If you’ve always longed to make a gingerbread house but couldn’t find time during the winter holidays, this is your chance to shine! Orange flavored sugar cookie dough is rolled and cut into six pieces, glued together with royal icing, and decorated to your heart’s content. Use your creation as a centerpiece instead of lilies; it’ll produce smiles rather than sneezes.
Here’s the back side of the house:
I’ve actually made two of these bad boys this year, trying out different sizes, shapes, and ideas. Here’s the one I made for a feature titled Super Sides in the Spokesman Review, a Spokane daily newspaper. It was a little more elaborate, with cookie fencing and a white chocolate conveyor belt carrying white eggs into the house and colored eggs back out for the bunnies to load into baskets. I had a blast making it (and “testing” the candy for freshness).
I changed the dough a little bit for this house. Originally I used shortening for a more stable dough. For this version I substituted a little butter for part of the shortening and removed part of the leavening, and it worked just as well. The odds are no one will actually eat the house, but just in case, I also added some orange juice concentrate for more flavor.
And, yeah . . . it’s a little wonky. And I forgot to put the doors in before I set the roof, so one of them may be leaning a bit. But it has character, right? Charm. Kind of like a little Hobbit house.
I added some chickens to my yard. I cut them from leftover dough and painted them with melted candy melts.
If you make one of these, I’d sure love to see a photo of it! Just post it on my Rowdy Baker Facebook Page or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.
There was no way I could stuff all the instructions and ideas into one recipe, so I’ll add some tips below. And . . . here are my templates. You can see that the front and back pieces are angled to be wider on the bottom. I gave the measurement from the corner where the side meets the angle for the peak. That’s where your sides will go (on the back of the piece, of course) so you can angle it out as much as you want from that point.
Yeah, yeah, I know the window isn’t centered. We’ve discussed my issues with spacial concepts before, and I assure you there has been no improvement. While I’m confessing my problem, I’ll confide that this house was supposed to be bigger at the top and smaller at the bottom, Like a Dr. Seuss house, but I somehow measured the roof for the wrong end. Sigh. I like it this way, so it wasn’t a total loss. Besides, it’s probably a lot more sturdy this way.
|Sugar Cookie Bunny House
- ½ cup shortening
- ¼ cup butter
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup milk
- 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate (yep - straight from the can)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ROYAL ICING:
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 5 tablespoons meringue powder
- 8 tablespoons warm water
- Cut house templates out of card stock or heavy paper. Cut out windows and doors.
- Heat oven to 325 F.
- In a large bowl (stand mixer is best), beat shortening, butter, and sugar for 1 minute.
- Add egg, milk, frozen orange juice concentrate, and vanilla, and beat well.
- Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined. Dough will be stiff.
- Working with ⅓ of the dough at a time, roll out on lightly floured parchment paper, about ¼-inch thick.
- The parchment sheet will be slid onto a baking sheet with the pieces you have cut out, so plan accordingly. You should be able to fit three pieces on the sheet at a time. Using a sharp knife, cut out the shapes, leaving at least 1 inch between them. Lift off scraps and slide the parchment with the cutouts onto a baking sheet. Cut shapes for windows and doors, but don’t remove the pieces; they will help hold the shape during baking. Once the pieces are baked you can re-cut and remove them. Save the doors to use in the house, cut the upper shutters apart and save. The window pieces on the side walls are scrapped. (Set all scraps aside and re-roll last, if needed.)
- Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to turn golden brown. Remove from oven. Hold your template over the pieces. If they have spread, take a sharp knife and trim them to size. Allow to cool on rack. Repeat with the remaining pieces. If any pieces feel soft after cooling, put them back in the oven for a few minutes. They must be very firm.
- If you are making fences, cut the long parallel support pieces and short vertical fence pieces. Don’t put them together before baking or the fence posts will droop between the support pieces. Bake them separately and put them together with royal icing after they cool.
