How to host a Gingerbread House Party

If you want to level up your holidays this year, you’ve got to know how to host a gingerbread house party that everyone will remember. From supplies to refreshments and gingerbread to candy, here’s everything you need to know about hosting a memorable gingerbread decorating party. 

a skillfully decorated gingerbread house on a platform in front of a christmas tree

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How to Host a Gingerbread House Party

As we know, I am all about the holiday Christmas cookies and so are my kids. Every year at the holidays, we debate together on if we should organize a cookie swap, a cookie decorating party or a gingerbread house party. 

Gingerbread house parties are a little more involved because you’re, well, building a small house!

However, please note that cookie swaps are more ideal when you want to put in a little less effort — everyone brings a cookie to share. 

But there are ways to make hosting a gingerbread house party even easier, and I’m laying out the plan for the perfect gingerbread house party.

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    After all, it’s officially the holiday season, and these parties are from for the whole family.

    Why I love gingerbread houses:

    Gingerbread house season is upon us, and these houses are so much fun. 

    Whether you’re making them from a kit or baking your own, there’s something magical about a tiny gingerbread house (or a huge one) on your countertop throughout the holiday season.

    Here are some reasons why I love ’em:

    • Gingerbread houses are fun to make with friends, family, neighbors and kids. Everyone will have a blast celebrating the season in this unique way.
    • They make gorgeous centerpieces for the holidays. (This is the best part for me!) You can place them at the center of your table or use them to decorate different parts of your home. 
    • Keep things simple or get elaborate! You can host a contest and give out prizes for the prettiest house. 
    • Plus, there’s candy. Who doesn’t like candy?! 

    More holiday party ideas to try: Friendsgiving | Holiday Brunch | Football & Tailgates | Dinner Parties

    What is a gingerbread house party?

    Gingerbread houses are beautiful (and edible) holiday crafts. They are small, edible houses made from gingerbread cookies or graham crackers held together with icing, then decorated with candy, cookies, coconut and other confections. 

    At a gingerbread party, everyone builds their own gingerbread house together. The houses can be pre-constructed so everyone is just decorating or you can build them and decorate them at once. 

    If you’re interested in hosting one of these shindigs this year, let’s talk about some of the things you’re going to want and need to do.

    premade gingerbread houses on small sheet pans with icing sugar, glasses of milk, candies and more before kids decorate

    How to host a gingerbread house party

    1. Choose your party date and put together your guest list.

    The first thing you need to do in order to host a gingerbread house party is to choose your date and then invite friends.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Gingerbread House Day is December 12. 

    Obviously, you need to do what works best for you here, but you will need a few hours to prep for the party and then the party itself will probably need to be about 3-4 hours. 

    You could make this a mother/daughter affair, an ugly sweater party, a girlfriend get-together, a kids’ holiday party, office party, neighborhood party, or even a Christmas Eve competition with family or friends. 

    What is the perfect number of guests? To me, having anywhere from 6-12 guests is perfect. With 8 people or fewer, everyone can build their own house.

    For a bigger party, you might want to put everyone into teams and make it a contest for the most elaborate house or best theme. 

    2. Decide upon how it will go.

    You have a few things to figure out before the party. 

    • Will you buy pre-made kits or bake the pieces beforehand? If you’re baking the walls and following a gingerbread house template, you will need to bake the gingerbread house pieces on a different day.
    • Do you plan to construct the houses ahead of time, or will everyone build their own house? 
    • Will you ask guests to bring at least one type of candy or cookies to decorate with? 
    • Will guests be asked to bring a dish to snack on while you work on the houses? 
    a set of hands cuts out a side of a gingerbread house from cookie dough on a wooden table

    3. Invite friends.

    Next, you’ve got to get people to come over and send them the details! 

    Gingerbread House Party Invitation Ideas:

    The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

    • Email invitation: Use an online service, like Evite or Paperless Post, to email out invitations. 
    • Paper invitation: You can send out invites the old-fashioned way! I love this pink gingerbread house design, as well as this classic one, that you can download and print. Or you can cut paper into the shape of gingerbread men or houses. 
    • Text invitation: Who says it has to be fancy? Just get people to come over! You could also download a design (like this one) and text it if you’re feeling fancy.

