Mega Gingerbread House Project, Part 2: Sugar Math Is The Best Math

How much molasses went into that giant gingerbread house, you ask? Well, you’ve come to the right place for answers (and its 1/2 gallon of molasses if you’re impatient).

Part 1 of this blog series can be found here.

Lindsey’s mega gingerbread house required twelve batches of our family recipe for construction grade gingerbread. Construction gingerbread is meant to be humidity resistant, strong enough to bear weight from rooftops, icing, and candy, and is generally less delicious than those cute gingerbread man cookies you’ve eaten. Our recipe came from a family friend and we’ve been using it since the late 1970s.

Pictured below are several of the small houses my family makes each year, undecorated so that you can see how the gingerbread looks before being covered in icing and candy. In the last photo, you can see the undecorated houses ready for guests to decorate at our gingerbread parties, fun for kids and adults alike. When built ahead, the houses become stable and guests can spend their time on decor instead of construction. Let’s face it, the decorating is the exciting stuff. If you make it to the end of this post (no really, this is FUN MATH!), you can see some of these little houses all dressed up with icing and candy.

 


Now for the fun part

I’ve calculated how much of each ingredient was required for twelve batches of gingerbread, candy windows, and royal icing, as well as estimated time spent on each step.

The Gingerbread

  • 1 quart (4 cups) brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 gallon (8 cups) molasses
  • 1/4 cup (12 teaspoons) cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (12 teaspoons) ginger
  • 2 gallons (33 cups) flour
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 3/4 cups (12 tablespoons) baking powder
  • 6 1/4 cups oil

Prep time estimate, working in double batches for mixing only: 4 hours

Baking time: 4 hours (20 minutes per batch x 12 batches)

Cutting time estimate: 3 hours +

 

The Windows

  • 2c sugar,
  • 2/3 c corn syrup
  • 1/4c water

Estimated time spent making and pouring windows: Less than one hour.

There are 22 windows, but there should have been 24. In one of her original photos, the basketball hoop obscured one of the windows, and she forgot to cut the window in the back of the guest quarters. As Lindsey puts it, “that was the 2nd time the swearings happened.” I can only imagine.

The Royal Icing

By the time I’m publishing this post, Lindsey has used three large bags of Royal Icing mix. The bags are one pound, and they each yield one and a half cups of icing. Predicting about three additional bags will be used for remaining construction, decorating and landscaping.

One bag of icing contains approximately four cups of sugar, so if Lindsey uses six bags, tally the sugar from the icing alone up to 24 cups, or one and a half GALLONS! One and a half gallons of sugar in the icing on top of the brown sugar, molasses, Karo syrup, and the candy is giving me cavities just thinking about it.

Architectural Planning

Dimensions & Features

  • The board upon which the house sits is 30″ x 40″
  • The tallest point of the house is 12 1/4″ high.
  • There are over 50 pieces of cut gingerbread in the structure.
  • There are 22 windows.

I’ll let Lindsey explain in her own words how she achieved the dimensional planning of the house:

Basically what I did was go take pictures of the house from all sides, then transferred the photos to the imac and magnified them to roughly the same dimensions as the mac screens. Then I measured everything with a ruler and drew a composite sketch with those measurements on them (in cm because it’s easier) then I found my Limiting Reagent: the size of the sheet pans. I chose a conversion factor that would get my largest components of the house to approximate the size of the pan so I wouldn’t have to piece things together too much. I also had to go to Google Earth to try and understand how the rooflines all came together.

Time estimates for planning and construction bring Lindsey so far to a total of 32 hours plus my hours as a helper (about four)…that brings us to 36 man hours, and the decorating has not yet begun!
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Once all pieces were planned, Lindsey cut patterns and then cut out foam core pieces to create a model. This process gave her a chance to test her pattern in three-dimensional form to unearth any gaps, missing pieces, or other issues with the plan.

 

The foam core pieces also make a handy “tray” for each piece to keep the cut gingerbread supported between cutting and construction.


 

There’s more progress to report. By the time I finished writing this post, Lindsey successfully added the roof pieces. I’ll post more pics of that in the next couple of reports, but as always follow along live on your social-media-of-choice using #gingerbreadbutcher — see you there!


Now that we’ve gotten through all this delicious technical stuff, here are those pics I promised way up at the top of decorated little houses.

 

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