Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Suzy Homemaker's Gingerbread House

Suzy Homemaker, I am not. Sure, sometimes I seem to get my act together, and do something domestically and creatively spectacular, and I sometimes even manage to have a few people witness it. Like my kids’ castle cake in the picture above, for example. That was a glorious experiment that went terribly right, but, by all accounts, should have gone terribly wrong. I looked up a few things, and went on a whim on a few things, and managed to make this cake…Really, the most amazing thing about it was I was SICK! No, not like deranged sick (that’s for a different post) but like, “put me in a NyQuil commercial immediately!” sick. It only added to the glorious-ness of the whole thing, because I made it through the cake making and party by total determination. I was not about to let my kids down. OK, lots of cold medicine helped too.

So, when delusions of grandeur actually produce positive results, you end up having more grandeur-ous delusions and think you can do anything. That’s what happened with our gingerbread houses last year.

OK, so the store-bought houses are like 9 bucks, candy included, I now consider that a bargain, even when buying two. Yeah, store-bought houses lack complete character and eliminate opportunities for creative contingency plans, but hey, you open them up, put them together and viola! you have a gingerbread house.

Well, in the spirit of saving money, and pushing my domestic skills to their limit, I decided I would make gingerbread houses completely from scratch. I was inspired by a good friend that managed to make about 12 small home-made houses and invite all the kids over for a party, which was a successful blast. I figured, if she could make 12 and still have all her fingers and cognitive abilities, heck, I could make two! (yes, she is amazing that way)

When I looked up recipes for home-made gingerbread, I quickly realized the recipe alone was more expensive than the pre-made houses. Ingredients like cream, 12 eggs, and vanilla extract did not need to be wasted in items that were going to be handled by booger-tainted hands. That’s when I had the super amazingly intelligent idea to make a simple play dough recipe that had a bunch of cinnamon dumped in it. Please make note of this idea, because it WAS a good one. Yes, Kim had a rational and practical thought. Good. Good. Goodness…and that’s where it ends.

I made a ton of this dough. Flour, water, salt and cinnamon. I then followed the template directions I found on the Internet for the expensive recipe. With a ruler in hand, paper, and conjured-up drafting skills I acquired in 7th grade, I drew up templates that could make houses for Barbies to play in. But, hey, it’s the Internet, and I was sure this site was fully reliable, right? I thought that maybe they would shrink in the oven. Take note; this is the first mistake Kim made: gingerbread house templates were TOO BIG.

Then it was time to roll out the dough! Each side of the houses were 7 ½ inches tall, and the sides for the roof were nearly the same. The directions on the site gave the approximate width I was to roll out the dough, but I quickly realized that trying to lift and move these “walls” from where I cut them to baking sheets would be nearly impossible. So, I decided they would just need to be thicker. Take note; second mistake Kim made: gingerbread house walls were TOO THICK!

Somehow, I got a rhythm going of rolling out and transferring walls, floors, roofs, and chimneys from table to the bottoms of cookie sheets, and amazingly they kept their form. Folks, this was like, 18 pieces of gingerbread, GIANT pieces. I was covered in flour and the house REEKED of cinnamon. Now for big, big mistake number 3: we had 45 minutes to get to our friend’s house with the baked pieces, because it took me THREE HOURS just to get the dough rolled and cut out and transferred! Oh, and by they way, the walls did not shrink in the oven, no, they instead poofed out into 9 inch tall pieces. Kim did not make mock-ups beforehand, and on Decoration Day did not have ENOUGH TIME.

My husband, always smart enough to stay away and not comment, stood idly by as I tried to bake these pieces and convince myself that we would make it in time for this event my kids had been waiting for, for weeks. For an instant I thought we should run to Rite Aid and get the pre-made sets, but, I decided I was in for the long haul. I thought if I believed it would work, it would.

We finally arrived (late) at our friend’s house, with my home-made piping equipment, frosting, gingerbread slabs and quaint and quirky candy. My friend’s boxed house was sitting on the table. For a minute I felt like an idiot, and I immediately started babbling about how this was just an attempt to save money and I wasn’t really like this, all "creative" and stuff. Thankfully, this all became quite apparent at the end of the night.

What I can tell you is I have GREAT pictures of my kids putting together their ginormous houses. For a while their friend was quite jealous of the size and scale of our houses. But, once the candy was flowing from table to mouths and to houses, all was forgotten and a frenzy of sugar consumption and architectural genius ran amok.

I couldn’t believe it! The darned things were standing! They were amazing! Sure, I had no idea how we were gonna get them home but WOW! I was snapping pictures faster than the paparazzi taking pix of post-baby celebs. Complements abounded, and I was sure I had just started an amazing tradition of me making fabulous houses every year for the kids to decorate while enveloped in the wonderful aroma of cinnamon, something I would even do for my grandkids one day.

Once the kids bounded off to play and the houses stood by, I noticed one of the roof sides was, caving, and sliding. Oh, no problem I thought, as I continued to chat while slathering on some more frosting. Now, remember, it takes kids all of what, 3 minutes to decorate a house, right? That was hardly enough time for me to realize that the “baked” walls were in fact NOT baked hard and dry like they should have been, and thus the weight of the candy was now causing the soft house walls to cave in. From here, a complete mess ensued. All four of us parents were huddled around MY kids’ houses, like doctors in an ER, trying desperately to reassemble the houses before my kids came out and saw the carnage. The more we tried, the worse it became. We were covered in frosting and exhausted before we decided it was simply time to give up. When the kids came back out and saw what had happened, they actually weren’t as disturbed as I was. Their friend was quite satisfied that his little house still stood, and I was able to lay the Suzy Homemaker title down, right into the box that held the pieces of gingerbread houses that we took home, and threw out. The kits are already on my floor, waiting to be made this year.

so much easier to bring home this way...


robin said...

HILARIOUS! thank you for the pics.....do you remember the "boob" cake i made for charlie's 1st birthday? i think i emailed atleast one to you. anyway, i was determined to make a tiered cake and only had a regular 9" round pan. the botton layer was nine inches around but the two layers on top of that had to be, of course, smaller. well because i had to cut those layers out from the nine inch pan the edges were cakey and terribly hard to frost. so much frosting was on this cake, in an attempt to hold together, that in the end it looked like one giant, chocolate breast. jake was in heaven

robin said...

forgive the typing and grammar errors.....i am tired.....

Anonymous said...

I soooo appreciate this post. I am ok with the actual baking of the cake. It's the frosting and decorating that I have no skill in. Most of my cakes say something like "Happy Birtday" or We Lov You". Words are my life, but with a piping bag in hand, I am like a third grader.

w said...

loverly. your gingerbread icing is much better than my gingerbread piping of the word "help".

Insanitykim said...

Hmmm W...I actually prefer your "HELP" to my pile of cinnamon mess..it was lovely writing...you could help Kearsie with her piping techniques, me thinks...;)

StudiusMaximus said...

Kinda amazing how long we kept that pile before getting rid of it.. I think we left it in the car for a week.

And, with a few strategically placed wood screws, we probably could have used one of those giant houses as a rental property. oh well.

Insanitykim said...

It smelled so good...it was hard to throw away!

Insanitykim said...

Glad you're enjoying it, Sarah! Thanks for commenting, everyone!!

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