For a healthy twist on a homemade holiday favorite, here’s our version of a foodie’s Gingerbread House. If you get to the end of the instructions and decide you need something easier, don’t worry. We’ve included a busy-mom version that’s still healthy and fun.
Healthy Gingerbread House Holiday Tradition
Every year around St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) my family hosts a Gingerbread House Decorating Party. We provide the royal icing and some non-sugary snacks and our guests bring a bag of decorating candy to share around, as well as a pre-constructed gingerbread house. Over the years we’ve seen every kind of gingerbread house imaginable:
• Elaborate houses made from delectable gingerbread
• Graham cracker houses with pretzel embellishments
• Ramshackle structures held together with hot glue and a prayer
• Some that weren’t houses at all – trains, trees and huge gingerbread men waiting to be decorated
It’s all good – the point is to have Christmas fun and not stress about everything being picture perfect. If there’s one thing we repeat over and over in our holiday book, 12 Days of Christmas, it’s to realize that this is YOUR Christmas and you need to do it YOUR way. If we keep the Reason for the season in our minds, we will naturally enjoy ourselves more.
Healthy Gingerbread House 2 Ways
Some years we don’t manage a “real” gingerbread house and have to go with our busy-mom option. If you read the instructions for this handmade gingerbread house and think to yourself, “Yeah, whatever, that’s not happening,” don’t worry about it! Remember what I said, YOUR Christmas should be done YOUR way. While I do encourage you to always make an effort to build wholesome traditions with your friends and family, some years just aren’t the handmade-to-scale-gingerbread-house kind.
If that’s you this year, skip down to the end and look for the section heading “Busy-Mom Healthy Gingerbread House.” This will require a special piece of equipment, but it will be a worthwhile investment if you will use it consistently and with joy.
Healthy Gingerbread House Recipe
- 6 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 cups almond flour
- 1 cup rye flour
- 2 Tbsp. ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp mace, can also use cardamom but I find it’s a tad too bitter
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- 1 Tbsp. baking soda
- 2 ¼ cups fresh butter
- 2 ¼ cups raw sugar or coconut or rapadura sugar
- 6 fresh eggs room temperature
- 2 cups rich dark molasses, blackstrap is awesome; I sometimes mix in a little sorghum
- You will need a gingerbread house template, either printed from the Internet or drawn free hand. Be sure to measure accurately, if you are making your own template.
Instructions for Gingerbread Dough
- Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flours, spices, salt).
- Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time until fluffy and thoroughly mixed.
- Add dry ingredients to wet in two cup increments. Mix thoroughly between additions.
- Wrap the dough securely in beeswax wrap, dehydrator liners, parchment paper or plastic wrap. Chill for at least four hours, or overnight. I usually complete my gingerbread house making over a whole week and just chill mine overnight to deal with the next day.
- When ready, remove chilled dough to the counter and let sit for around 30 minutes.
Instructions for Gingerbread House Baking
- You’ll need a large work area for rolling house pieces, so prepare your space.
- Cut the dough into manageable chunks and check wetness. If it's too wet to roll out without sticking, work a little flour into the dough ball. Dust your rolling pin and rolling surface with flour.
- Roll each piece to a consistent width – I like between 1/8 and1/4 of an inch. The pieces will about double in thickness once baked. Place your template on top of the section of rolled and cut out each piece with your sharpest knife. Be sure to note which template pieces need to be doubled (like walls and roof pieces).
- Transfer each piece carefully to the baking sheet and bake at 350F/176C for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown and the middle is pretty firm when you gently press on it.
- Remove and let cool completely before moving the pieces to a cooling rack. Do NOT reuse a hot baking sheet. If you have to, you can cool your baking sheets under running water or in the snow. I have five baking sheets and I use them all for this process, FYI. However, my civil engineer husband designs our house every year and he’s super creative. If your house is smaller, you’ll be fine with just a few baking sheets.
- The gingerbread house pieces MUST be completely cool before you can construct the house. I usually leave them overnight and recover from the process of cutting out and baking with my five kids.
Please note: if your mixer can’t do this much flour at one time, you may halve this recipe easily. You can also split the ingredients in half and process them one half at a time. You may also mix by hand.
Be aware that because of cooling and assembling time needed, you’ll want to start your gingerbread house AT LEAST three days before you need it. I usually give myself an entire week. Dude, it’s December – I’m lucky if I have time to pee all month. This homemade, healthy gingerbread house is a labor of love and a blessed tradition, but it takes TIME. Be prepared to give yourself the time it requires to keep it fun. Stressed out mom=stressed out Christmas.
