Easter Biscuit House

Easter Biscuit House

This is a lovely project to make in stages in the run-up to Easter. It's a good idea to start well in advance as some elements, such as the intricate cottage bargeboards are best made a couple of days ahead so that they dry in time.

One of the nicest features of this little Easter cottage is the 'real' see-through window! A crushed boiled sweet is used to make the 'glass' in the window on the front, which is a lovely trick that can be applied to Christmas gingerbread houses and stained glass window biscuits – finally, an excuse to use this fun technique outside of Christmas!

Experience has taught me that any baked edible house, whether built for Christmas or Easter, carries the expectation of hidden treats inside! In this recipe, I show you how to fill the house with miniature chocolate eggs. This recipe does provide extra dough for extra iced biscuits, so you can make some matching Easter bunny, chick or egg shaped biscuits as well if you like – why not tuck some away inside the house ready to be discovered later?

Ingredients for the house walls and extra biscuits:

 

200g caster sugar

200g salted butter, softened

1 free-range egg

425g plain flour

1 tbs vanilla essence

Half a boiled sweet (yellow or white colour)

 

Ingredients for decorating the house:

1 quantity of very thick royal icing (mostly white, but some coloured pale pink and dark brown)

Small amount of ready-to-roll icing coloured pale pink, darker pink, grey (very small amount), pale blue and pale green and more icing coloured for the roof tiles (I chose pink, pale blue, darker blue and light brown)

Equipment

Starting ahead with the 'bargeboards':

 

  1. Before you bake the walls of the house, get ahead by starting on the bargeboards a few days before. Make up the white royal icing, making some runnier than the rest. Fill a piping bag fitted with a number 2 writing nozzle with the runnier icing and store the rest in an air-tight tub.
  2. You only need two bargeboards, but make a few extra as they are rather fragile and have a tendency to snap. Cut a piece of cellophane and lay out on a dark coloured tray or baking tray.
  3. Put the pastry scraper under the cellophane so you can pipe a series of well-spaced out 12cm-long lines. 

4. Then pipe a series of arcs along the length of the line as shown. 

5. Change to a number 1 writing nozzle and pipe tiny dots all over the lines and curves to make an intricate lace pattern.

6. Leave the bargeboards to dry out completely.

Baking the walls of the cottage:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla to the egg and mix into the butter and sugar mixture.
  3. Tip in the flour and mix until the mixture just comes together.
  4. Turn out the dough, form into a rough ball and wrap in cling film.
  5. Chill for at least an hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit).
  7. On a generously floured surface, roll out the dough to around 3 to 4 milimetres thick. Cut out the house pieces using a kitchen ruler and a sharp knife. You will need 2 'facade' shape pieces for the front and back of the house, two side walls and two roof panels. Cut the pieces in the following way:

Facade pieces: these should be 10cm across and 15cm tall at the highest point. First cut a rectangle measuring 10cm by 15cm and rotate it so that it is 'portrait' shaped. Then, measuring from the bottom, mark a notch 10cm up on each vertical side. Cut a third notch in the middle of the top horizontal edge and then make two cuts diagonally from the side notch to the top notch, so that you are left with a simple house shape.

Side walls: cut two 10cm x 10cm square pieces

Roof panels: cut two 15cm x 12cm rectangular pieces

9. To stop the window from sticking, place one of the facade pieces onto a piece of non-stick baking paper on the baking tray. Using the smallest circular cutter, remove a circle of dough at window height and place half a crushed boiled sweet in the hole. 

10. Arrange the rest of the pieces on the large Tala Performance baking tray, you should be able to fit all the pieces onto one tray. 

11. Bake for around 15 minutes, checking now and then to make sure everything is well. When the pieces start to turn golden brown around the edges, they are ready. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the tray

Decorating the house:

  1. Sprinkle the work surface with icing sugar and roll out very thinly the coloured ready-to-roll icing. Using a sharp knife cut two rectangles from the grey icing (for the windows), from the pale blue icing cut four smaller rectangles (for the shutters), one large rectangle (the front door) and two trapeziums (the flower boxes) as shown.  Using an icing nozzle, cut two green circles to make a little Box tree for either side of the front door.
  2. Attach the icing shapes to the biscuit walls with some brushed-on cooled boiled water. 

3. Roll out the icing coloured for the roof tiles and cut out many different colour circles using the smallest cutter from the Tala 6 Tin Plain Pastry Cutter set

4. Attach the tiles to the roof panels with more brushed-on cooled, boiled water in an overlapping 'fish scales' pattern. 

4. Roll out the two shades of pink icing and use the blossom plunger cutter to cut out many flowers in different shades of pink. Set these aside to firm up for a few minutes. 

5. Colour some royal icing dark brown, thin it with a little cooled boiled water and place inside a piping bag. Using a number 1 or 2 writing nozzle, pipe the outline of a cherry tree onto the facade panel which will become the back of the house. Pipe another tree to the side of the front door if you wish and give the Box trees some slim brown trunks

6. Using white royal icing, slighly thinned with water, with a number 1 or 2 writing tip, attach the pink flower heads to the cherry trees with tiny blobs of icing.

7. Use the same piping bag to add details and outlines to the windows and doors. 

8. Place a large piece of non-stick baking paper onto a firm surface that you can move around, like a baking tray or chopping board and use the reserved very thick royal icing to stick the walls of the house together on top of the paper. Use ramekins or mugs to prop up the walls while they dry if you need to. 

9. Cover a 10 or 12 inch cake board with pale green sugar paste and set aside to dry.

10. When the walls are set and stuck fast together, lift them up and secure onto the cake board with more royal icing. Fill the house with easter treats, such as miniature chocolate eggs or iced biscuits.

11. Fasten the roof panels onto the top of the walls with lots of thick royal icing (supporting the panels with ramkins if need be while the icing dries).

12. When the roof is dry, carefully remove the bargeboards from the cellophane and attach them to the sides of the roof panels with thick royal icing. Pipe a series of pearls in white royal icing (using a number 6 writing nozzle) to disguise the join between the two roof panels.

13. If you want to, pipe an Easter greeting onto the baseboad and decorated the 'lawn' with extra cherry blossoms or other flowers. (I used royal icing coloured pink for this, and I couldn't resist using the same pink to piped some pink 'flowers' onto the Box trees, and some extra 'flowers' on the base board!).

14. Using a children's non-toxic glue stick, fasten a length of pretty ribbon around the edge of the cake board to disguise it and display prominently to enjoy on Easter Sunday!

15. Serve and enjoy the delicious results. 

 

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