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14 Nov 2021

Which gingerbread house kit should you buy this Christmas?

We tested six festive gingerbread house kits, plus a chocolate house, to find out which looks great, tastes good, and is the most fun to build
Family decorating a gingerbread house

Decorating a gingerbread house is a wholesome and fun family-friendly activity that's sure to raise everyone's Christmas spirits, but if you don't have time to bake your own gingerbread, which DIY kit should you buy?

A team of festive Which? researchers bought and built six of the UK's most popular gingerbread house kits from Biscuiteers, Harvey Nichols, John Lewis, Lakeland and Marks and Spencer, as well as a house made entirely of Cadbury chocolate, to find out.

Read on to see which gingerbread house kits we recommend, plus our expert tips to help you when building your own.

Filling up your festive shopping list? See our recent reviews of luxury Christmas crackers and chocolate advent calendars.

The best gingerbread house kit

Editor's Choice - Lakeland Traditional Gingerbread House Kit

Price:£12.99, buy it from Lakeland

Contains:Gingerbread house pieces, icing sugar, fairytale folk biscuits, fruit gums, chocolate buttons, hundreds & thousands, piping bag.

Additional ingredients needed:Egg white and lemon juice (or white vinegar) to make the icing.

Our verdict: We think this delightful gingerbread house kit is sure to putyou in a funChristmassy mood.It was by some way our favourite overall, especially in terms of appearance.

It looks ornate and doesn't appear simplistic at all, with lovely textures and patterns on the gingerbread pieces and colourful, varied decorations included.

We found this house easy to put together thanks to the biscuit base, which has slots for fitting the wall pieces. In fact it was so easy to build that it felt like we were being encouraged to skip through to enjoying the decorating experience as quickly as possible.

The decoration didn't disappoint, either. We found it fun and easy with plenty of fun grooves baked into the walls and roof of the house to help guide you.

Decorating the front can be a little more intricate with edible figures, icing snow, a gingerbread tree and sprinkles to contend with, so if a child is building this house they may need a hand with that bit.

We liked the flavour when we tasted it, but we found the texture dense and chewy. If experience and appearance is more important to you than eating the gingerbread, we think this is the best kit you can buy.

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How the rest fared

Here's what we thought of the other six gingerbread houses we built in our tests, listed in alphabetical order.

Biscuiteers gingerbread house kit

Biscuiteers DIY Gingerbread House

Price: £35, buy it from Biscuiteers

Contains:Gingerbread house pieces, icing sugar, Three bags of edible decorations, piping bags.

Additional ingredients needed: Water to make the icing.

Our verdict:It certainly looks impressive on the box, but we struggled to create anything half as nice.

If you have aspirations to one day step into the Bake Off tent, then this could be the gingerbread house kit for you. If you're just up for a bit of lighthearted Christmas fun, though, we'd give it a miss.

The gingerbread house pieces in this kit are smooth and plain, so there's no indication of how you might go about decorating it. The instructions advise that you draw your design fully before starting so you know exactly what you're going to be doing with your piping bag.

As you can tell from our shoddy work, we weren't so patient.

We thought even professional bakers might get fed up with building this gingerbread house, though. You're instructed to hold the house pieces together in place for 15 minutes on several occasions, which we think takes some of the fun out of the activity.

You're also told to decorate all the house pieces fully before sticking them together to build the house, which we think is asking for disaster. If you're not careful bits of icing and decorations are sure to drop off during construction.

We thought the gingerbread tasted mild and not especially gingery, but we liked the texture. It was one of the more crisp gingerbread houses we built.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Christmas Chocolate House Kit

Price:£14, buy it from Cadbury

Contains: Two Cadbury Dairy Milk Bars, Two Cadbury Dairy Milk Winter Wonderland Editions, Two Cadbury Dairy Milk Winter Gingerbread Editions, Two Cadbury White Buttons Bags, One Cadbury Flake Treatsize.

Additional ingredients needed:Egg white, lemon juice and icing sugar to make icing (optional).

Our verdict:Ideal if you're not keen on gingerbread, but it's messy to build and will likely end up covered in fingerprints.

As a team of chocolate lovers we thought this kit might steer us away from gingerbread forever, but that wasn't quite the case.

In the box you'll find a selection of Cadbury chocolate bars. We were surprised that none of the chocolate came pre-cut into shape, which means you'll need to cut several pieces out of the house yourself using the whole bars.