Instructions for Gingerbread House Assembly
- Once the healthy gingerbread house pieces have cooled, mix up a batch of royal icing. OR, get out your glue gun. I don’t use icing to construct my house because I don’t have time to mess with it. The icing is usually strong enough to hold the pieces together securely, but you have to stand there holding them until they dry. Life is too short to babysit your gingerbread house, in my opinion. I use my glue gun to construct my house. I DO eat my gingerbread house, I just don’t eat the parts with glue. You use whichever you want and it will turn out beautifully!
- As a base for your healthy gingerbread house, find a sturdy piece of cardboard onto which your house will easily fit. Wrap it in parchment paper, tin foil, Christmas paper, whatever.
- Assemble your house directly on top of your prepared cardboard. Allow to dry for at least six hours, or overnight.
Suggestions for Healthy Gingerbread House Decorating
- There’s just nothing better than royal icing for affixing candies and fruits to your gingerbread house. Yes, it’s processed sugar, but it’s only once a year. The children will live. Royal icing is super easy to make – there’s a recipe just below this section. You can make this with less-processed sugars like coconut or rapadura, though your finished product will be brown. To learn to make your own powdered sugar, click here.
- To keep your healthy gingerbread house wholesome and tasty, avoid cheap commercial candies with highly processed sugars and dyes. Most health food stores carry organic candies and fun chocolates that carry the Fair Trade mark. Online, The Natural Candy Store is the source I use every year. Expect to pay more for healthier candy, FYI. I buy a stash twice a year – Christmas and Easter.
- If you decided against using candy altogether, dried fruits and nuts are excellent options! We usually do a mixture of both. Dried pineapple is a big hit on our gingerbread house, for example. If you’re just starting out in your healthy food journey, just do the best you can this year and reassess next year. Remember, this is YOUR Christmas – do it YOUR way.
Do Your Best with Healthy
Think about what’s most important to you before you purchase. Honestly, for my family, the organic label isn’t as important as other things. We ask a blessing on every scrap of food that comes into our home (even the sweets) and believe firmly in God’s ability to cleanse what we can’t and remove what we wouldn’t have chosen to put into the food, if we’d had a choice.
If that seems super weird and ineffective to you, the organic label might be really important. I usually look for less-processed ingredients – items closer in chemical make up to how they started out, like less-processed sugar instead of corn syrup.
When looking at chocolate, I try to purchase Fair Trade or some kind of living wage approved variety. If the chocolate was produced unethically, that puts my knickers in a twist – with purchasing Fair Trade labeled chocolate, I’m doing the best that I can to consume wisely. What about you? What’s the most important thing you look for in “healthy treats?”
Royal Icing Instructions
Beat 1 tsp. of vanilla, and 2 egg whites thoroughly in bowl. Add by large spoonful 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition. Beat on medium high speed for several minutes. Check consistency. How much powdered sugar you add is totally dependent on how thick you need the frosting to be.
To use royal icing for affixing items to a gingerbread house, you want the icing robust and a tad thick. To use the icing to decorate cookies, you want it a lot thinner and very spreadable.
This recipe will yield roughly a two cup batch of icing. You may need more to finish your house or cookies, but this is a good place to start.
Busy-Mom Healthy Gingerbread House
Yeah, so, some years none of that happens. Like the year I got gored in the leg by our boar and spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas in bed. That year a good friend came over with Graham cracker houses for each of my and her kids, and they decorated with whatever candy we had collectively. I think we even used some kind of store bought frosting for sticking things on.
My kids had so much fun with their friends and I was supported in my hour of need by a good woman. Traditions are meant to build up, not cause stress and anxiety.
Gingerbread Bundt House
If you know that you don’t have time this year for an elaborate, healthy gingerbread house, never fear! One year, when I was too pregnant to mess with a handmade gingerbread house, my husband bought me a Nordic Ware Gingerbread House Bundt Pan. I loved it and used it happily.
If you just can’t swing a “real” gingerbread house this year, buy the pan. Use the pan. Love the pan.
Lovely Little Kitchen has a good recipe for Gingerbread Bundt Cake here. I would substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil in that recipe. If you want organic powdered sugar, you can buy that here.
Texan Erin has a gorgeous recipe for Orange Pumpkin Gingerbread Bundt Cake here.
Remember that BUNDT cake is a completely different recipe from gingerbread HOUSE dough, which is really a cookie dough. You’ll need a different recipe than the one we’ve provided in this post.
I love Bundt pan baking – I have more Bundt pans that I care to admit. You should be really pleased with the results.
You can use royal icing to decorate you Bundt cake like a traditional gingerbread house but I’ve never gotten it to stick very well. I don’t have a lot of time or patience, though.
When we use a gingerbread Bundt house, we increase the size of our surrounding cardboard base and decorate the space around the house. Gingerbread cookie men and trees work really well for this.