Factor in two days when making the gingerbread dough as it needs to chill overnight. To get ahead though, the dough can be made up to two weeks in advance and kept in the fridge, just remember to take it out of the fridge half an hour or so before rolling out!
1 hour 30 minutes
For the dough:
250g unsalted butter
75g golden syrup
215g light brown sugar
75g black treacle
2 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 ½ ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
575g plain flour
For the royal icing (or use shop bought):
1kg icing sugar
130g egg whites
30g lemon juice
5g glycerine (if you can’t find it you can leave it out - it just keeps the icing nice and soft!)
A 35.5cmx25.5cm rectangular cake board, for building the house on
A mixture of colourful sweets and sprinkles, for decorating
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on medium/low heat. Add the next seven ingredients, along with 75ml of water, and increase the heat to medium/high. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking regularly to avoid it catching on the bottom of the pan. Measure the bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and set aside. As soon as the butter/sugar mixture has come to a boil, carefully pour it onto the bicarbonate of soda, whisking as you go, and taking care as it will bubble up a fair bit. Leave to cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge, covered, until cold, about 2-3 hours or overnight.
2. Once the butter/sugar mix is completely cold, transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment in place. Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and there are no dry bits of flour remaining, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and shape into a smooth flat disc. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 180c fan. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave out at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes to soften slightly. Lightly flour a clean work surface as well as the dough. Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out to a thickness of about 4mm, using as much flour as needed to stop it from sticking.
4. Use the templates to cut out the gingerbread house components and place them onto two or three large 40cmx33cm parchment lined baking trays. They will spread a bit during baking so make sure you leave enough space in between. Bake in batches if your baking trays are smaller. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges start to colour. The smaller pieces will bake quicker so keep an eye on them. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack, about 30 minutes. You can reroll any remaining dough scraps to make gingerbread men or other festive shapes!
5. If making the royal icing, place all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Whip on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy. Keep the icing covered with a clean damp cloth at all times to prevent it drying up.
6. Once the gingerbread has completely cooled you are ready to assemble! Use the icing to glue the gingerbread components together to make the house, as well as for sticking on the sweets and any other decorative purposes such as snow and icicles etc.
Once built, the house will keep for several weeks!