- MAKE ROYAL ICING: In a large bowl, combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder. Gradually add water until it is very thick and creamy. Add additional water if necessary, ¼ teaspoon at a time. Beat for at least 5 minutes. Mixture should make stiff peaks. Transfer 1 cup of icing to a small pastry bag or storage bag with the tip snipped off. This will be used to glue your house together. Small amounts can be colored for flowers and other decorations. Color the remaining icing green. Keep royal icing covered when not using or it will dry out quickly.
- You may want to decorate your outside walls and roof before construction. It’s easier to do this on a flat surface! Use a small amount of royal icing to attach candy and decorations and allow them to dry. Flat candy wafers or sour strips make great roof tiles. Add shutters to the upper windows. For easy window boxes, pipe melted chocolate along the bottom of the side windows. Set carrots made from candy melts (or little candy flowers) along the edge and then cover with a little more chocolate, letting the tops peep out. Let dry thoroughly.
- The walls will go up first. Pipe a generous amount of icing along the short edges of one side piece. Using heavy cans to brace the structure as you go, connect a side piece to the front piece. Because the front and back pieces curve instead of creating a 90-degree angle, the side pieces will fit slightly inside inside, so the front and back will stick out a little on each side. Add the back piece and the other side. Make sure your house is straight, and then let it dry overnight.
- Spread green icing on a sturdy cake board. Carefully pick up your house and place it on the icing. If you have extra icing, save it for grass and bushes.
- Place your doors now, if you're having them open into the house. Add a little icing to the "hinge" side for extra stability. Add bunnies looking out the windows if you wish.
- Pipe a generous amount of white icing along the top edges of the house – on the sides and the roof pitch.
- Place one roof piece on the house and carefully stick two pins through the roof into the house, almost at the tip of the pitch, one at the front of the house, one at the back. Repeat with the other roof piece. You can add a couple of pins along the roof line if necessary, pinning one side to the other. Count how many pins you use so you're sure to remove them all at the end!
- If you are adding a fence, do so now while the green icing is still soft.
- While the roof is drying, you can decorate the yard. Add vines, grass, bushes, and flowers using colored royal icing. Crush chocolate cookies for a garden bed. Build a fence using cookie dough or a row of marshmallow bunnies. Set a chocolate bunny by the front door. Add nests using crushed shredded wheat, baked cookie dough, icing, or edible Easter grass and fill them with candy eggs or jelly beans. Make a walkway out of candy rocks or flat candy (like Smarties or Pez).
- Once the roof feels solid, (several hours) PULL OUT THE PINS. Count them to make sure you have them all, and then enjoy your masterpiece.
Yes, I could have brought the “tiles” to the roof peak. If I had more. If someone hadn’t eaten them.
OK, fine. I’ll admit it. It was I who ate them. I did. I LOVE sour candy. Meh. Jelly beans are cute anyhow.
- There will be plenty of dough for the house, with enough left over to play with. Make a small picket fence, and glue it together when you put your house together so it has a chance to dry. Place it on the soft green icing when your house is placed. Or make little chickens (see the photo above), baskets, nests. Maybe a mailbox with “E. Bunny” on it.
- Make sure the cookie pieces are thoroughly baked. If they feel soft after they’ve cooled, put them back in the oven for a few minutes.
- I made curtains from white chocolate for one of the windows. It was tricky, but cute. I spread a little melted chocolate on a piece of plastic wrap and then laid it over a few skewers to get a rippled effect. Once it hardened, a piece was attached to each side (inside of the window) with royal icing.
- Space out your roofing as much as possible without seeing gaping holes. That stuff gets heavy fast.
- Candy melts (melted, of course) painted on the doors and shutters with a pastry brush will look like wood grain.
- I couldn’t find edible Easter grass this year, but if you can get your hands on some, it would look great chopped up and sprinkled over the green icing.
I gave this house to the gal that cuts my hair. Someone there asked me what I charged for them, and I told her that I didn’t sell them. There is way too much time and fussing and swearing to make it anything but a labor of love. The thing is, though, once you make one the next one is much easier. And . . . I guess if you make a few for family and friends, there won’t be quite so much leftover Easter candy to *ahem* dispose of. Your call.