    Be sure to tell them the time, date, location, who to bring, what to bring, what to wear (an apron will be nice!) and anything else you need them to know! 

    4. Plan how to prep for the party.

    Below I have a list of all the supplies you will need. But one big thing to consider is how you will build the houses. There are a few types: 

    • Baked houses: Love baking? You can build your own gingerbread house with real gingerbread dough and cookie cutters. These will need to be baked well ahead of time, as warm cookies cannot be used.
    • A kit: You can buy gingerbread house kits* (affiliate link) that have pre-baked gingerbread pieces so all you will need to do is construct the houses. 
    • Milk carton and graham crackers: You can buy graham crackers and glue them together with icing to build a house. A milk carton is a great base to build the house around. 

    You’ll also want to prepare a table and cover it with newspaper or a plastic tablecloth — this is going to get messy, even if it’s an adults-only party. 

    You will need some extra surface area, so maybe set up a card table or clear off the counter top for additional stations. 

    5. Plan what, if anything, you’ll serve along with the gingerbread houses.

    We like to have refreshments and light snacks for a gingerbread party because, well, the main star is the house!

    There will be lots of candy and cookies on the table, and you want to save those for the houses, not your mouths. 

    Some snacks and drinks that might pair well include:

    a hand presses a gingerbread chimney on top of a decorated gingerbread house with white icing as the decoration

    6. Know what you’re going to build the houses on.

    In addition to building houses, you’ll need to have something to build the houses on. I like to get these cake boards* (affiliate link) and wrap them in foil or parchment. 

    You could also use small rimmed baking sheets* (affiliate link), if you happen to have several of those in your house.

    Then, you’ll build the houses on top of them. You can even decorate the boards. Put some icing down and then use candy to make brick paths and shredded coconut for snow to transform it into a winter wonderland.

    7. How to get houses back home after the exchange:

    Traveling with gingerbread houses is tricky. I recommend getting some box lids or use spare boxes so that folks can carry their houses home in tact. 

    You can ask guests to bring some supplies, but having some on hand is ideal for the folks who forget. 

    8. Set the ambiance. 

    I am of the mindset that we do not need our homes decorated to the hilt with decorations that we will set out for just a few days a year.

    Let it be known: You don’t have to decorate your whole house for a gingerbread party. You can make this gathering as fancy (or non-fancy) as you’d like. So if you run out of time, no one is going to judge you on your lack of flower arrangements or cutesy holiday decor.

    That said, you can definitely consider adding the following decorations quite easily:

    • Fresh greenery is a lovely (and cheap) centerpiece! I like to use cuttings from our tree on my table. Toss them into a bowl or set them on a wooden serving board. They’re easy and seasonal… they also last a long time.
    • Fresh cut greenery in a vase is also easy and impressive.
    • Festive paper (or fabric) napkins add a pop of color to any tablescape! Chances are, you’ve probably got ‘em at home. 
    • Make a bar! Transform a buffet table into a bar and offer up mixers for friends and family to make their own drinks! Or set out the ingredients for one specific drink, print out the recipe and let everyone mix up their own. Or learn how to make a hot chocolate bar or a hot chocolate board
    • Add a pitcher or two of water or tea to the table. Add mint leaves, lemon slices and more things (like fresh cranberries, other citrus or even fresh herbs, like rosemary) to both water and tea, so have fun with it! This will add both height and color, as well as allow your guests to stay hydrated.
    • Serve a festive signature cocktail. This gingerbread mule would be perfect for the grown-ups, as would a Cranberry Moscow Mule (Yule Mule).

    While you are decorating, choose a spot where all the houses can be placed and displayed, especially if you are planning a contest / judging event at the end.

    They will need a little bit of time to dry and set up before folks head home. You might need to clear off an entire table, depending on how many guests are coming, so plan for this. 

    Oh, and don’t forget the holiday playlist! 

    9. Optional: Plan a game or contest.

    If you think your guests would have fun playing a game, then plan to do one!

