The Flat Pack Gingerbread House
The house of today!
No mess. No fuss.
Glue the pieces together with icing sugar.
Finnish styling – according to taste.
Convenience in a packet. Awesome. No dough to make. More time for fun stuff. No rolling it out. No sticky gluey mess to clean. No cutting of the construction sheets. (I still have the templates). A bigger house. No baking. Straight sides. No burning lava – oops, molten sugar. Just a wee PTSD flashback there. No blisters. Awesome awesomeness! No collapsed roof. An intact, beautiful, modern gingerbread house.
Wow. So different to the era of the dinosaur bake. The big moment had arrived. All the decorations were loaded onto the clean tabletop in readiness. First though, we made some little marzipan apples. Painted them a rosy red. They looked – well, like little red marbles. A little extra zing, like strokes of orange or yellow and a stem thingy were needed to finish the styling. Commentary and suggestions were flying thick and fast from the ranks about how to make the stems. Or should I say, what to make them from. None of them repeatable here. Toothpicks dipped in chocolate seemed the most sanitary option. Then a stroke of brilliance – licorice. Of course!
The biscuit alphabet letters were used to spell out words unmentionable. None of them repeatable here. Decorations were disappearing down cakeholes at a rapid rate of knots. There would not be enough marshmallows left for snow. Apple painting over, we discovered we had a shortage of materials. Only red food colouring. No licorice. And for some reason the decorations seemed to be in short supply. The kids went shopping.
It had been noted on opening the flatpack pack that minor breakages to house walls had occurred during transit. Thankfully not the roof. No problem. A construction engineer, aka the husband, was on hand to offer advice on repairs. He is an IKEA flatpack construction expert. However, his enthusiasm had to be curbed. The repair material had to be non-toxic. Preferably edible. Blisters were to be avoided. As well as molten lava. And industrial adhesives of any kind , including the X-rated Elephant variety.
The kids arrived back from shopping with a bulging bag. We would not be running out of supplies any time soon!
Repairs were made under the watchful eye of the construction engineer. Neat seams. Well sealed. Edible adhesive. Then the fun began in earnest.
Much laughter, jokes and teasing. The construction engineer zoned out for the highly skilled and important task of licorice cutting for the marzipan apple stems. Most of it seemed to disappear down yet another mysterious cakehole! He thought the apples looked like cherries. By the time they were done, he had to agree that apples they were. Then he sprung a surprise. It seems he had You Tubed gingerbread house construction. OMG! The glueing together, he said, was tricky. Really?! It had to be done with sugar syrup. REALLY ?!!! I looked at him with horror. And doused that thought quickly before the fire spread any further!
The boys reached oestrogen overload towards the end, leaving us girls to finish off the final details. A push up contest of manly strength and endurance was earnestly discussed. And fizzled. All their energy it seems had gone into gingerbread house decorating. The distraction of the long awaited, newly released Star Wars movie took precedence. No spoiler alerts under threat of death ! A serious discussion also was had about how to control bodily functions during the movie so as not to miss a precious second of it. We were all going for a late night viewing tomorrow night.
Construction had to be left till the next morning as the icing was too wet to put it together. I had a secret weapon up my sleeve. I too had googled gingerbread house assembly (being the appropriate word in this instance). To my delight I found an IKEA YouTube on the exact subject of flatpack assembly. How freaky is that ?!
Early next morning (for me – at 0930) I hotfooted it down to the local supermarket in my speedy little red car. I needed to buy the secret weapon. I was in luck. Luckily it did not require any cooking or melting of any kind. Just the addition of water and a quick stir. That was fortunate because we are in the middle of yet another record breaking heatwave. I did not want to introduce any more heat into the atmosphere anywhere, especially not inside the house. 42+ was more than hot enough for me. Just nipping in and out of the air conditioned car four times (twice in, twice out to complete the trip) had nearly reduced me to a molten puddle.
What the heatwave has also done is introduce more moisture into our house. This is relevant so please bear with me. South Australia is the driest state in the country. Our heat is dry. In order to effectively and economically cool the house we have installed an evaporative air conditioner. It pumps oodles of moisture into the house. Very efficient for its purpose, it had an unexpected effect on the recently hung gingerbread biscuits on our tree. You see, the hanger-thingy had made its way through the now soft biscuit. As a result the biscuits were falling off the tree one by one. I had noticed our little dog chewing away a few times in the last couple of days. I couldn’t work out what she was chomping on and she wouldn’t tell me. Last night one of the kids discovered the problem of the falling gingerbread. This morning I took the remaining ones off the tree. There was exactly half of them left. Tess had eaten 10 of them. No wonder she was excited when another one fell down. I managed to rescue it before her tongue connected. She looked guilty.
We had left the decorated sections of the gingerbread house to dry on the table. The icing had dried. The biscuit base had absorbed moisture. As NASA would say, Houston we have a problem. Let me tell you this – assembly of a soft, bendy gingerbread house is tricky. Care had been taken not to overload the roof (learnt during a previous construction challenge that led to the roof collapsing). There are no internal structural weight bearing walls and trusses in a gingerbread house. The manufacturers had not deemed it necessary to have these essential features built into a biscuit house. An unfortunate oversight which I believe should be seriously reconsidered. Because we now faced the very same problem for different reasons. I would be happy to provide them with learnings from my lived experience in the redesign were they ever to seek it.
My husband has an automatic default setting when faced with challenges. As do I. His is “Can’t be done. Impossible!” Mine is “Of course it can! Just need some lateral thinking and creativity.” It’s the makings of a good pairing.
At the risk of boring you, I will give you a time-lapse summary of his default setting based on some of the children’s milestones:
- Potty training – they will never learn to go to the toilet by themselves!
- Learning to walk – how can anyone walk on legs made of wet spaghetti?!
- Learning to read – it’s hopeless. Look! This page has the word C – A – T. I turn the page. It has the exact same word. It’s not spelt any differently. Less than a second ago, he knew what the word was. I turn the page. It’s like he’s never seen it before! It’s hopeless!
(I must add here that all of these milestones, and more, were successfully attained by our two brilliant young men.)
This was the attitude I had to contend with in the gingerbread house assembly. With a little bit of assertive but gentle persuasion, the problem was eloquently solved.
Using the delicate touch of a neurosurgeon’s hands, the genius creativity of a constructional engineer and the limb equivalent of half an octopus (I must stress just how important this last point is if anyone is considering such a job under similar hazardous conditions) we were able to stage the assembly successfully. I had been forewarned of some of the difficulties having read the most helpful comments attached to the IKEA instructional video. To wit – they make it look easier than it is; they must have used super glue.
As I was cleaning the table ready to display the finished masterpiece, I couldn’t help but wonder why Tess was smacking her lips as she followed me like a targeted missile. Then I looked at the floor. Bits of decoration, dried royal icing and such were falling off the table like snowflakes. She was in sugar heaven.
The finished product
© Raili Tanska
PS – the construction engineer’s final comment as I asked him to help me move it onto the tablecloth? It looks good. But it will melt!
Images – personal album