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A gingerbread replica of the US Capitol


Gingerbread House Master Class

It's the time of year to build gingerbread houses and as a public service to anyone who worries their efforts will end in a gloppy mess, we’ve compiled tips from our resident expert, Sodexo Executive Chef Fred M. Johnson III.

Chef Fred has just finished the famous gingerbread replica of The U.S. Capitol he builds every year -- this year adding a working toy train in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. The final product, on display in the crypt of the actual U.S. Capitol, is drawing admirers from across the political spectrum.


Though it’s doubtful you’ll have 175 pounds of dough to work with, Chef Fred believes key elements of his approach can translate into home kitchens:

Build in place:

Identify a spot where you would like to display the gingerbread house and build there, if possible. The final product is usually awkward to move.  

Size and shape matter:

Narrow pieces are likely to snap, so use designs that feature wider pieces. Pieces too thin are too fragile and too thick need support, so best to roll dough about 1/8 of an inch. 

Bake it longer:

Houses require sturdier gingerbread than would be palatable. After the initial baking, flip the pieces and put them back in the oven on a lower temperature to dry out the gingerbread as much as possible.

It's ok to cheat:

If you need to support your house from the inside, wooden sticks or cans can be concealed. If you want it to be entirely edible, Rice Krispies Treats work too.

Ice right:

You may need to adjust the sugar and egg white ratio to get the right consistency for each kind of icing you need. You'll need some icing to connect pieces and provide support and some as glue for the decorative elements. If you prefer to purchase your icing, Wilton Ready-to-Use icing tubes and similar products can do the job.

2019 Capitol Gingerbread House Fun Facts

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December 12, 2019

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