Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gingerbread house – Halloween style

As soon as we got an invitation to a Halloween party, I instantly knew who I wanted to be this year – a chef, of course! In the long run, I’ve got this wonderful white hat in my wardrobe (that looks huge but is somehow a bit narrow for me) and a long white apron (which, on the contrary, is way too big for me), so I bothered to order a chef’s jacket (wow, my own one! with the title “Executive Party Chef” written in italic font) to pair with the hat – let the apron wait its time on the shelf! There was one more element of the costume that had to be made: it would be natural for guests at the party to ask: “Where is the food, chef?” – so I couldn’t show up with empty hands. I wanted something cute and impressive, tasting delicious (of course!) and at the same time spooky and scary, fitting the mood of the party. A haunted edible house seemed to be the perfect choice. To say true, making a cake in the form of a house was in my “things-to-do-list” for a while (I even had this crazy idea of replicating Taj Mahal once) so I felt that the right time for it has come.

Of course, I made some research in the Internet ‘cause I had to become more or less competent in the sphere of creating edible houses before I could start to work on my project.

I learnt that traditionally gingerbread houses are left empty inside. But that sounded too boring to me! I’m so fond of making complicated gateaux that I couldn’t but put a cake inside a house – with liquor soaked sponge, coffee and chocolate mousse and some whipped cream!

The next thing I discovered about the gingerbread houses was that they are usually decorated with royal icing or fondant. The thing is, I don’t like both as they are way too sweet (although, I should admit, I really enjoyed my recent experience of working with fondant – reminded me of the days in kindergarten where we used to play with plasticine). So I decided to use something that I (and, I’m sure, most of the people as well) love much more – chocolate! And, since I always had a greater talent for painting rather than modelling, it was a right choice of a mode of decorating my creation. 

In general, making the house was a big-big fun! However, considering the fact that it was my first attempt to make something of this kind, I made lots of mistakes – e.g. I was not satisfied with the texture of the first batch of my gingerbread dough, so I had to take another recipe and start from the beginning. I also did a lot of unnecessary things – the biggest one was that of baking a tart shell (I wanted it to serve as a base of the whole construction) which eventually turned out to be smaller than the house itself – oops! And, frankly speaking, I spent too much time fussing and bustling in the kitchen: despite the fact that I started with making a detailed plan of stages of cooking process, I had seriously deviated from it – for example, I melted my chocolate (both dark and white) enormous amount of times, although I could do it only a couple of times for completing all the necessary work.

So, what is the conclusion? Most probably, it will take me thrice less time to make such a house if I decide to go for something of the kind again (well, who knows, maybe I will realize my dream of making an edible Taj Mahal one day!). But the final result was worth all the pains. As we were heading to the party, our car was filled with a stunning aroma of the cake: a mixture of honey and spices from the walls, the buttery flavour of white chocolate and nutty smell of pistachios. And the best compliment I received at the party was that from a German couple who loved the idea of filling the gingerbread house with the mousse and claimed that the cake was better than any of their traditional Hansel and Gretel houses they had ever had. What can be a better praise for a chef?

Recipe (written with the consideration of all the mistakes I’ve made)


Round sponge (make 2)
3 eggs
75 gm castor sugar
80 gm flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp lime zest

Butter cake
4 eggs
100 gm castor sugar
110 gm flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
50 gm butter, melted

Coffee mousse
40 ml strong coffee, cold
40 ml Amarula liquor
4 gm gelatin
200 ml heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla sugar

Chocolate mousse
40 ml strong coffee, cold
40 ml Amarula liquor
4 gm gelatin
200 ml heavy cream
1 tbsp cocoa powder
75 gm dark chocolate, grated

Chocolate cream
500 ml heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tbsp icing sugar
100 gm dark chocolate, grated

1 round sponge cake
50 ml Amarula liquor
¼ cup of chocolate cream
¼ cup crushed pistachios
2 tbsp crushed gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread house
140 gm  butter, room temperature
80 gm sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
100 ml honey
3 tsp mixed ground spices
450 gm flour

Filling of the house
a butter cake
a coffee mousse
a chocolate mousse
a chocolate cream
50 ml Amarula liquor

Decoration elements
1 round sponge cake
1 tsp orange zest
¼ medium papaya
250 gm white chocolate, melted
130 gm dark chocolate, melted
30 ml Amarula liquor


