Candy makes everyone feel like a kid again. Playing with it and making a mess? Even better. A gingerbread house building holiday party will put a playful new twist on your holiday gathering.
What is gingerbread?
Gingerbread first appeared in Europe in 992! Like most good things in the dark ages, the delicious tradition was preserved by monks, who handed down the recipe and method over the years.
Ginger — a new flavor from the Far East — had important health benefits. But gingerbread may have carried on over those years for a more interesting reason. Ginger kept the bread fresh longer. Good to know when you are trying to figure out what to do with leftovers!
In many place in Europe, they are called witches houses because of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. This story was the impetus for turning gingerbread from a tummy soothing biscuit into the colorful candy-coated houses we know and love today.
Get everyone psyched about the contest in your holiday party invite. Use an evite with a gingerbread design and explain the idea. At the party, everyone gets a block of “land” and “building materials” to create their own edible architectural masterpiece. Once everyone has made their house, arrange them around the room or on the dining table and hold a secret ballet. The winner can take home the extra candy!
Each of your guests should bring a bag or two of candy — nothing special, just jellies, candy canes, or non-pareils. (You can ask people to RSVP with what type of candy they are bringing if you are worried about balance.)
To make things really easy on yourself, you can just provide graham crackers to make the houses. But if you are feeling ambitious, by all means, make real gingerbread! There are many kits available and I’ll post by best friend’s gingerbread recipe later this week if you want to make your houses from scratch.
Your engineer friend may have a hidden talent for decoration even he isn’t aware of, while someone else’s daughter may be a clear structural engineer in the making with her gingerbread mansion!
Dry finger foods are ideal for a gingerbread making party. You don’t want to serve foods that will make a mess on guests workspace of get reside on their hands.
Honor gingerbread’s French origins with a simple charcuterie plate. You can get everything pre-made, making for a super simple soiree on your part.
- baguettes (one per three people)
- pate (duck with port is divine, pate de campagne is hearty)
- sliced spicy sausage (chorizo or soppresata)
- thinly sliced cured meat (prosciutto, culatello or mortadella)
- three cheeses (one hard, one brie or blue, one soft goat)
- whole grain mustard
- fig or apricot preserves
- cornichons (tiny french gherkin pickles)
Prepare your gingerbread house building area. Each guest will need a square or rectangle of cardboard covered with aluminum foil as the base of their house and a knife for frosting. Set out bowls for the candy your guests are bringing.
On another table, arrange the nibbles and drinks with little plates and party napkins. You can pre-slice the baguettes or set them out with a cutting board and bread knife. Arrange the pate, sliced meats, and cheeses on another cutting board and spoon the mustard, preserves, olives, and pickles into little bowls.
Set out some red wine with the food, anything from this year’s Beaujolais to a light Cotes de Rhone to a vintage Bordeaux. Keep some port in reserve to have with dessert (gingerbread cookies — mais oui!), for a perfect time-honored seasonal pairing.
I’ll be holding a gingerbread contest at my holiday party this year. If you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them below.
This is a lovely idea! My friends and I have never done a competition, we always do a collaborative group gingerbread thing (I say “thing” because it has included a train crashing through a house, a tribute to The Lord of the Rings, and a house of ill repute with a pile of burning tires).
My tip is to encourage creativity for the candy/decorations. We found some type of moldable candy in different colors at Target one year and were able to create really cool things with it. I think the variety of candy and decorating things really inspires people. Teddy Grahams make good decorations and are a nice size to be people (or Orcs) for a smaller gingerbread house. Cereal with shapes are good as well. I always make lots of different colored frosting and have piping bags with different tips ready for decorating.
Also, if your friends are anything like my friends, cover everything in newspaper or plastic or something! We make a huge mess every year.
My recommendation is to have multiple “glue” bowls for sharing. While waiting for people to arrive, put a damp cloth over the glue bowls to keep them from hardening. It also doesn’t hurt to purchase some store bought, just incase :).
How do I know this?
I may have had a Gingerbread house making birthday party a few years back :). And sadly, my house imploded, so I would also recommend using mini milk or OJ cartons underneath. They’re harder to find than I had thought, so it’s not a bad idea for the host to supply those as well.
I’m going to answer my favorite cookie question here! My favorite holiday cookie is date pinwheels. In my family only my mom and I like them and they’re somewhat time consuming to make, but we always had them. In fact I was just talking to my mom on the phone and we were planning to make them when I’m home next week! Luckily Aric actually likes them, too!