Fiona Cairns' gingerbread cottage
Prep time:(plus chilling and decorating time)
Skill level: Bit of effort
Costs: Cheap as chips
Fancy making your own gingerbread cottage? Try this adorable gingerbread make from Royal baker Fiona Cairns. It's perfect for the festive season, when you want to make something simple but impressive. The great thing about a gingerbread cottage is that you can decorate it any way you fancy. Dig out the sprinkles, sweets and writing icing and get going on making your own dream cottage (you could even let the kids help if you're feeling generous!).
- 700g plain flour, plus more to dust
- 4tsp ground ginger
- 2tsp ground cinnamon
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 250g salted butter, very slightly softened and diced
- 3 egg yolks
- 200g light muscovado sugar
- 6 tbsp golden syrup
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 250g white royal icing
- 200 Jazzies (for the roof)
- 45 small red sweets
- 2 strips of thin red liquorice (each 22cm long)
- 1 small piece liquorice (for the chimney)
- 1 small piece of candyfloss (for the smoke)
- 1 tub hundreds and thousands
- 5 Curly Wurlys (for the fence)
- 1 spray of sugar flowers
- (or an assortment of sweets of your choice)
- Wall, roof, base and door templates (see guide below)
- 3cm heart cutter
- 1.5cm circle cutter (or the end of a piping nozzle)
- 30x30cm square cake drum
- 2 piping bags, one fitted with no. 1 nozzle
If you're making this with kids why not bake the gingerbread cottage walls and roof ahead of time? Then they can just help with the decorating and won't have to wait for the biscuits to cool before they get started!
- Sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and add the butter to start your gingerbread cottage dough. Rub together with your fingertips – or tip into a food processor or the bowl of an electric mixer and blend – until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
- Add the egg yolks, sugar, syrup and orange zest and mix until the dough comes together. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.
- Wrap in cling film and chill for at least an hour to rest the dough. Line two or three baking trays with baking parchment.
- Divide the dough in half. Roll out one half on a well-floured surface into a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Cut out two rectangles for the roof, each 15.5x21cm; it cuts like a dream! (Or lift the rolled out dough on to the baking sheets and cut it to shape there.)
- Re-roll any offcuts with the remaining dough and roll out two triangles, each 22x22x18.5cm, for the front and back walls of the house. Into the front of the house, cut out two windows using the heart and circle cutters. With a knife, cut out a door hole, about 5.5cm high and 3cm wide. Cut out two doors, each about 7x2.5cm. Cut out a square base, 26x26cm. I moulded a chimney about 4.5x2cm but every house is different; this is simply a guide.
- Rest in the fridge or a cool place for about half an hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Bake in batches, or all together if you have room in your oven, for 15–20 minutes. Re-trim straight away, as the dough may have spread a bit, and re-cut the heart and round windows, if necessary.
- To assemble, place the gingerbread base on to the drum, securing with a little royal icing. Place the royal icing into a piping bag, snip the end, and stick the roofs and walls on to the base. You can do this in stages, using small boxes or cake tins for support until the gingerbread cottage is firmly stuck together.
- Using royal icing as ‘glue’, decorate the house with the sweets then, with the no. 1 nozzle, pipe on the window and door decorations. Sprinkle the hundreds and thousands all around for the grass. Cut the Curly Wurlys to form the fence and gate, and add the flowers, securing them all again with the royal icing.
Taken from The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns (Quadrille, £18.99)