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How to make gingerbread gift boxes

This impressive bake will make for the a fantastic edible gift for your loved ones this Christmas. Neatly tied up with a bow, this seasonal gingerbread gift box also has a few hidden secrets inside.

  1. Cutting the shapes

    Put the golden syrup, sugar, butter, lemon zest, ginger and mixed spice in a large saucepan. Stir gently over a low-medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring briefly to the boil. Remove from the heat and tip in the bicarb; the mixture will froth. Beat briefly to combine, then set aside to cool for 15 mins. In batches, fold the flour into the cooled mixture. Beat in the egg, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 min. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hr.

    Cut out a 14cm and an 18cm square template on thick paper or card. Roll out the gingerbread between sheets of nonstick baking paper to 4mm thick. Use cutters or a sharp knife and leave at least 2cm around each shape to keep the squares strong. Using the templates, cut out 6 small and large squares of gingerbread and transfer to lined baking trays. Put in the freezer for 5 mins to firm up. Remove 3 of the smaller squares from the freezer, cut out decorations, then return to the freezer for 5 mins. Meanwhile, use the remaining dough to cut out gingerbread people or other shapes around 8cm long. Transfer these to a lined baking tray and freeze for 5 mins.

    Preheat the oven to gas 5, 190°C, fan 170°C. Bake in batches – the dough squares for 12-14 mins and the gingerbread people for 6-8 mins – until golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool and set for 5-10 mins on the trays, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

    Cook's tip: Keeping the dough on the nonstick baking paper you rolled it out on stops it losing its shape when you move it around.

    Cutting the shapes
  2. Making the royal icing

    Once the gingerbread is completely cool, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the beaten egg white and lemon juice. Use an electric hand mixer to whisk on a low speed for 2-3 mins until smooth and spreadable. Whisk on a low speed so you don’t beat in too much air; otherwise the icing will crumble when it dries. It should be smooth and dense, like soft cheese, and able to hold stiff peaks. Add 1-2 tsp water and whisk for 3-4 mins to stiff peaks. Spoon about half the icing into a piping bag fitted with a medium (8mm) round nozzle. Royal icing dries quickly, so cover the bowl or piping nozzle with a damp cloth when not using.

    Making the royal icing
  3. Assembling the boxes

    To assemble, pipe icing along 2 edges of a small square placed flat on a work surface. Start sticking the other sides onto this piece. Use tins to support the sides of the boxes while the icing sets, and pipe extra icing along the join inside to add more hidden support.

    When assembling the small box, don’t stick the lid down on top – keep it loose. Don’t try to move your boxes too soon, even if you think they’ve set quickly; until they’ve set hard, they are very fragile. Repeat for the large gift box, this time completing it with more icing and its lid. Set aside for at least 2 hrs to set hard.

    Assembling the boxes
  4. Piping the stars

    Spoon the remaining icing into a piping bag fitted with a small (5mm) star nozzle, then pipe rows of stars to cover the edges. Hold the bag at a 45° angle, squeeze to a bulb and release the pressure as you move the nozzle away. If you keep pressure on the bag as you pull away, the icing tips will be long.

    Pat down any long tips with a finger dipped in cornflour. Pipe from the base upwards. Pipe decorations onto the sides of the smaller box, and eyes and buttons on the gingerbread people. Use a little red fondant and silver pearls to decorate the boxes and people.

    Piping the stars
  5. Preparing the fondant

    To make the ribbon, roll out red fondant to 5mm thick and 30cm long. Cut into 4 x 2cm-wide strips. Roll out on baking paper to stop it sticking to your work surface. Use a ruler and a long, sharp knife for clean edges and consistent width. Make the bow in one go; too slow and the fondant will start to set.

    Preparing the fondant
  6. Making the bow

    Brush one side of the fondant lightly with cold water, then carefully stick to the large box, starting at the base and joining each piece at the top in the centre to create a ribbon effect. Cut away any trimmings, then re-roll to make another 5mm thick 30cm piece. Cut 2 x 4cm wide strips and shape into a bow. Cut a ‘V’ in one end of each strip. Fold the other end over itself to make a loop. Align the two pieces. Brush a 2 x 6cm fondant strip lightly with water and wrap around the join, pinching in the centre slightly.

    To attach the bow, lightly brush the cross of the ribbon on the gift box with water and arrange the bow on top, pressing gently to secure. Use the remaining royal icing and decorations to add stars or snowflakes to the sides of the large box. Use a dry brush to dust the ribbon with red velvet dusting. Allow 2 hrs for it to set, then place the gingerbread people inside the smaller box; top with the lid. Keep for a week at room temperature, covered or wrapped in clingfilm.

    Making the bow
  7. Ingredients

    We've included a handy ingredients list to help you make this gingerbread gift box – don't forget to screenshot the list before going shopping!

    275g golden syrup
    400g soft light brown sugar
    400g unsalted butter
    1 lemon, zested
    4 tsp ground ginger
    2 tbsp mixed spice
    2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1kg plain four, plus extra for dusting
    1 large egg, lightly beaten

    For the icing

    300g icing sugar
    1 large egg white, lightly beaten
    1 tsp lemon juice

    To decorate

    250g red fondant icing
    2-3 tbsp silver pearls
    1 tbsp red velvet dusting

    Serves 30 (makes 2 boxes with people) | Takes 2 hrs 40 mins plus chilling, cooling and setting.

    Freezing and defrosting guidelines

    Freeze unbaked dough. In order to enjoy optimum flavour and quality, frozen items are best used within 3 months of their freezing date. For more tips on freezing and defrosting food, read our article Love Your Freezer.

    Each serving contains

    • Energy

    • Fat

      13g 18%
    • Saturates

      7g 36%
    • Sugars

      40g 44%
    • Salt

      0.3g 4%

    of the reference intake
    Carbohydrate 66.8g Protein 4g Fibre 1.5g