FIU@Home: Discover gingerbread house science

Written by Daniel Mannina
December 15, 2020


A tried and true holiday tradition, gingerbread houses have been a symbol of the season since they first popped up in 16th century Germany. The art and science of their construction has driven competitions – friendly and fierce – in communities around the world. Gain an advantage at any virtual competition this season by harnessing the power of kitchen chemistry and virtually spread a little cheer.


The success – and safety – of any experiment depends on an understanding of not only which substances are being used, but how they react when combined. The same principles can be applied to baking. Every ingredient plays a part in creating the foundational pieces of making your own gingerbread for your gingerbread house. Understanding how these ingredients interact will help set the framework for your finished product.


Each ingredient has a very specific role to play in kitchen chemistry—especially when it comes to creating the perfect gingerbread to build your house. Correctly measuring is key, but every recipe is different. Depending on your recipe and your goal, you may need to make some adjustments.

Using the first step in the scientific method, you can research what other kitchen scientists have learned from their baking experiments. Identifying your purpose will be key – are you making the house to eat or display? How long do you want it to last? Your goal should drive your research and design decisions. Remember to take notes with each batch as you perfect your strategy.


Kitchen chemistry boils down to not just math and chemistry, but creativity. All building designers have to balance imagination and physics when creating something new. Keep your end goal in mind while experimenting with ingredients. In addition to making sure designs are structurally sound, engineers must work with designers to ensure that their creations represent their clients’ needs.

Whether you’re building a house inspired by your favorite architecture, holiday tale or something out of your own imagination, keep the strength of your structure in mind as you finish your confectionary enhancements. Here’s a tip: sketch out your vision before you start decorating to help execute your idea.


There’s only one way to know if a plan will work – test it! We have everything you need to get started from an ingredients list to a step-by-step guide, some FIU-inspired cut-outs and even an experimental design worksheet:

Elaine Pritzker contributed to this article.

Share your successes, failures and adjustments along with the final product with @FIUCASE on social media.

Central to every house there, is no better STEM classroom than the kitchen. From chemistry to biology to physics and beyond investigate the art and science behind culinary creations and everyday life. Follow FIU@Home on CASE News for more kitchen science.