â€œGingerbread Express,â€ â€œFaux Gingerbread,â€ or â€œSurrogate Gingerbread,â€ whatever you want to call it, this is an alternative for those of you who are short on time or unsure of your baking skills. You still get the terrific experience of decorating the â€œhouseâ€ with your kids and the finished product can and often does look just as good as real gingerbread. The downside? A serious lack of heady gingerbread scent throughout the house; but fake leather bags can look really good though they also lack the authentic dead animal epidermis, right? So how to? Just make a simple base out of a sturdy box or styrofoam with a cutter, then make a batch of white icing as described in my recipe for Gingerbread. Then pick your â€œalternative construction materialsâ€ of choice: my favorites include medium or small straight pretzels that double as brilliant, knobbly logs, frosted shredded wheat cereal which makes a fantastic thatched roof effect complete with dusted snow, graham crackers for the below 5 year old set works well too(with advantage of some aroma), cookies, crackers, cinnamon sticks, etc.
This little log cabin is roughly 7×9 inches and took less than 45 minutes to put together. With the icing, the entire piece could have been done without any candy at all but because the targeted recipients are young kids, we added lots of candy to the base of the house so that you get the best of both worlds, a neat little house and enough candy to keep any kid happy. We made four more real gingerbread houses about this sizeâ€¦one that my daughter decorated entirely on her own, another done by a friend of hers, yet another house was assembled with candy and delivered to friends who have three kids and while part German, have never made a gingerbread house ever so I couldnâ€™t resist and sent one over (with icing for the candy), and finally, one house was baked, carefully packed and hand carried by a friend to Hong Kong so that HER three kids can decorate their own house. Phew! Thatâ€™s 5 houses so far, and I havenâ€™t even posted the main event! And sorry, no, I donâ€™t take ordersâ€¦ :) If you are overwhelmed by making a full blown gingerbread extravaganza, starting with this simple non-gingerbread, “gingerbread house” is a nice start. Again, with young kids, they will enjoy this version as much as the â€œrealâ€ dealâ€¦