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Published December 06 2012

Benshoof: Keeping the gingerbread roof from caving in (with video)

FARGO – Of all the holiday traditions out there, gingerbread houses might be the most frustrating (aside from mediating a labor dispute between Santa and the elves).

Granted, I haven’t built a gingerbread house for years, yet I have very distinct memories of my houses never turning out right, or worse yet, falling apart.

Holiday tradition or not, who wants to spend hours on something that’s not guaranteed to stay intact?

To get some pointers on making a sound and normal-looking house, I reached out to Sam Larson-Frobig, a program coordinator with the Fargo Parks District, who had recently led a gingerbread house event for area families.

While making a gingerbread house is a great parent-child activity, Larson-Frobig told me, it’s also a good activity for anyone, young or old, trying to get into the holiday spirit.

To get started, Larson-Frobig recommends buying decorating kits from stores that come with everything you’ll need (though you can of course add anything you’d like to it). Trying to make your own gingerbread from scratch can just add to the difficulty of it all, she says.

Although the conventional method of placing the frames of your house together might be to use frosting, Larson-Frobig suggests using peanut butter first.

The same color as the gingerbread and perhaps a little stronger in consistency, peanut butter is a nifty shortcut that can also help keep your structure intact.

“It helps hold the bread together,” Larson-Frobig says.

Once your walls are in place, you can start decorating. Larson-Frobig demonstrated using frosting to create a roof design, and using tootsie rolls as a chimney.

Pretzels work well as windows or door frames, and you can use other candies to decorate as you desire.

Despite my resolve to make the best gingerbread house ever, it wasn’t long until the peanut butter and frosting failed me and the walls of my house came crashing down. Literally.

“It’s not always going to turn out like you want it,” Larson-Frobig advised. “But that’s okay, especially if you’re just going to eat it in the end.”

Even so, I tried desperately to salvage the building, adding more peanut butter and frosting to try to hold the structure together.

But it was too late.

The structure was unsound, the decorations were smudged and out of place, and admittedly I had eaten everything else.

I tried to not be too disappointed in it, though. The fun of gingerbread houses is that the time you spend on it will get you into the holiday spirit, no matter how everything turns out in the end.

For me, despite my house looking like it might be violating several city building codes, it was still a holiday home fit for a king.

A crisp, delicious little gingerbread king.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535