So, the kiddos are home from school on Christmas vacation, and you are smiling as you assure the world that everyone is having a jolly good time. I get it. But you aren’t fooling me. The little darlings are professing boredom and starting to argue with each other, aren’t they? And your nerves are beginning to fray, aren’t they? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt!
Building a gingerbread train is just the sort of activity that will restore peace and quiet for a few blessed hours this week. Yes, your kids will eat too much sugar (like they won’t anyway, with all of the Christmas candy they have squirreled away in every corner of the house?). Yes, you will have to sweep the floor when they are finished. But a train similar to the one shown above is EASY to make, and your kids will be proud of their efforts. Let’s get started!
Supplies (Makes 1 gingerbread train)
1 batch of gingerbread dough
2 cans of Betty Crocker “Rich & Creamy” vanilla frosting (Side note: trial and error have proved that this particular brand of store bought frosting offers the most reliable consistency for building gingerbread projects!)
1 bag of mini marshmallows
sprinkles and/or colored sugar
small candies to decorate sides of train and fill train cars
Step 1) Roll chilled gingerbread dough 1/3 inch thick and cut into rectangles and squares for train cars. A template can be found here, but I just improvised with three rectangles (two sides and a bottom) and two squares (the ends) for each train car. The front of the train, as shown in the photos above, requires two rectangles, three squares, and two “L shaped” pieces for the sides.
Step 2) Transfer gingerbread pieces to baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until pieces look just slightly overbaked. Allow to cool completely.
Step 3) Transfer about 1/2 cup of frosting (tinted with food coloring if desired) into a quart size zip-lock bag. Snip a corner off of the bag to create a homemade pastry bag. Use the bag to squeeze a thick line of frosting along the sides of the gingerbread pieces to “glue” the pieces together. This is easier than it sounds, don’t worry.
Step 4) Allow your undecorated train cars to rest on the counter for an hour or two. This will help the frosting “glue” to set, strengthening the cars.
Step 5) After an hour or two has passed, arrange your undecorated train cars on a large platter. Cover the rest of the platter with a thin layer of frosting and top with mini marshmallow “snow.” This is a great job for the smallest pastry chef in your kitchen!
Step 6) This step is the most fun. Use additional frosting to glue candy decorations onto your train cars. Your imagination is the only limit here! After your train cars are decorated, fill the cars with lollipops, miniature candy bars, small candy canes, or anything else that sounds delicious!
Step 7) If desired, add sugar cookie trees (shown), gingerbread people, or other cookie shapes to your platter as scenery. Then, let your kiddos have a few friends over to see and taste their afternoon project!
Enjoy your little ones, and happy holidays!