Katie Dilse »

Gingerbread party for brave ones

If family projects excite you, and sticky messes don’t frighten you – and you are really, really brave and pretty ambitious – check out this awesome Gingerbread Party! We make our dough from scratch, our frosting is a family favorite, a finger-licking deliciousness, and our gingerbread designs are unique every year. It’s a seven-family tradition!

Welcome to our North Dakota Gingerbread Party.


It’s not like the picture-perfect gingerbread houses on TV.
Because family life is not picture-perfect.
This is real life.
With imperfect pieces.
Disproportional windows.
Some ugly sides.

And…. we put our houses together with glue guns. It’s disappointing, I know – but then we guilt-free, of course cover the evidence with frosting!
Because… these houses travel at least 30 miles to their final destination.

And even with glue, sometimes they fall apart.
Isn’t that life?
We take a corner too fast – and we’re left with a mess!
We don’t pay attention and we hit the brakes too fast.

We are a group of families that embrace the messes! We try to make it special – realizing the overturned house left with a lingering scent of peppermint frosting aroma in our trunk!

A fair warning: This party is not for the faint hearts. This is die-hard. For hosts who don’t mind if a little green frosting finds its way down the carpet steps. For families who break out in Christmas carols and dough juggling! Families who aren’t afraid of powdered-sugar-covered kitchen counters that become tick-tack-toe boards. This is THAT kind of project.

gingerbread catch

We’ve been doing this for 12 years! We’ve learned a lot about gingerbread house making! To… here are some tips! As hosts, we choose a theme by creating patterns by measuring, calculating, and pretending to be architects! Or find a free one online!

We cut the pieces light, but dense cardboard. Creative Memories cardboard pieces in your scrapbooking supplies works the very best!

Then.. Load up on molasses, flour, butter, salt, eggs and lots of sugar!
We love the Family Fun dough recipe – because it means exactly what it says! Be patient and make single batches… doubling can be a wreck!

Once you’ve finished your first batch, fill a gallon-sized Ziploc bag with dough! Spread the dough to the very corners of each bag and refrigerating for at least 24 hours!


The next day… we set the dough on the counter for at least 2 hours – and we’re ready to ROLL! Rock and ROLL!

We cut every seam of the ziploc bag – leaving only the bottom piece of the bag. Then, cut your dough piece in half and flop one piece of dough on a cookie-sheet size piece of parchment paper. Try not to bend the dough!

Scatter a bit of granulated sugar on the dough to prevent it from sticking to your rolling pin and parchment paper and GET TO WORK!!!


Roll and roll!
Make sure your Christmas music is cranked and your muscles primed!

Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick – until you get your dough the same size as your pattern. Gently rest your cardboard pattern on the dough, and create the edges of your gingerbread piece. Dragging the knife can leave frayed edges, so pressing works the very best! Have fun creating doors, windows, and other details you’d love to have in your dream gingerbread house!

Then… this is ultra important… pull away the extra dough! Leave the gingerbread piece on your parchment paper!!! Don’t try to move your large piece with a spatula and expect it to stay nice! We all conform to what’s holding us up – if our edges become unsupoorted. We break. So, be sure to drag the entire gingerbread piece with the parchment paper to your cookie sheet!

Then… BAKE!!!

If you want to get extra fancy and have stained glass windows, that’s easy too!

Just crush your candy…


and half-way through the baking of your gingerbread piece, add the crushed candy in your already formed windows!

Adding candy crush

Finish baking and watch the candy melt!

We admit… we bake the daylights out of our gingerbread pieces! Usually, they are in the oven about 25 minutes at 350 degrees (sometimes we crank it to 375 after we’ve been opening and closing the oven doors so many time! Truthfully, we snitch uneven edges of dough right out of the oven. But you won’t catch us eatting the finished pieces. So it doesn’t matter that we overbake the pieces! We just want to get most of the moisture out of the pieces so they are easier to handle! But.. be careful… baking too long may make a brittle piece!

gingerbread pieces

Leave your pieces to dry on cookie racks! We leave it for days. Preferably in a guest bedroom, with the windows and doors closed so when you open the door after a week of drying – you are gifted with the most delicious gingerbread smell of the season!
Then… invite your friends!

Starting your party around noon with a hearty meal gives everyone energy for the fun – and prevents too many sugar belly aches!

Wherever you party – make it special and meaningful.
I love having each family with their own table.
To see them all work together, laugh, and share is extra special.

But… let’s just keep this real! The pictures make it look amazing – but there are stressful moments when the house pieces don’t line up, the base is crooked, or the frosting won’t stick well. But… its during those times, that you see families draw closer. They rely on each other. They work together. With an ultimate goal, you will see them overcome the little imperfections of the house – and build a home.


It often takes two hours to assemble and decorate the houses…


Although everyone has similar pieces, the creativity is amazing!!!

Each family has pieces for success:

– the baked gingerbread house pieces
– a wooden base
– frosting bag
– wet wash cloth for sticky fingers
– glue gun we need a firm glue to keep us together in life
– extra glue sticks
– battery operated lights

At a central location, we have a huge candy station!


Its inspiring!
Its so meaningful.

And a beautiful way to begin the Christmas season!


Then… we all gather around the kitchen with the lights off, and watch the lights of our houses come to life! We admire the details of our work!


We gather for a huge group picture!
And individual families too!
And everyone takes home their dining room centerpiece.
It’s their art.
A symbol of their family uniqueness. Togetherness. Their mess. and their beauty.

gingerbread families

It’s our way of saying Merry Christmas!

Our gifts to each other is simply the time we spend together. And… that is really what this season is all about!

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