    Here are a few ideas:

    • Tell a story: Ask guests to create a short story about the inhabitants of their gingerbread home. Everyone gets a chance to tell their tale, and the group votes for the winner.
    • Superlatives: Unlike the last game, guests aren’t guessing who baked the cookie, but ranking them by different factors. You could have the “Prettiest House” prize, a “Most Creative” or “Ugliest House,” etc. 

    If you play a game, consider offering a prize for the winner! Starbucks gift cards are always a good idea. So would be a festive apron* (affiliate link) or cookie-related oven mitts* (affiliate link) .

    10.Take a deep breath, keep your cool and have fun!

    The morning of your party, take a deep breath. The reason you’re doing this is because it’ll be fun.

    Here’s how I like to fashion the start of any entertaining day:

    • Drink a cup of coffee and collect my thoughts.
    • Choose what I’m wearing, if I haven’t already. (Honestly, this is great to decide days or even weeks in advance.)
    • Go over my cooking timeline. Make note of when I’m going to get ready.
    • Empty the dishwasher. This way, I won’t have dishes in the sink when guests arrive.
    • Get started with my first task.

    Hosting and entertaining can be stressful. Things can (and probably will) go awry.  But you can control how you respond to things.

    Some ways to combat the stress when things aren’t going as planned:

    • Deep breaths. My older daughter’s teacher taught her all kinds of breathing exercises, and I like to use these to this day.
    • Enlist help. There is nothing wrong in asking for assistance!
    • Let guests mingle for a little longer than planned.

    You can do this. Promise.

    Don’t let entertaining keep you from interacting with your guests. Whenever we host, we’ve found everyone tends to gather in the kitchen as we finish whatever we are serving, and it’s a lot of fun to chat as you finish cooking.

    When you’re hosting a holiday party with gingerbread houses, this line of thinking applies, too.

    Make this fun for everyone—and everyone includes YOU. Your friends are celebrating with you because they like you, so spend time with them! 

    a beautiful gingerbread house decorated with white icing on snow with sparkles

    What you need to make a gingerbread house:

    The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    Types of gingerbread houses

    Decide if you are baking from scratch, using a kit or building with graham crackers. 

    • From scratch: You can use a gingerbread house recipe like this one and cookie cutters to get all the shapes ahead of time. Make your own white icing.
    • Gingerbread house kits: These are easy to find in various stores! My family has used the Target kits, as well as ones from Joann’s.
    • Graham cracker gingerbread house: Put them together with a milk carton, some graham crackers and thick royal icing. 

    You can make any of these look like a classic gingerbread house or give them more colorful flair!

    Gingerbread house icing 

    You will need ultra thick gingerbread house icing, which is traditionally white icing. It needs to be STIFF in order to hold the houses together.

    I prefer to use a thick royal icing recipe when we’re making our own and to pipe royal icing around the houses for a classic look.

    You can make your own gingerbread house icing or you can purchase a royal icing mix* (affiliate link).

    Melted gummy bears can also make a colorful glue that might work better for attaching some decorations. 

    The worst types of candy for gingerbread house decorations

    Once you have the house and icing, you can add candies to make your gingerbread house look more festive.

    While you’d think you could put anything on a gingerbread house, it’s not true. There is good gingerbread house candy and there is not so good gingerbread house candy!

    One big thing to consider is the weight of the candy. Candy that is too bulky and heavy might cause your gingerbread house to be structurally unsound, though it could still work on the ground. 

    Heavy candy like chocolate-covered nuts, truffles and candy bars can crush the cookies or will simply fall off when you add the icing. Candies that are filled with creams and caramels that could leak out are also not ideal. 

    Best gingerbread house candy

    Now let’s get into the best gingerbread house candies! My personal favorite is colorful candies, but you do you.

    You can go for more neutral candy for a more classic look. 

