by Julie Snyder
Building your haunted mansion
Add an extra "boo" to your family's Halloween decorating one this year and create a table centerpiece that is fun and edible!
We usually associate gingerbread houses with the Christmas holiday, but a haunted gingerbread house can be a fun family activity and a new fall tradition.
Begin with either gingerbread house or a castle cake and you're on your way to decorating your haunted house. If you have a favorite gingerbread recipe, bake up a batch. Cut your front and back piece slightly wider at the top than at the bottom. You'll be able to buy a ready baked house, with icing and candies at craft and even grocery stores soon.
Quick and easy house base
Create your house with a carton milk container and graham crackers. You can vary the size by using a 1/2 gallon, quart or single size carton. Cinnamon graham crackers will give it a browner, shinier and scarier looking finish.
Place the carton first on a small disposable metal tray, using a little of the icing on the bottom of the milk carton as glue to hold it onto the tray. Attach the graham crackers to the carton with royal icing.
Getting the icing just right
Make your own batch of royal icing and then tint it in shades of orange, yellow, black and purple or green. Alternatively, purchase colored icing in tubes found in the decorating section of the grocery store.
If you started with a pre-made house form, you may still need a little extra icing, for decorating the yard and attaching even more goodies to the house.
Decorations -- inside and out
Scour the candy and cookie aisles for items. You'll find an assortment of candies or cookies perfect for decorating the haunted house -- Halloween pumpkins, candy corn, peanut butter cups, skittles or M&M™s, jelly beans, black pull-apart licorice, Neccos™, to point out a few.
Some specific uses of candies for the house include:
✓ Pretzels or black licorice to decorate the top and sides, using the thick rod pretzels for the corners or porches
✓ Sugar wafer cookies in orange or brown for roof or windows
✓ Cinnamon graham crackers for the chimney
✓ Candy bars for doors or windows and shutters
✓ Fruit roll-ups for doorways and windows
✓ Candy corn, tootsie rolls, licorice drops, rolos, mini peanut butter cups for trim and windows
When you are ready to decorate the yard, sprinkle it with coconut dyed purple or green for a spooky effect. Add in pathways with colored Neccos™ or M&M™ candies, and piles of pumpkin mallow candies in corners. You may want to coat first with a frosting base that keeps the coconut firmly in place.
Arrange cookie ghosts or store-bought Halloween cookies for the yard. Marshmallow ghosts can be stuck in the chimney, or by the front door or in the yard.
Make your own: Iron work can be piped from the icing onto wax paper. When dry, glue in place against the house or into the yard. Shortbread cookies can be turned into tombstones. Icing spider webs can be attached to the corners of the house, or as roof border.
If you want a little creepier gingerbread house, decorate with creepy body part gummy candy. For example, hot dog fingers and insect burgers. These could be used on the house for windows and doors, or in the yard for decoration.
Create their fantasy haunted house lets your child's imagination swoop to new heights. Yours could fly away too, if you had a chance. My suggestion is to make more than one, this way each child and parent can create their own fabulous haunted house.
We'd love to see your Halloween haunted houses. Share your ideas and pictures in comments.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.