Making a gingerbread house is one of the most popular Christmas baking activities. They’re straightforward to bake and look like a masterpiece when finished, making them perfect to try with children or to wow the family once the turkey’s had a chance to go down.

With restrictions around the UK continuing in the runup to Christmas, we thought that it would be a bit of fun to see how you can spend a bit more time on this Christmas staple and really make a statement come 25th December.

Although we may not have the baking expertise of Paul Hollywood here at KLG Rutland, we do know a thing or two about good-looking houses. We’ve come up with five ideas to make your gingerbread house look extra-special, but don’t worry – we’ll point you in the direction of the real experts for the final instructions!

1. Go a little further with inspiration from around the country

2020 has been a year in which thousands of us have grown to appreciate what the UK has to offer. Whether we’ve been walking in the local countryside or managed to get away for a week somewhere else in the country, many of us have grown to appreciate sights and attractions that we might have missed otherwise.

You could model your gingerbread house after one of Britain’s stately homes or famous castles. After all, what baked creation wouldn’t be improved by a few pillars, battlements or a tower?

The great thing about gingerbread houses is that there are a few ways to make them look extra fancy. You could try something new with the shape of the gingerbread itself, or add on some extra flourishes with icing. Royal icing is generally recommended for gingerbread houses. It’s mostly egg white and sugar, and creates a stiff, quick-drying icing that’s easy to colour and pipe or apply in shapes.

The gingerbread house below uses icing to make fantastic dripping icicles, and the candy canes on the front of the roof give it a great architectural flourish!

Beautiful gingerbread house with Christmas tree in orange lighting, showing creativity with candy cane roof.

2. Make beautiful windows out of sugar

Where would any house be without beautiful windows? There are quite a few different ways to add windows to a gingerbread house, but edible sugar glass is the one that stands out if you want to try something a bit different. Sugar glass is made by heating up sugar with liquid glucose (glucose syrup) until the sugar boils. It will then harden into clear pieces that look just like glass! This is one of the trickier tips we’ve found, so learn more about it from the experts.

When it’s created, you can cut holes in your house for the sugar glass to sit in. Or, if that’s too finicky, you could always add a bit of food colouring and stick it to the outside of the house for decoration.

Gingerbread house covered in sweers, with excellent Smartie windows.

If you don’t fancy giving boiling sugar a go, icing makes a great window substitute. You could use it as coloured window panes, or pipe outlines. Perhaps our Georgian windows can inspire you!

3. Give a conservatory a go

Bear with us here. If lockdown means you have a bit more time on your hands than normal in the runup to Christmas, an edible conservatory might just be the extension your gingerbread house needs.

It might be possible to make a conservatory out of the edible glass we’ve just mentioned, but if you find the glass too brittle, there are other options. You could create the conservatory out of gingerbread panels, like the rest of the house, then add decorative icing for the glass panes. Pale squares of icing will create a glass-like effect, and you could add little icing flowers or other small decorations to set it apart from the main house a bit more.

4. Make a gingerbread family for your gingerbread house

Where would a gingerbread house be without its occupants? Gingerbread people make a fun inclusion in any gingerbread house, but – as with all of our suggestions – why not go a little further this year? How about some pets running around the garden (you could make these out of gingerbread or even just roll up some coloured icing)?

Family of gingerbread people wearing different clothes, alongside other shapes.

You could make it extra Christmassy with Santa going down the chimney, or his reindeer on the roof. 2020 may also be the perfect year for a tribute to some of the people that have been keeping the nation going over the past few months, like a postman coming up to the front door with your online Christmas orders.

5. Create an edible garden

Finally, why not create a whole plot of land for your gingerbread house? After all, your gingerbread family will need something nice to look at when they’re sitting in their conservatory.

Beautiful edible garden containing biscuits and icing-covered trees.

The best thing about an edible garden is that there are so many ways to make it look good, and you can spend as much time on it as you like. If you want to keep using more of the same gingerbread mix, you can cut out shapes like trees, bushes and snowmen to spread around. A tower of stars or circles that decrease in size as they go up is a really effective way of making 3D trees, for example, and you could cover it all in edible glitter snow.

Smaller scale garden made from icing and sweets.

Your garden could also be a way to make some baked treats other than gingerbread. With a little food colouring or icing, just about any biscuit or cake could become features like bushes, trees and ornaments. It’s a great way to lay out a platter of Christmas treats in one stunning centrepiece.