Sugar cubes and royal icing serve as the bricks and mortar for this confectionery Christmas house. Add a few architectural details -- peppermint sticks for roof shingles, jelly beans to line the windows, and rock candy along the rooftop -- and you'll have a fanciful creation that requires no baking. According to former Martha Stewart Living assistant holiday and crafts editor Kelli Ronci, who helped create these enchanting houses, it's best to use royal icing of a thicker consistency; otherwise, it can be difficult to make the candy stick.
Tools and Materials
Rectangular-shaped sugar cubes
Assorted pastry tips
Piece of cardboard
Old-fashioned stick candy
Hard candies or rock sugar
Sugar Cube House How-To
1. Working on parchment paper, create the base of the house: Making sure the long sides of the sugar cubes are facing front, lay down 9 sugar cubes for the first layer of the front wall, 9 for the back wall, and 6 for each side wall. Using a wide, flat pastry tip, pipe royal icing along the top of the cubes to act as the mortar.
2. To create a structurally sound house, you'll need to stagger the layers of cubes so that the finished walls resemble brick walls. To stagger the cubes, begin the second layer by placing a cube in the right front corner with the short side facing the front, making sure it overlaps the first layer of both the front and side walls. Repeat on the left front corner, and the right and left back corners. Resume fitting cubes, long sides facing front, around the sides and back (leave front open). You may have to score a few cubes with a knife and cut them with scissors to fit as needed. Begin to leave space for the front door on the second layer: Lay down 3 cubes from both front corners, leaving a space in the center front wall.
3. Continue overlapping corners and staggering the bricks across each layer, leaving space for the front door, until you complete four layers. Leave space for windows on the fifth layer -- two in the front, two in the back, and one on either side. For the front windows, lay down 1 cube at both front corners and 1 on either side of the doorway. For the back windows, lay down 1 cube at both back corners, and 3 in the center. For both side windows, place 2 cubes on the right and left corners. Continue building the house until the windows are 6 cubes high and the door is 8 cubes high.
4. Build three more layers above the windows and door before building the peaks for the roof. Depending on the direction you want the roof to face, the peaks can be built either on the side walls or on the front and back walls. Also decide on the roof's pitch; to determine how many layers you'll need, experiment with the cubes before adding the royal icing.
5. Build the pitch: Cut a roof and chimney out of a piece of cardboard. For the roof, score the center, and fold in half. To decorate, lay cardboard flat, and spread with royal icing. Line up old-fashioned stick candy on the icing, creating a framework for the overall pattern. To create a shingled effect, stagger gumdrops that have been sliced in half over the roof. Allow icing to dry before placing the roof on top of the peaks.
6. To make the chimney, cut a small rectangle from a thin piece of cardboard. Score it with a knife three times (to create the four sides of the chimney), and fold it into a box shape. Tape ends together. Cut two notches on opposite sides so that it will sit on the roof. Cover the chimney with royal icing, and roll it in rock candy. Attach the chimney to the roof with royal icing. Spread additional icing along the peak of the roof, and line with hard candy or rock sugar.
7. To decorate the house, use royal icing to affix various candies. Line the windows with peppermint pillows, jelly beans, or sour straws; use gumdrops for bushes and licorice for a tiled front stoop. Use a rectangular cookie for the front door, or a thin piece of cardboard covered with sour straws to resemble door panels. You may have to prop up larger candies until the icing dries or tilt the house on its side while applying.
8. To create a blanket of snow, carefully spoon royal icing across the top of the roof, allowing it to descend along either side. Use a small pastry tip to pipe icicles along the roof's edge, and finish by piping decorative details with royal icing to cover cardboard edge of roof and any other seams that might need softening. Add some cotton candy to the chimney for "smoke."