Are you planning to enter a gingerbread house in a contest? Do you have a family tradition of making a gingerbread house? This year, make an original architectural design for your gingerbread project. You can make a gingerbread house in any style as long as you plan ahead and test the design with heavy cardboard and tape. Then, you can use the cardboard pieces as cutting guides for your dough. Just bake it according to your recipe and put it together using an egg-white based frosting. Decorate with little pieces of candy, pretzels, cookies, and nuts.
Consider that a gingerbread house is a freestanding structure, so when you design the walls and roofs, you must reduce the picture of the house, cathedral, castle or other building to a series of rectangles, triangles and squares. The outside walls and roofs must have supports on the inside. Usually, the roof is supported by a triangular peak. There may be beams on the inside made from long pretzels or crackers on top of which you can lean the roof. The cement for the structure is thick frosting with an egg white base, so the structure has to hold itself up. You can't free-hand build a gingerbread house because you have to bake everything to fit -- uncooked dough is not solid enough and cooked dough is too brittle to carve to fit usually.
Explore pictures of famous buildings or take a drive around town looking for a building that will be the inspiration for your gingerbread creation.
Remember that the largest wall or roof section that is possible is smaller than your largest cookie sheet, about 9 inches by 13 inches. The base could be larger since you can make this out of cardboard covered in tin foil or by frosting several sections of gingerbread together. The actual building will fit together like the sides of a box. There will be a minimum of four walls, two longer and two shorter. There will be a minimum of two rectangles for the roof.
Draw your walls and roof sections on heavy cardboard. Make pairs of rectangles that will fit on your cookie sheets. Make triangular supports to fit between the top of two of the walls and the roof where it can angle down. Draw smaller rectangles to form any chimneys, fences, doors, and windows. Cut them all out with the matte knife.
Tape the structure together with masking tape. If it does not stand by itself modify it until it does. You may need to add some "struts" or "beams" on the inside. Cut out any openings for doors and windows. Add cut out cardboard for any trim or decorative "wood-work." Keep making adjustments in the cardboard until the structure resembles what you envision and stands by itself.
Take apart the cardboard. Trace each shape onto a piece of butcher paper or parchment paper. Write how many copies of each shape you need to bake on the paper so you won't forget. Cut out any openings in the parchment paper or butcher paper so that you can use a sharp paring knife to cut out the doors and windows in the gingerbread dough before baking it.
Use the paper patterns as cutting guides. Place them directly on top of the rolled out gingerbread dough. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough along the edge of the paper. Transfer the uncooked dough onto your baking sheet - if you line this with parchment paper, it will maximize the likelihood that your walls and roof sections won't break when you take it off the baking sheet. Make sure to allow the baked dough to thoroughly cool before assembling and decorating the gingerbread house.