You're asked to melt a certain amount of the chocolate in the microwave and use it as cement. As fun (and messy) as that was, we thought that melted chocolate was an ineffective cement compared to icing.

Because of this, we spent plenty of time holding the pieces together, waiting for them to stick and dry. The touch of our fingers also led to extra melting and fingerprints on the walls and roof, which meant our house didn't look as polished as we wanted.

Once the house was up we were pleased with its appearance, and we really had to fight the urge to chomp on the chimney, which is a Flake.

However, without any icing, which is optional and not included, we felt the Cadbury house was the least Christmassy-looking of those we tested.

As you can expect, a house made entirely of chocolate was praised for how good it tastes, although we weren't blown away by the gingerbread flavoured chocolate.

Harvey Nichols Mini DIY Gingerbread House Kit

Harvey Nichols Mini DIY Gingerbread House Kit

Price:£7.95, buy it from Harvey Nichols

Contains: Gingerbread house pieces, one bag of sweets, piping bag.

Additional ingredients needed:Egg white, lemon juice and icing sugar to make icing.

Our verdict: A delightful little gingerbread house kit that suits younger builders.

We found it straightforward to put the house together, although the feet on the wall pieces don't fit into the base snugly so you might need to hold them in place for a short while to ensure they don't fall over.

As this gingerbread house is so small, we think it's a great fit for younger children to build - adults might find it tricky to help with decorating, though.

The decorations included were pretty minimal but easy to stick on. You might want to grab a few more decorations of your own to make the house look a little more exciting.

Not unlike many of the gingerbread house kits we tested, we found this one rather spongy and dense in texture, but we liked the flavour. One tester commented that it tasted like German 'Lebkuchen' biscuits.

John Lewis Christmas Gingerbread House Kit

Price: £12.50, buy it from John Lewis

Contains: Gingerbread house pieces, pre-made icing, 3x bags of sweets, piping bag.

Additional ingredients needed: None

Our verdict: We had fun building this gingerbread house, but we'd recommend making your own icing.

There were a few issues with this kit. We found the icing runny and difficult to use when constructing this house. There are plastic clips included for holding the base in place, but the wall pieces still leant inwards and we'd put that down to the weak cement.

Similar to the Biscuiteers gingerbread house kit, the house pieces are blank. You're probably best off planning how you want to decorate the house before starting out.

There's a varied and colourful selection of decorations included, and we enjoyed sticking them on despite how runny the icing was.

However, we thought there wasn't quite enough icing to really go to town on the decoration. We'd recommend keeping the pre-made icing for another baking day and making a big batch of your own to ensure you don't run out.

In terms of appearance we concluded that this house can only look as good as your skill allows, as there's no guides. If you're a perfectionist, you'll probably find decorating a bigger task than the small bit of Christmas fun you might have initially expected.

We thought the gingerbread tasted crisp, but mild. We also thought it had more of a cinnamon flavour rather than ginger.

Lakeland Campervan Gingerbread Make Your Own House

Lakeland Campervan Gingerbread Make Your Own House Kit

Price: £12.99, buy it from Lakeland

Contains: Gingerbread house pieces, pre-made icing, 2x icing pens (red and black), rainbow gumdrops, candy lights, plastic base.

Additional ingredients needed:None

Our verdict:We had a bit of a disaster building this gingerbread campervan, and were disappointed with the kit overall.

As we found with John Lewis' pre-made icing, the icing in this kit was runny and didn't hold the pieces together very securely.

You're also instructed to cut one of the pieces yourself with a knife, which is a task that could destroy your house before you've had the chance to build it.

There's no piping bag included in this kit either, so we had to use butter knives when attempting to decorate it.

Looking past our amateur decorating job we were still disappointed with how this house looks. The icing pen colours and sweets looked different to how they appeared on the box - especially the orange icing - and the gingerbread in the box was much darker.

Further, although it's called a 'campervan', fans of the classic 1960s Volkswagen will note that it looks more like a caravan in appearance.

When we ate the gingerbread we found it hard and mild, so it wasn't very easy to bite a piece off it.

M&S Gingerbread House Kit

M&S Gingerbread House Kit

Price: £5.50, buy it from Ocado (currently out of stock, available at M&S stores)

Contains: Gingerbread house pieces, 2x gingerbread biscuits, pre-made icing, 3x bags of sweets, plastic base.