    • Gumdrops
    • Licorice (red or black) 
    • Candy canes and starlight peppermints 
    • Sprees
    • Necco Wafers
    • M&M’s 
    • Nerds 
    • Red Hots 
    • Marshmallows 
    • Candy ribbons (these make pretty shrubs) 

    You can also use cookies to decorate your houses or the “yard.” Vanilla wafers make pretty roofs, and gingerbread people can have fun in the yard. 

    Not everything has to be sweet, either. (Unless you’re making the Hansel & Gretl house!) Pretzel rods can also work for decor or trees. Nuts, raisins and other dried fruits can work for pathways. 

    You can dust things off with sanding sugar, shredded coconut and white sprinkles for “snow.” 

    a decorated gingerbread house sits on a table in front of a tree and lit garland in a bright room

    How to make a Gingerbread House

    1. First, construct the houses. If you are using a kit, follow the instructions! 
    2. It helps to start by joining two of the walls with icing. Adhere them to the base with more icing. Then repeat with the other two walls to form a square. Let them dry a little bit so the structure can support the roof. If you are using graham crackers, you can glue them right onto the milk carton. 
    3. Then pipe icing around the top of the structure, which will hold the roof. Hold it in place for a couple of minutes to ensure it doesn’t fall. Then repeat with the other side of the roof. 
    4. Then you can begin gingerbread house decorating! Use icing to stick on candies along the walls and roof. You can make doors, windows and shingles on the roof. (For windows and doors, you can sometimes find pre-made candies to use. You can also make these by piping on more icing.) 
    5. Once your house is complete, decorate the yard. Spread icing down and create paths with candy. Stick on shredded coconut or sanding sugar for snow.
    6. If you want to make trees, you can use upside-down ice cream cones piped with green icing. I recommend using a star tip. 

    Tips for making gingerbread houses with kids

    Decorating with kids? How fun! Children will love the magic of building their own house and decorating it with sweets! 

    But kids are messy. (Ask me how I know.) 

    Here’s what to expect: Be prepared for a mess. So how can you make it easy for all and fun and less stressful for you? 

    • Use smaller houses. While a large gingerbread house is magical, cute little houses are better for smaller hands.
    • Put a tarp, painters cloth or plastic tablecloth under the table(s). You can shake or hose it off later. 
    • Place newspaper or a plastic tablecloth (or both) on your table to protect it from little icing-covered hands. 
    • Line the boards with wax paper, parchment or foil. 
    • Place houses on baking sheets with rims so that little candies don’t scatter.  
    • Use plastic bowls, not glass. 
    • Buy extra candy. Then have bowls of “candy to eat” so that kids aren’t tempted to eat the candy reserved for decorating. That way, there are no tears when someone eats the last gumdrop! 
    • Eat and drink away from the decorating station. No beverages should be allowed on the table because spills can and do happen. 
    A frosted gingerbread house with white icing in front of a brightly lit christmas tree

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you eat a gingerbread house? 

    While everything on a gingerbread house is probably edible, it’s not wise to eat them, especially if they’ve been sitting out. The icing will get rock-hard, so it’s not good for teeth. Plus, lots of hands have touched all the candies so it may not be sanitary. 

    How do you host a gingerbread house contest?

    You can structure gingerbread party contests a few different ways. You can do a timed contest, compete with different themes or vote on superlatives like, prettiest, most creative, best theme etc. 

    Quick tips and tricks to hosting the best Gingerbread House Party

    • Save time by purchasing gingerbread house kits
    • Ask guests to bring their favorite candy or another element of the gingerbread houses.
    • You will need more icing than you think! Stock up… or have extra on hand! The same goes with the candies and having more than you expect to have.
    • Have lots of bowls available for different candies. Then give each person a bowl to add a few of the candies they’d like to use and 

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      More ginger dessert recipes:

      Liven things up at your party with even more gingerbread love: 

      a beautiful gingerbread house decorated with white icing on snow with sparkles

      How to Host a Gingerbread House Party

      If you want to level up your holidays this year, you’ve got to know how to host a gingerbread house party that everyone will remember. From supplies to refreshments and gingerbread to candy, here’s everything you need to know about hosting a memorable gingerbread decorating party.
      5 from 2 votes
      Servings 4 gingerbread houses
      Prep Time 45 minutes
      Cook Time 45 minutes

