Gingerbread House? That has SO been done. We decided to attempt a gingerbread barn this year.
When my husband came down the stairs on Saturday morning and saw me piping the red siding onto the gingerbread barn, a smile broke across his face. "Oh, no. You are making a barn? Remember what happened the last time? I hope you don't plan to put this on your blog." Then my sister called and asked what I had planned for the day. When I explained that my daughter and I were constructing a barn from gingerbread, she had a similar reaction to that of my husband. That's because they remember the barn cake disaster of 2005. I have to admit that creating an edible barn has defeated me in the past.
Please, allow me to take you back in time about 3 and a half years. My first child was turning one. Not one to do anything low-key, I proceeded to paint a mural and make table centerpieces and of course, make and decorate the perfect barn cake for her farm themed birthday party. I put three layers of cake together and began piping on the heavy icing. It was looking pretty good and then the whole thing just started falling apart. The icing was too heavy for the delicate, crumbly cake. I tried supporting it. My husband went out and bought kabobs skewers and we ran them through the cake. It just kept getting worse and worse. When he suggested that he just run to Kroger and buy a cake for the guests (that would arrive in about 2 hours) I burst into tears. "No! I am making her birthday cake," I screamed. I was a wreck. I had this idea that everything had to be perfect, you know, because my one year old was going to remember every detail of her party and the cake. Hindsight is 20/20. I have to admit, it was not one of my finer moments. I ended up serving the wreck of a cake. I even peeled the label off of a soup can and stuck a cupcake on top and shoved it again the cake to hold it up. I called it a silo. Here is a picture of the last barn I attempted:
If there's one thing I'm not, it's a quitter. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. So here goes...
After you have made the gingerbread dough, pull one of the discs out of your refrigerator and roll it out to 1/4" thickness. I had pre-cut pattern pieces for this barn. I think I got them from a 1994 issue of Successful Farming. Okay, so maybe this is my third attempt at a barn. I'm pretty sure that I tried this my junior year in high school after my grandma clipped the recipe for me. The pre-cut pieces are from all the way back then and my mom sent them home with me after a recent cleaning of her cupboards. Anyway, lay the pieces on the gingerbread and cut around them.
Now place the pieces on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. I baked these a little longer. I decided that they didn't need to be soft and that hard walls probably = sturdy walls.
Once the pieces have cooled, I piped red Royal Icing onto the front and sides of the barn. This stuff is like cement when it dries. It's edible, but awfully crunchy.
3 egg whites
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine all of the ingredients and beat on high with an electric mixer for 7-10 minutes or until very stiff.
I made 2 batches. I colored 1 cup of blue, black, green, and left 1 cup plain white and the rest was colored red.
Next, I added the details to the sides and front; doors, windows, wreaths...
After the icing dried it was time for assembly. I piped the red icing on the edges and pressed the pieces together. I supported the pieces with pint canning jars and rolling pins. I'm not going to lie, a couple of the pieces fell over while I was trying to set them up. Luckily, nothing broke and it went together okay. Let the icing dry before constructing the roof.
The roof construction was trickier, which might explain why I didn't get any pictures of the process. One of the roof pieces broke, but I was able to "glue" it back together with icing. Then, when I piped on the shingles, the icing kept hardening and crumbling off. The roof didn't look the greatest, so I decided to sift powdered sugar over the top and cover all of the flaws with a layer of "new fallen snow". All in all, it looks pretty good. I'm going to call it a success. It's still standing. It even made a trip to pre-school for Show and Tell. I have redeemed myself in the edible barn department.
I put together the little fence on a flat surface. I just used dots of the royal icing to adhere the pretzel sticks together and once dry, I stood it up.