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December 17, 2015 01:00 PM

Gingerbread houses: They look great, but the time and effort involved keeps many people away.

No more – follow these tips to make your gingerbread home building experience all the easier.

1. Use graham crackers.
Okay, this defeats the whole “gingerbread” thing a bit, but stay with us. Using graham crackers instead of actual gingerbread makes for an easier edible holiday house. Without any gingerbread to bake, you save time, and graham crackers’ easy-to-snap edges mean that you can create a number of different shapes without making a mess.

2. Skip icing altogether.
Typically, the kiss of death for a gingerbread house is a weak foundation – and that starts with slippery icing. The best way to avoid the issue is to forget about icing and use melted-down caramel, gummies and marshmallows for a stickier solution.

3. Fill condiment bottles with icing for easy application.
Condiment bottles – they’re not just for ketchup. For even, neat lines of icing, the tip of the bottle serves as the perfect no-mess applicator.

4. Think ahead if you want to include lights.
Getting a warm glow in the window of your gingerbread house makes those holiday vibes even stronger. But to do so, make sure you cut out a hole in the back of the house before diving into the rest of the detailed decorations so you can easily string a strand of lights through later on. To sample the light levels, practice with a cardboard version of the house.

5. Use a muffin tray to separate the candies you’re using for decoration.
This simple tip will help you keep track of the many pieces – mints, gumdrops, candy canes and more! – needed to take your gingerbread house from drab to festive.

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