Holiday Baking: An Herbal Gingerbread House

Sugar and spice and everything nice.

| December/January 1998

Gingerbread House Recipes:

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread 
Gingerbread Icing 

When I started this project, I had a dreamy vision of a delectable gingerbread castle decorated not with gumdrops and red hots but with the varied shapes of spices such as star anise, clove, and nutmeg. Cinnamon-stick window boxes would line the windows, and rosemary topiaries with pepperberry swags would grace the castle yard. My apple-cheeked children and I would gather happily in the warm, fragrant kitchen to put the finishing touches on our edible masterpiece.

That was before I realized that gingerbread projects are not as easy as I'd thought. Soon my castle was scaled down to a cottage. At one point, I was tempted to construct it with superglue and duct tape and coat it with polyurethane. Then I'd display it somewhere so high that the kids couldn't reach it and wouldn't nibble on it.

Now we have our edible gingerbread house, and I can laugh at my expectations, remember the fun and challenge of it, admire our somewhat lumpy walls, and overlook the cracks I patched with icing. The finished house is an ode to earthy imperfection—a bit rough around the edges, and nothing like the sugarplum fairy castle that had danced in my head, but nonetheless charming and sweet.

The building of our gingerbread house reaffirmed a few lessons that seem especially important during the holidays: Stop rushing to get finished and learn to enjoy the process. Enjoy spending time with the people you love, doing things you’re normally too busy to do. Don’t expect perfection—don’t even seek it. Let yourself be surprised and delighted. We certainly were. As Camille, my five-year-old, put it, “This ginger house is so good because we made it all by ourselves—all together.”

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