A Look at the Gingerbread House

A gingerbread house is a novelty confectionery-shaped building that is
made of cookie dough, cut, and baked into appropriate components like
walls and roofing. The base material is crisp, delicious gingerbread.
These houses are covered with a variety of candies and icing, and they
are popular at Christmastime.
The history of gingerbread is not precise. Ginger root was first cultivated
in China around 5,000 years ago and was thought to have medicinal and
magical properties. Record of honey cakes can be traced to ancient
Rome. Food historians confirm that ginger has been seasoning
foodstuffs and drinks since antiquity. It is believed gingerbread was first
baked in Europe at the end of the 11 th century when returning crusaders
brought back the custom of spicy bread from the Middle East. Not only
was ginger very tasty, but it also had properties that helped preserve the
bread. According to French legend, gingerbread was brought to Europe
in 992AD by the Armenian monk, later saint, Gregory of Nicopolis. He
taught gingerbread cooking to priests and other Christians. An early
medieval Christian legend attests that one of the gifts given to baby
Jesus by wise men was ginger. Unfortunately, that wise man was
unable to complete the journey to Bethlehem.
Gingerbread descends from Medieval European culinary traditions. It
was shaped into different forms by monks in Germany in the 13th
century and quickly spread across Europe. Nuremberg, Germany is
recognized as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World” when in the
1600s the guild started to employ master bakers and skilled workers to
create complicated works of art from gingerbread. In Sweden, the nuns
began baking gingerbread to ease indigestion. The traditional sweetener
used is honey. The spices used are ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and
The tradition of decorated gingerbread houses began in Germany in the
early 1800s, popularized after the fairytale of Hansel and Gretel,

published in 1912. The Grimms’ original fairy tale includes the line:
“When they came nearer, they saw that the house was built of bread, and
roofed with cakes, and the window was of transparent sugar.” (In later
versions it became gingerbread, rather than just bread.) Inspired by the
story, German bakers began to craft small, decorated houses from
lebkuchen, spiced honey biscuits.
Gingerbread was even referred to in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour
Lost" in 1598: “And I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st
have it to buy gingerbread.” In the following centuries shaped
gingerbread became popular across Europe, with figurines and models
used as window decorations, or given as gifts on religious holidays or
birthdays. The modern tradition of making gingerbread houses has
become a family event at Christmas markets around the world.
The walled medieval town of Dinkelsbuhl, southern Germany, is often
thought of as a real-life town of gingerbread houses. It’s picturesque and
well-preserved historic center has gabled half-timbered buildings in
yellow and peach, a church, a tiny town square and cobbled streets.
Budding young architects all over the world sit in their kitchens, forming
elaborate structures made of gingerbread, for their family Christmas
decorations. Many of the principles of construction can be learned by
assembling a gingerbread house. It is a tradition in the United States for
the children of the family to help mom bake, assemble and decorate the
gingerbread house.
The biggest house ever made in the United States was created by the
Traditions Club in Texas in 2013. It was fifty-nine feet long, forty-two
feet wide and fifty-nine feet tall. Making a similar house would take
820kg of butter, 1,327kg of brown sugar, 7,200 eggs, 3,266kg of flour,
31 kg of ground ginger – and would contain a whopping 35.8 million

In 2017, Jon Lovitch, sous-chef at the New York Marriott Marquis
Hotel broke the record for the fourth time for the “largest gingerbread
village”. It was displayed at the New York Hall of Science. Another
contender was the Pepperkakebyen (Gingerbread Town) in Bergen,
Norway in 2015. It contained more than 2,000 individual buildings that
lit up, as well as ships, cars, and a train. But only 1,020 of the structures
were made of gingerbread, and it was denied the record for including
non-edible components.
If you would like to see modern gingerbread houses this Christmas, you
can visit the Museum of Architecture’s annual Gingerbread City which
is on display at the V & A in London. The intricate, fully lit city contains
a farm, museum, school, sports stadium, botanical gardens, opera house,
cable car, and even a microbrewery. The exhibit encourages visitors to
think about how cities could be more inclusive and sustainable. There will
even be a gingerbread homeless shelter with a community café. The
outdoor cinema will be powered by hydroponic energy. They also have
workshops for budding biscuit architects.
We, at Scarano Architect, PLLC love to create our own gingerbread
houses during the holiday. Remember we can’t help you fashion your
gingerbread dwelling but we can help you with all your house-building
needs. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, New
Year too.

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