Friday, December 13, 2013

DIY Easy Milk Carton Gingerbread House

Do you wish you could make an adorable gingerbread house but blanch at the prospect of the baking, cutting and assembling before *finally* getting to decorate?

Yes? Me, too. Here, then, is an adorable "gingerbread" house that you can put together without too much fuss. It's super easy and baking is not required!

Here's my son's house, he made the whole thing himself!

OK, so here's what you need:

Graham crackers or any kind of cookie or cracker, any kind of cardboard pint container, a prepared icing like Betty Crocker's (all of the vanilla flavors are vegan that I have seen and used), a paper plate or piece of flat cardboard,an off-set spatula or butter knife and two quart sized plastic ziplock bags and a rubber band (not pictured).

Note: The graham cracker brands I buy contain honey, but have no other animal ingredients. Obviously, use whatever you are comfortable with. Anything will work here, just cover the pint container with it! Here is a nice list of  "accidentally vegan" cookies or crackers for your browsing pleasure.

Now, we'll make the house:

1. Cut off the spout of the milk carton to make that side of the roof flat. I used kitchen scissors, it's easier than you think!

2. Measure up the graham crackers to fit the sides and roof of the carton. Break or cut them with a knife to fit. Using the off-set spatula or a butter knife, coat the backs of the cracker pieces with icing and stick them on the flat surfaces of the carton (just not the bottom). 
The pieces will be quite moveable, but don't worry. 
Let your house dry overnight. The crackers will dry rock solid onto the house.

If you are near a Trader Joe's, pick up both their Cinnamon Grahams (note: they do contain honey, but no other animal ingredients) and the Organic Soy Creamer (which is vegan). 
The Cinnamon Grahams fit *perfectly* on the TJ's organic soy creamer pint container!
You can make a perfect little gingerbread cabin with the Cinnamon Grahams!
I'm sure other brands have similar proportions, check your store.

After your house dries overnight, you are ready to decorate.

Prepare a plastic "pastry bag" for your icing.

Cuff a zipper freezer bag (turn the top of the bag down so you don't get icing into the zipper part). Fill with about a cup (or a bit more if you'll be doing a lot of decorating) of the icing. Using the bag, push/squeeze the icing down into the corner of the bag. Squeeze the air out and zip the bag shut.Now, put this bag into a second freezer bag and secure with a rubber band as shown (this helps to keep the icing from squishing up the bag rather than down into the cut tip and is helpful if letting a child do the piping). The second bag is insurance against the seams of the bag breaking during piping. Now, snip the corner of the bag to create an opening to pipe out the icing (about 1/8 and 1/4 inch opening). Done! (You can just put the whole bag into the fridge to store it if you don't use it all in one sitting).

Gather some candy to do the decorating:
Warning: Some items pictured are not vegan (but many are!)

The (mostly) vegan selection! (I think there are some caramels in that mixed candy bag).
Everything else is vegan or vegan *enough* for me. If you like, here's a huge list of accidentally vegan candies, cookies and crackers for your decorating pleasure!

Ice Away! Fill in all the spots that the crackers didn't with icing. Remember that this type of icing is *very* soft but will still dry very hard. 

We did our house in stages.

First, he put his candy on.

Then filled it in with icing. We let that dry overnight.

Then we attached the house to the paper plate, added a path and a "woodpile." 
We still may do some more work on it.

Here's our house from last year:
Note the pretzel "welcome mat" and the candy cane wrought iron railings.

I recommend you secure the house to a paper plate (just use some icing to glue it down) or to a piece of cardboard so you can landscape the area around the house!

If you have a tall carton (a quart carton), you can make a gingerbread apartment building, clock tower or put it together with the pint containers for a church, castle or other larger building. I have yet to do that (but aim to!).

We still have to decorate the "log cabin" style house.

This style of house is also great for house decorating parties since they are easy and can be prepped ahead.

Happy Decorating!