Marisa Ratchford / Daily Nexus

Marisa Ratchford / Daily Nexus

Every year in early December my family gathers from all across California, not to spread Christmas cheer, but to engage in a fierce competition. My huge Italian family is stuffed inside my grandmother’s house, which is filled with the scent of gingerbread and peppermint. My cousins fight over the remote while my uncles stammer through jokes between sips of beer. In the kitchen, aunts and the older cousins eagerly wait for the first batch of my grandmother’s gingerbread to finally finish cooking.

We all gather like this for our annual gingerbread house competition, a contest that originally began as a way to spend more time together during the winter months. It all started years ago as a simple suggestion that the family spend more time together while everyone is home for the holidays. After all, our Christmas celebration often unravels into a hectic mess of Grab Bag games and scrambling to clean up wrapping paper. It’s hard to spend time with people when you’re trying to hand out presents to your 10 cousins.

This idea to spend more time together soon evolved into a competition of creativity between the kids of the family. Originally, we all began with the same pre-assembled pieces that come in an average gingerbread making kit. But every year we added more creative elements and plenty of trash talk to take down the competition. As my cousins and I got older we became more crafty when assembling our gingerbread dream-homes. In recent years, we’ve started ignoring the pre-assembled kits and instead bought entire graham cracker boxes, multicolored frosting and styrofoam bases to embrace our inner architects. One year, my aunt even created a pool and jacuzzi to liven up her gingerbread backyard.

Kelsey Ferrara / Daily Nexuus

Kelsey Ferrara / Daily Nexus

This year, the finished products looked more like deluxe mansions than gingerbread homes. Many featured tiny snowmen and penguin figurines, candy cane fences and frosting-snow that dripped from the rooftops. One house even had an archway, constructed out of twizzlers, that lead to the front door.

While constructing these masterpieces, we all snack on my grandmother’s homemade gingerbread, which has become another tradition that my family upholds this time of year. While there’s fierce competition between cousins, we really are grateful that we have more time to spend with one another.

Follow this recipe to make your own delicious gingerbread.

What You’ll Need:

  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 2 teaspoon ginger
  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  7. 2/3 cup molasses
  8. 4 tablespoon butter
  9. 1 egg


  • First, spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and lightly cover it with a layer of flour and preheat the oven to 325°.
  • Next, in a separate bowl for dry ingredients, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. In a third bowl, you’ll combine brown sugar, molasses, butter and boiling water. Whisk this mixture until the butter has melted.
  • One this mixture has cooled, add in the egg and whisk until evenly mixed. Then, add dry ingredients and whisk until all lumps are gone.
  • Now pour the mixture into the pan that you first prepared and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown and crispy around edges.
  • Feel free to serve with whipped cream or alongside a bowl of vanilla ice cream. The end result is a gingery, dark snack that will put you in the Christmas spirit while giving you the energy needed to win your own gingerbread house competition.