I recently had the revelation that I’ve been on the planet for a mighty long time and not once have I made a gingerbread house. Sad, I know. So I decided to not waste any more time and embarked upon building my first-ever gingerbread structure. But not one to do things the easy way, I chose to build a structure that speaks to every Texan: yep, I built a gingerbread Alamo.
It’s been noted that the first time you try something you should take it easy, perhaps not get too ambitious until you have developed your skills. But I figured, “Hey, it’s a house made with cookies and candy. How hard can it be?” I am clearly a fool.
First, I realized there were no existing templates for a gingerbread Alamo, so I would have to create my own. Drawing the pattern was a fun challenge, however, and perhaps the highlight of the project, along with assembling my cardboard cut outs to make sure my measurements were correct.
But then the building began.
I am, perhaps, a better designer than builder. At least this is what I told myself after I baked the cookies and failed to let them cool long enough so that they fell apart. I also thought this when I ended up with royal frosting all over my clothes, face and hair. And then there was the decoration issue—can you put candy all over the Alamo without incurring the wrath of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas? There were indeed many challenges.
In the end, I was pleased with my work. If you dimmed the lights and squinted it even looked festive, if not a little rustic and slapdash. You also have to pretend that it’s the Alamo after a snowstorm, because we all know how often it snows in San Antonio. (Royal icing hides a host of imperfections but it leaves the illusion of snow in its wake.) And yes, I’m certain an eight-year-old would probably do a much better job, but at least I can finally check “gingerbread structure making” off my life list.
So I’m including my instructions and the pattern. If you have some time on your hands during the holidays and want to keep the kids occupied, this is a great way to pass a day. And since y’all are more talented then I am, if you make a gingerbread Alamo please feel free to send me a photo and I’ll post it here on the site.
But even if this project never ever gets repeated again, we can always say, “Remember the gingerbread Alamo!”
Ingredients for the cookie and house:
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- A pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 1/2 cup gum drops
- Licorice sticks
- Peppermint sticks
- 2 cups mixed nuts
Ingredients for the royal icing:
- 1 pound of confectioner’s sugar
- 2 egg whites (1/3 a cup)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the cookie, cream together the butter, brown sugar and molasses. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until a smooth dough forms.
Refrigerate dough for at least half an hour before proceeding. (Can leave it overnight, but might have to let it warm up a bit before rolling it).
After dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 375°F and divide the dough into 2 balls.
Roll out each ball on a sheet of parchment paper that will fit onto your cookie sheet.
To make the shapes, take the parchment pattern and place it on the dough. Take its corresponding cardboard pattern and place it on top of the parchment paper. (You do this so your cardboard pattern won’t get cookie dough on it an can be used again.) Using a sharp knife, cut around the cardboard. Remove scraps and repeat. If you want to cut out windows and the door on the facade, now is the time to do this.
(Please note that I didn’t draw patterns for the flag and the front-door decoration (I’m not sure of the architectural term), but I just freestyle cut out a wide, small rectangle for the flag and a thin, long rectangle for the piece that will rest on the licorice columns. Feel free to do the same!)
Bake the cookies 15 minutes and then let cool on a rack for at least 8 hours.
After the cookies have cooled, to make the royal icing, beat confectioner’s sugar, egg whites, and vanilla until fluffy. This stuff dries fast, so keep it covered with plastic wrap when not in use.
Now it’s time to assemble! You’ll need an assortment of cadies, nuts or whatever you want to use. You’ll also need royal icing, which is the glue that will hold this structure together.
To assemble the Alamo, take your long back wall and lay it flat. Spread icing on the end of the shorter walls, and join them at a right angle to the back wall, one on each end and one in the center. As you seal each wall to the back wall, you’ll need to hold the two pieces together for at least 10 minutes (or you can prop them up with cans) until the icing dries. With the walls supported, let the icing dry for 1 hour.
Now take the facade and spread icing on the ends where it will meet with the sidewalls. Lightly press the facade onto the other walls (they should still be up and the facade will be facing the ceiling), hold it, and then let it dry for an hour.
After the walls and facade have dried, gently turn the Alamo right side up onto the table. Now place icing on the edges of the roof and press this on top of the back walls (not the facade). Again, hold it and then let it rest for an hour. Don’t fret if it’s not a perfect match—you can repair this later with royal icing.
Once the structure has dried, place it on piece of cardboard. Fill in all the gaping holes where the two cookies may not have been a perfect match with royal icing (hence the snowy effect). And using the icing attach any candies or other decorations you like to the Alamo.
Gingerbread Alamo pattern
To get the pattern, click on each image to enlarge and then print in landscape mode.