Gingerbread Christmas Castle

Gingerbread Christmas Castle

The Tala Gingerbread Castle set makes a beautiful centrepiece for a child's birthday party. I'm going to give it a seasonal twist and show you how to use the castle set to make a gorgeous Christmas display for big and little kids! Try customising your castle with sweeties as an alternative to the traditional Gingerbread House or use the Tala holly and snowflake plunger cutters to add Christmassy details.

This recipe yields enough gingerbread to build one castle, with some extra in case you feel like adding some extra gingerbread trees or snowmen patrolling the grounds of the castle.

How to Bake the Castle:

Ingredients

300g dark brown sugar

120g golden syrup

60g black treacle

4 tsp ground cinnamon

5 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground nutmeg

4 tbs water

380g margarine/butter

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

900g plain flour

 

 

1. Roughly line a large mixing bowl with cling film and set aside.

2. Place the sugar, syrup, treacle, water and spices in a large saucepan, stir and heat until the mixture starts to boil. 

3. Remove the pan from the heat and, taking great care, use a metal whisk to mix the margarine into the mixture. 

4. When fully combined, add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk again. At this point the mixture will change consistency, becoming paler and slightly thicker.

5. Tip the flour into the mixture and stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture is thick and glossy. 

7. Put the mixture in the fridge for around two hours to firm up.

8. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade, gas mark 3.

9. Sprinkle your worktop with flour and roll out the cooled mixture to a thickness of about 3-4mm. 

10. Use the cutters to stamp out the following quantities of shapes:

 

Triangle: 16 pieces

Long rectangle: 8 pieces

Short rectangle: 8 pieces

Wall: 8 pieces

Tiny rectangle: 1 piece

Flag: 1 piece

11: Arrange the pieces on lined baking trays and bake for 12 minutes; until the edges start to go brown (the middle of the pieces will still be soft). If you are using Tala Performance bakeware, there will be no need to line the baking trays as the shapes will not stick during the baking process. 

12. Remove the pieces from the oven and, taking great care not to burn yourself, trim the edges of the shapes with a sharp knife so that all the edges are sharp.

13. Return the gingerbread to the baking trays to cool.

 

Ingredients

500g white sugar paste

Royal icing, uncoloured (use one 500g pack and follow the instructions on the packaging)

 

Equipment

Tala piping bag and nozzles as supplied with the set

Paintbrush

Tala palette knife

Greaseproof paper

Large chopping board or tray

 

It is wise, though not essential, to allow yourself a few days to assemble the castle. Build the castle in stages, allowing each stage to dry out. If you are on a tight schedule, you can speed up the drying process by gently drying out the castle in the oven – this is only advisable if you have the kind of oven with a very reliable, preferably digital, temperature gauge. Pre-heat the oven to 60 degrees Celsius and check regularly to ensure the temperature doesn't climb up while your back is turned. Always work on greaseproof paper so that you can leave the pieces to dry and lift them cleanly off of the paper when it comes to the construction of the castle.

1. Drop a no 4 piping nozzle into a piping back and fill it with two heaped tablespoons of fairly thick, white royal icing. Twist the bag at the top to prevent the icing from spilling out.

2. Towers: take four rectangle pieces and glue them together to form cuboids. Set them aside to dry, preferably overnight. 

3. Turrets: using the picture of the castle on the box as a guide, take four triangles and pipe along one edge of one of them, pressing the corresponding edge of the next triangle onto it. 'Glue' together four triangles in this way so that together they resemble a square-based pyramid. Repeat three more times and set them aside on greaseproof paper to dry, again preferably overnight. 

4. It is much easier to decorate the walls when they are still flat. Examine the crenellated walls and choose the four smoothest and blemish-free, as these are the ones that are going to be the 'outer walls' and they will be on show. (Any less perfect pieces can be used as 'inner walls'). Take a small amount of white sugar paste and roll out, very thin. Then, using a sharp knife cut wavy 'snow drifts' and attach to the gingerbread walls with brushed-on cooled, boiled water. 

5. Cut out doors, windows or Christmas tree shapes from the fondant and attach with more brushed-on cooled, boiled water.

6. Use the Tala snowflake plunger cutter set to stamp out intricate little snowflakes, and apply here and there. 

6. Fit a piping bag with a coupler and a number 2 writing nozzle, and pipe snow flurries (dots) and window- and Christmas-tree details here and there. 

7.  Prepare a work surface by lining your largest chopping board (or tea tray) with greaseproof paper.

8. Cover a circular 14-inch diameter foil cake drum with white sugar paste, and over the surface with a fondant smoother so it is perfectly smooth. Set it aside to set.

9. To start the construction, attach the crenellated double walls to the towers. Stand the longer cuboid on end to make a tower and, using royal icing as 'glue', pipe along the vertical edge of the wall pressing it against the tall tower. The next wall piece will be the 'inner wall'. Position the piece parallel with the outer wall and secure in the same way with the royal icing. You may find it useful to use mugs or glasses to prop up the walls while they dry.

10. Position the next tower at the end of the first pair of walls.

11. Using the picture as a guide, repeat the process so that all of the walls and towers are in place. 

12.  Pipe royal icing around the top of the towers and secure the turrets in place

13.  Stick the flagpole onto the top of the wall and finally, stick the flag in place on top of the flag pole. Slide a drinking straw between the two walls to act as a support, if you wish

14. Now that the structure is complete. Use the piping bag to fill in any cracks or holes, using your finger to smooth the icing where necessary.

15. Colour a  small amout of sugar paste green, and roll it out very thinly. Use the smallest of the Tala holly plunger cutters to stamp out several holly leaves and set them aside to dry. 

16. When the castle is dry, carefully lift it onto your covered board ready for detailed decoration.

17. Change to a no2 writing nozzle and pipe fish scales or 'tiles' onto the turrets, and 'freshly fallen snow' onto the crenellations. 

18. Using a paring knife, carefully separate the holly cutouts into separate holly leaves and arrange the leaves into a wreath shape, attached them to one another with tiny dots of royal icing piped with the no2 writing nozzle. Set aside to dry.

19. Fit a star tip nozzle, and pipe a shell border disguising the joints between the turret pieces. 

 

20. Change to a no 4 writing nozzle and pipe 'icicles' by directing the tip nozzle directly under the turret and applying considerable pressure to the piping bag before sharply pulling away, forming a tapered 'icicle' stream of icing. If you wish, write a Christmas message on the base board. 

21. When the holly wreath is dry, carefully attached it to the castle door with royal icing

22. Tie a short length of red ribbon into a tiny bow and snip the ends so that they are neat. Attach the ribbon to the centre of the wreath with a small blob of royal icing

23. Display your gingerbread castle somewhere where it will invite lots of attention! It can be exhibited for at least a week. You might find that it starts to turn soft after a while, but it will remain every bit as delicious!

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