      Ingredients
        

      • Boards for the houses to sit on
      • Parchment paper or foil
      • Small bowls or a muffin tin for separating each of the candies
      • Icing food coloring if you want red or green icing
      • Aprons
      • Newspaper or plastic tablecloths to cover the table
      • Dropcloth or tarp for the floor

      Gingerbread houses

      • Gingerbread house pieces homemade or a kit
      • Strong thick icing
      • Assorted candies and cookies for decorations

      Graham cracker gingerbread houses

      • Graham crackers
      • Milk carton
      • Strong thick icing i.e. royal icing

      Snacks

      • A few finger foods
      • Drinks whether you’re serving hot cocoa, wine, cocktails etc.
      • Various holiday- or cookie-themed decor if desired

      As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

      Instructions
       

      To plan the party

      • Choose your party date. Consider if a weekend or a weekday is best for you and your potential guests.
      • Put together a guest list. I recommend a smaller crowd, especially if there are children present as they will need adult supervision. Somewhere between 6-12 guests is ideal. If you do a bigger group, consider how much space you have to do multiple houses. It may be better to have people team up to build one house.
      • Send your invitations. You can send out an email, a text message or a printed invitation, so do whatever works best for you. Be sure to include if you want people to bring candy decorations or a refreshment with them.
      • Decide if you will bake your own gingerbread or buy kits. Then purchase materials.
      • Plan what, if anything, you will serve alongside the gingerbread house decorating. I like to involve a savory element, like a simple crostini (or another hand-held appetizer) or a cheese board, as well as a drink (whether it’s of the alcoholic variety or a festive hot cocoa).
      • Plan where your food will be served and where the houses will be built. They should be separate. Also consider how the houses will make it home after the party is over. You can ask guests to bring their own box.
      • Prepare the gingerbread. Bake it if you’re doing that. If you are assembling the houses ahead of time, do that 1-2 days before.
      • On the day of the party, prepare the decoration stations with bowls and muffin tins full of candies and edible decorations. Wrap the tables in newspaper or cover with table cloths. Put a tarp or dropcloth on the floor to catch spills of icing and candy.
      • Turn on the holiday playlist and get ready to decorate the houses with guests!
      • Optional: Decorate. You need to clear a space for the houses to be on display, but other than that, you can add as many decorations as you want or leave your decor as it is. I’ve listed some of my favorite simple decoration options in the post above.
      • Optional: Plan to play a game. If your people are competitive, you can play a game involving the gingerbread houses! Have guests vote on the best or most creative theme. There are lots of fun options. Offer a little prize for the winner.
      • Take a deep breath, keep your cool and have fun! After all, this is supposed to be FUN, so don’t let the stress of hosting make it unenjoyable for you.

      To build a gingerbread house

      • First, construct the houses. If you are using a kit, follow the instructions!
      • It helps to start by joining two of the walls with icing. Adhere them to the base with more icing. Then repeat with the other two walls to form a square. Let them dry a little bit so the structure can support the roof. If you are using graham crackers, you can glue them right onto the milk carton.
      • Then pipe icing around the top of the structure, which will hold the roof. Hold it in place for a couple of minutes to ensure it doesn’t fall. Then repeat with the other side of the roof.
      • Then you can begin decorating! Use icing to stick on candies along the walls and roof. You can make doors, windows and shingles on the roof. (For windows and doors, you can sometimes find pre-made candies to use. You can also make these by piping on more icing.)
      • Once your house is complete, decorate the yard. Spread icing down and create paths with candy. Stick on shredded coconut or sanding sugar for snow.
      • If you want to make trees, you can use upside-down ice cream cones piped with green icing. I recommend using a star tip.

      Notes

      Please note that the time and cost will vary depending on what you decide to serve and actually DO, as well as the decisions you make into Gingerbread Party invites, decor and other items.
      Keyword Christmas, christmas party, gingerbread, how to, how to host, how to host a party, party planning
      Course Desserts & Sweet Treats
      Cuisine American
      Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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      About the Author:

      Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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