Additional ingredients needed:None

Our verdict:Although it wasn't the most straightforward to build compared to the other gingerbread house kits we tested, we loved how it looked and it was definitely the tastiest.

The kit comes with a build tray to help you with sticking the side panels together, but we'd have found it easier if there was a gingerbread base you could stick the walls to.

The pre-made icing makes for effective cement, but it doesn't dry very quickly so you'll need to hold the pieces in place for a little while before moving on to the next step. Adults might have to muck in a little to help younger children with the building.

There are grooves baked into the roof and walls of this house, which are handy guidelines for easy decoration.

Piping icing is great fun with this kit. Along with the piping bag there are a few different nozzles included so you can mix up the shape of the icing as you decorate.

However, as you start to run low the tube takes a lot of squeezing. Our hands were cramping up towards the end.

The experience of decorating the house was intricate and took us a while, but we found it rewarding and were very pleased with the result. There's a brilliant variety of decorations included that come in all colours, shapes and sizes.

We also thought the two little gingerbread people included in a box are a nice extra touch.

This was the only gingerbread house kit we tasted that we thought was truly delicious. It's crispy, full of ginger flavour, and tasted most like a classic gingerbread biscuit of all the kits we tasted.

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Icing gingerbread house

Four expert tips to help you build your gingerbread house

1) Plan what you want to do before you start

Gingerbread house building is an exciting activity, and it can be all too tempting to rip open the box and get to building straight away.

But if you want your house to be a real centrepiece, you'll want to give yourself some thinking time beforehand to work out what you'd like to do with the included decorations and which patterns you'd like to pipe with your icing.

As soon as the icing hits the gingerbread it'll start to dry and set, so you'll get into trouble if you change your mind about your decoration halfway through.

2) Look up designs if you need inspiration

Some of the simpler gingerbread house kits aimed at younger audiences tend to have handy templates and grooves pre-baked onto the gingerbread to help guide you as you decorate.

But if your gingerbread is more of a blank slate, it can be a challenge to picture what to do with your icing.

It's worth having a look online at a few gingerbread house design templates if you're struggling for ideas.

If the design you choose is intricate, remember that you'll need to stick on your decorations as you go - otherwise by the time you've finished your piping, the first icing you piped might be dry.

3) If there isn't much icing included, make your own

It saves you a task if your gingerbread house kit comes with icing included, but you'll need to decide if the amount that's included is enough for what you plan to do.

If you run out halfway through, you'll need to make fresh icing that will likely be a slightly different shade to the icing that came with the kit. This can really ruin the appearance of your gingerbread house.

If you think you might run out of pre-made icing, store it away for another baking day and make a large, fresh batch of your own.

A combination of two whipped egg whites, 450g sifted icing sugar and two teaspoons of lemon juice will make the sticky, pearly-white cement you need to build your house.

4) Grab a kit with a base

Gingerbread house kits can be tricky if you're expected to hold together pieces of gingerbread that won't stand up by themselves.

The gingerbread houses we found easiest to build were those that came with a base piece included. These often have holes baked into them, which the wall pieces of your house should slot into neatly.

If you fill those holes with icing before slotting the wall pieces in, you won't have to hold them in place for long.

Consider buying a gingerbread house kit with a base if you want a speedier, stress-free building experience.

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Eating gingerbread house

How long is a gingerbread house edible for?

We tasted every gingerbread house kit we built on the day we got them out of the box, and it's clear that most of the manufacturers have prioritised structural integrity over taste.

Although some definitely tasted better than others, even our favourites didn't quite match the flavour and crunch of a classic gingerbread biscuit.

You probably won't want to eat it after you've left it up for the whole of December anyway, but if you suddenly get the urge to smash one of these houses to pieces and eat it soon after it's made, you'll probably feel let down by how it tastes.

If you do intend to eat it, though, around two or three weeks is usually the limit for it being edible, as long as it's kept in dry, room-temperature conditions.

Gingerbread house decorations

How we tested gingerbread house kits

A group of Which? researchers built all the gingerbread house kits together.

The group was made up of adults of a mixture of ages and genders ranging from 24-36.

As we built each gingerbread house kit we each commented on how easy each one was to build and decorate, and we judged each gingerbread house for how pleased we were with its appearance and how similar it looked to the picture on the box.

After we were finished building, we tasted each gingerbread house kit to see which ones had the best crunch and delicious gingerbread flavour.

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