  1. Start with making a plan of your house and cutting stencils out of a cardboard. The size of the base should be the same as the size of a square tin in which you’ll be making your butter cake (mine is 16cm).
  2. Make the sponges. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line and grease 26-cm round cake tin. Place eggs with sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat till pale and creamy (start at low speed and gradually increase it); stir in the zest. Sift flour over the egg mixture and fold it with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into a prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and quite firm to touch. Repeat the process to make the second round cake.
  3. Make a butter cake. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line and grease 16-cm square cake tin. Beat eggs with sugar and vanilla essence till light and creamy. Sift flour over the egg mixture and fold it with a rubber spatula; stir in the butter. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  4. Make the gingerbread house. Whisk butter with 40 gm of sugar till light and creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk an egg with the remaining sugar till pale and thick; add it to the butter mixture together with honey, soda and ground spices. Stir in the flour and knead it into dough. Divide the dough into 6 balls (2 small ones for the roof, 2 medium-sized for the side walls and 2 large ones for the front and the back of the house). Let them rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C. Take the balls out of the fridge and roll them till 0,5 cm thick. Using the stencils, cut the elements out of the dough. If you have special equipment, make a pattern on the roof elements to resemble slate. Put the elements on  a baking tray and bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown. While they are still hot, cut the windows and a door in the front and side walls. Return these pieces (windows and the door) to the oven for a few more minutes to make small gingerbread cookies. Cool them down, then put in a bag and crush to make crumbs (you will need them to make a path in front of the gingerbread house). Cool all the walls and the roof elements and transfer them to the fridge.
  6. Start making decoration elements. Take one of the round sponge cakes, cut a 16cm square piece out of it and put it aside. Using the stencils, cut the windows and the door out of the remaining sponge. Crumble the leftover sponge pieces, mix it with orange zest and pour the liquor over it. The resulting mixture should be wet but still holding its shape. Make 2 small balls and 2 bigger balls. Place smaller balls on the top of the bigger ones and shape into a ghost. Freeze your “sculptures”. Using a melon scoop, cut 2 balls out of papaya. Make vertical slits on them with a small knife so that they resemble pumpkins.
  7. Melt 100 gm white chocolate. Take “the ghosts” out of the freezer and pour some of the chocolate over them. Take a brush and paint the door and all the window details white. Paint a web and a silhouette of a bat on the back side of the house. Let the chocolate set hard on all the elements.   
  8. Melt 100 gm dark chocolate. Paint eyes on your ghosts and pumpkins; a spider and a bat on the back side of the house. Make some patterns on the door and the windows. Brush the roof as well. Take the second round sponge and apply a layer of chocolate onto it. As soon as it sets, flip the sponge, chocolate side down, on the serving plate, brush it with liqour and refrigerate till future use.
  9. Make sure that the chocolate has set on the door and window elements, then “insert” them into the walls. If the holes are a bit small, take a knife and widen them. Work carefully as it may start to crack.
  10. For assembling the gingerbread house, melt 150 gm white chocolate and let it cool. Line your 16-cm square tin with foil. Take a 16cm square piece of the sponge that you’ve previously cut (see step 5) and put it on the bottom of a tin. Arrange the walls of the house close to their final position. Using a brush, apply the chocolate on the edges of the walls (don’t forget the bottom so that it can stick to the sponge). Press walls together to seal and wait for a few minutes till chocolate sets (it will happen quickly as your gingerbread elements are cold). Brush the inside of the house with some chocolate to create a protective layer (otherwise the mousse will make it too wet).
  11. For a coffee mousse, soak gelatin in cold coffee for 10 minutes, then heat it gently over low heat till it dissolves. Let it cool slightly and stir in the liquor. Whisk the cream with vanilla sugar till firm picks; pour in the coffee mixture while continuing to whisk.
  12. For a chocolate mousse, soak gelatin in cold coffee for 10 minutes, then heat it gently over low heat till it dissolves. Let it cool slightly and stir in the liquor. Whisk the cream with cocoa powder till firm picks; pour in the coffee mixture while continuing to whisk. Fold in the grated chocolate.
  13. For a chocolate cream, whisk the cream till soft picks, add icing sugar and vanilla sugar and continue to whisk till firm picks are formed. Fold in the grated chocolate.
  14. For filling the gingerbread house, take a square sponge (see step 1) and cut it into two layers. Spread chocolate mousse at the bottom of the house; cover it with one layer of the sponge, soaked in 25 ml of liquor. Spread coffee mousse to fill the second half of “the first floor” and top it with the second layer of the sponge soaked in 25 ml of liquor. Fill “the attic” with the chocolate cream, reserving ¼ cup of it for “the lawn”.
  15. Melt 30 gm dark chocolate and let it cool. Brush the edges of the roof elements and stick them to the edges of the walls. Hold tightly till the chocolate sets.
  16. Take the serving plate with the base out of the fridge. Carefully take your gingerbread house out of the cake tin and place it in the centre of the round sponge. Spread a thin layer of the reserved chocolate cream on the sponge. Sprinkle with pistachios to create a green lawn and arrange crushed gingerbread cookies (see step 4) at the doorstep. Place your pumpkins and ghosts on the lawn and (finally) relax!


  1. You can make all the baked elements (and do some chocolate work) on one day, and assemble the house and fill it the following day.
  2. You can simplify some of the steps: e.g. paint a door and windows straight on the walls instead of bothering to cut them out of the sponge, cover with chocolate and insert into the holes afterwards. You may also substitute mousses with whipped cream if you are not comfortable working with gelatin.
  3. Don’t try to cut a door and windows out of wet dough. I did it before putting it into the oven and I got a big crack across the front wall. Well, it might not be such a big deal when it comes to a Halloween-style spooky house; yet I would have rather preferred to have all the walls perfectly smooth!
  4. If you are planning to carry this creation in your hands, please mind that it’s rather heavy (almost 4 kg). If you want it to be lighter, consider leaving the gingerbread house unfilled.        
  5. Cutting the first slice 


  1. Вау! Челюсть упала и закатилась куда-то под стол...пойду поищу... Ириш, не устаю восторгаться твоими способностями! какая же ты молодец!

  2. Very cute! Am attempting a gingerbread house this year. Fingers crossed!


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