KIDS
- Cobblestone Kitchens Cottage Kit
Gee whiz, this is some gaudy stuff. I kind of dig it though. A "product of Canada, Mexico and the USA" and sold through the Gingerbread House Kits website in Australia, this gingerbread McMansion comes with more lollies than you'll find at some swimming pool kiosks. A more restrained "Cottage Kit" is also available. Perhaps due to the high sugar level, I found this house to be the most addictive for snacking. A jigsaw-like "link and lock" design means kids can probably be left to their own devices to make it provided they know enough to keep icing out of their hair.
Icing: Two pouches of ready-to-roll royal icing and a piping bag. It is very sweet and enough of it makes the house taste like one of those milk arrowroot biscuits with a jelly bean face sold at school fetes across the country.
Base: Not included, however Gingerbread House Kits will sling you a free cake board if requested at the time of order.
Extras: Large gumballs! Smaller gumballs! Jawbreakers! Gumdrops! Sprinkles! Tabbylets, whatever they are! (Square-shaped gum, it turns out.)
Price: $40, gingerbreadhousekit.com.au
- Cakers Warehouse Gingerbread House Kit, $22, cakerswarehouse.com.au
Cakers online store will send you a tasty gingerbreadhouse kit baked fresh at Delaney's Cakes in Wollongong.
I like how tall and slim this is, providing loads of room to go to town on lollies and icing. Note the height also makes it more delicate than smaller houses and you'll need to wait 24 hours to ensure the icing has set properly before decorating.
A nice balanced taste - not too spicy, not too sweet - and the removable door is a nifty touch.
Icing: Packet of dry royal icing you'll need to beat with 75ml of water. No need to visit the shops for eggs.
Base: Large foil cake board with ample space to create a winter wonderland mise-en-scene.