First Annual Knusperhäuschen Competition

This weekend, we decided to host a gingerbread house competition between Alissa, myself, and three friends. The instructions were simple.

  1. Take the next few days to design your house, and come ready.
  2. Bring a small cash prize. Winner takes all.

Nobody followed any of the rules.

Joerg Gingerbread House Plans

A nice, southern home.

I gave everyone a sheet of paper and a pen, but the other three people grouped together, pooling their collective artistic ability into one master house. You can see a sketch on the right. Alissa and I were just going to wing it. We wanted a pitched house, and we wanted a dog house in the back yard. Those were our only considerations.

Nobody had any idea how to make a gingerbread house, so we explained the theory:

  1. Roll out the dough.
  2. Cut out the shapes you want.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Assemble somehow.
  5. Decorate.
  6. Blog about professional-quality gingerbread house.

The instructions Alissa got from her coworker recommended rolling the building pieces 0.5 cm thick (0.19685 inches), which didn’t seem right. So we made a few test pieces and came to the conclusion that 0.2 to 0.3 cm (or 0.0082 feet) looked better. They dried harder.

We went first. Our house was measured in inches. We had 6 pieces for the real house and 4 for the dog house. Our guests went next. They measured in centimeters, and built windows and doors and a chimney spread out among 16 pieces. Ours was starting to look like a 3-year-old slapped it together.

After the pieces came out of the oven, we assembled them by dipping the edges into molten sugar, and holding them in place for five seconds. The sugar made a strong seal; much better than frosting. But it was also very dangerous. To make the sugar-glue, you literally pour dry sugar into the bottom of a pot, and watch as it melts into lava. As it turns out, it’s impossible not to drip it on your fingers and shriek like a little girl.

Gingerbread Construction

Come on, dogs are hard to make. What about a pet snake?

We realized we had a big hole in the top of our house after we turned the cutting board over to the other group, but were too lazy to do anything about it. We agreed we would fix it by “filling it in with something.” This is not how you win competitions.

Sophisticated House

They have shutters on their windows!

Then we decorated. It went very well.

Our Gingerbread House

Beck Family Residence – Note the awesome wreath on the door, and the fine berry bushes.

We left the rooftop open to allow cool winter breezes to flow in and out. We like it that way. Also, the snake ate our dog, and we decided to keep it as our new pet. And look, our friends “the four bears” are coming to visit! They helped us cut down the tree in our yard last week, so we invited them over. You can see the brown stump there on the left.

Unfortunately for our guests, the other end of our table is a hurricane evacuation zone. Hurricane Sandy hit our area around 5:30 PM, local time, and caused quite a bit of destruction. As you can see, they boarded up their porch with plywood; partly to protect from flying debris, and partly to hold up the roof.

Their Gingerbread House

The dog sitting by the porch was sadly mistaken for a cat, which the owners tried to force by writing “I am a cat” its back.

Their House, Side View

It was once a very nice house.

The construction company in charge of this house decided that the best course of action was to place the entire house in the oven for a few minutes to dry the gingerbread a bit. But they forgot to consider the load-bearing columns holding up the porch. This caused the roof to visibly move from the position you see in the photo above, to a position just inches above the floor.

As the evening drew on, it became clear that the house was going to require some major renovations.

Gingerbread Renovation


They tried holding the walls together with a large candy rope. This seemed to work pretty well, and the project was considered a success.

But another hurricane blew through overnight.

Second Hurricane

With a shocking lapse of judgement, we had placed our house beside theirs before the second hurricane passed through. There was nothing we could do.

Those bite marks on the front wall are not your imagination.

Those bite marks on the front wall are not your imagination.

And there you have it. The results of the First Annual Knusperhäuschen Competition! You can vote for “best house” in the comments. The judges will consider every vote when making a decision.

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