Growing up, the best part of the holidays was making gingerbread houses. My sister and I would always get frustrated trying to put the kits together. We could never get the gingerbread houses to actually stay together and they would always collapse mid-decorating. Actually finishing a house and having it standing long enough to be slowly eaten during the days leading up to Christmas was a rarity. A few years ago my friends and I discovered a much easier (and cheaper) alternative to gingerbread houses; graham crackers.

Graham crackers are a better alternative to gingerbread house kits because not only are they expensive, they're nearly impossible to build. Building with graham crackers is easier because they are much lighter so they stand up much better and are less likely to collapse. Building with graham crackers instead of using a kit also allows for more creativity in the design of the house. You can make a village of tiny houses, an elaborate castle, or your own take on a classic gingerbread house. Get creative!

For this easy gingerbread house alternative all you need is a box or two of graham crackers, royal icing, and candy to decorate. Be creative with your candy choice. After you have all of your supplies, it's time to start building. 

Step One:

Lauren Kobayashi

Find or make a base for your house. You want anything that is easy to build off of. I find that a piece of cardboard or a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil works best. 

Step Two:

Lauren Kobayashi

Start constructing. Remember to go slow and allow the icing to harden as you go. Royal icing is perfect for gingerbread houses because it hardens quickly, making sure your house doesn’t topple over. Begin with the walls of the house and allow them to fully set before building the roof. To make your own piping bag for more control of the icing, use a resealable bag and cut the tip off. To easily fill your piping bag, place it in a cup, unzip the bag and fold the seal over the lip of the cup. Spoon the icing into the bag and zip it up for a mess-free use. Make sure to let the icing on your graham cracker house fully dry before decorating. 

Step Three:

Lauren Kobayashi

Now for the fun part, decorating! Once the house is built and the royal icing has hardened, go crazy with decorations. I find that some of the best candy to use includes starlight mints, gum drops, M&Ms (regular sized and mini), candy canes (especially the mini ones) and Life Savers. If you have leftover icing, you could use a bit of food coloring to color the icing. Try green for grass or a festive color for a fun accent. Also try sifting confectioner's sugar over your completed house to resemble fresh snow.

Graham cracker houses are a great alternative to gingerbread house kits because they allow you to be more creative and design your own house. Try something new this holiday season and build an easier version of the traditional gingerbread house.