All my family got together at my parents house for New Years Eve. We decided that instead of our traditional gingerbread house, we wanted to do something more extravagant. After flipping through several books on architecture and deciding that a castle or cathedral would be way too complicated, we came up with the idea of making a lighthouse.
The initial model was made with a computer program called SketchUp, which is designed for architects to use when quickly making a model of a building to see what it will look like.
We had the computer measure the dimensions of the various pieces of the lighthouse, and then we cut out pieces of paper with those dimensions that we could use in cutting out the gingerbread shapes. We also made templates we could use to cut out various types of windows.
It took six cookie trays to bake the whole house. Since each was in the oven for 18 minutes, that adds up to almost two hours just baking the house.
The pieces are glued together with an icing made of only powdered sugar and egg white. It is very sticky and dries very hard. If you've have a cake with flowers on it that turn out to be like hard candy, that's probably "royal icing".
We built the house in two stages: first laying out the base and the windows around the light, then allowing those parts to harden before we tried to add the roofs. It was particularly difficult to make the hexagonal roof for the top of the lighthouse - in the end, we had to put a hexagonal piece inside the roof to hold it all together.
This is what the lighthouse looked like once the gingerbread part was fully assembled. Then it was ready to decorate.
We had ridiculous amount of candy of various types, and I made a huge amount of icing - the finished gingerbread house contains 12 cups of powdered sugar in the icing alone!
(If you'd like to see some previous New Years' construction projects of ours, you can look at my Snow Monster
pictures from 2005)