Friday 21 November 2014

Gingerbread Nativity {Tutorial}

I made this Gingerbread Nativity Scene last Christmas and have had a few requests for a tutorial, so here it is! If you have never made anything like this before, please be sure to read through the WHOLE tutorial before you start making it yourself.

The Pattern Pieces
Click on the image or link to download the PDF for each page of the pattern. Each page is one A4 page - the Nativity Scene I made last year was bigger than the pattern given (I scaled it down so that the biggest piece fit the A4 page), so feel free to scale it up a bit. Cut all the pieces out along the thick lines.

The Dough
Use my Gingerbread dough recipe, found HERE. I believe I made double the recipe, but please forgive me if I'm wrong - it was a year ago! Add a little bit extra flour to the dough so that it makes a sturdier dough. Roll out the dough to 1/4" or 6mm and carefully cut out all the pieces - following the thick lines on the pattern pieces (the ones you cut the pieces out on).

Space the dough pieces onto baking trays lined with baking paper/silpat/teflon sheets, leaving about an inch space between pieces. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Bake according to the recipe, one tray at a time, until they are nicely browned - you want crunchy gingerbread, not chewy (but also not burned)!

As each tray of gingerbread pieces comes out of the oven, transfer them onto a chopping board, lay the pattern pieces over the corresponding gingerbread pieces and trim all the straight edges with a sharp non-serrated knife so that they once again match the pattern pieces (for Mary & Joseph, the manger, sheep and trees, that would just be the bottom edge; don't worry about trying to trim around the star). At this point you can trace the details from the pattern pieces onto the still hot gingerbread - just place the pattern piece on top of the gingerbread and trace over with a toothpick, leaving light grooves in the gingerbread, which you can then follow, later, when icing.

Leave the pieces on a flat surface to cool (not a cooling rack), until they are completely cool to the touch, then move to cooling racks and leave overnight. If the pieces still feel a bit soft the next day, return to the oven at a low temperature for a while to dry them out until they are nice and firm. If you try to assemble the Nativity Scene with 'chewy' gingerbread, it will sag and break.

Make up a batch of white royal icing - I love Sweetopia's Recipe! Decorate each piece of gingerbread, using the details on the pattern pieces, and my Nativity Scene as guidance. Have fun, try out different patterns and textures :) The whole thing could be iced in full colour too!

For the Background piece (the piece with the doves and donkey on it), first ice the arch, let it dry, then add the animal's  silhouettes and rafter. Finally, go over the rafter again, outline the arch and add details to the animals.

On many of my pieces, I iced a base of white first, then added detail once the base had dried.

Using royal icing, attach 'Stand' pieces to the back of the Background piece and the trees. Prop them up at 90º and make sure they are flush with the bottoms of the pieces. Leave to set.

Once set, attach the Background piece to the oval Base piece, using royal icing - set it as far back on the Base as possible, and slightly to the left of centre. Leave to set.

Next, attach the Star piece, gluing it onto the background with royal icing. Leave to set.
Add the Roof and Mary & Joseph. The roof will need holding in place for a while, until the royal icing has set enough to support it. Attach Baby Jesus to Mary & Joseph.
Attach the trees to the Base, so that they are in the foreground. Leave to set.
Attach the sheep to the base and the trees.

Your Nativity Scene is now done. I hope you had fun!


  1. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial Elaine. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Beautiful - Thank you for sharing! :)

  3. You are extremely talented! This has to be one of the most beautiful nativities I have eren seen. Thank you for sharing this tutorial.

  4. Elaine,
    Your sweets always look amazing, and the details are out of this world! I saved this
    tutorial years ago (probably when you first posted it), and I am so excited to be finally
    making it this year! Thank you for all of your inspiration!

  5. Is this Nativity Scene eatable? I mean is this gingerbread pieces after some time becoming soft and you can bite it? Or you will break you teeth? ;)

    1. It is 100% edible, but I would say only if you eat it within a couple of days of making it. One of the pieces of mine, that is darker (because I over baked it a bit) was a bit break teeth hard, but my son enjoyed eating it anyway 😉

  6. We made this last Christmas, had so many compliments. Thanks for sharing the pattern.

    1. That’s brilliant! I’m so glad you enjoyed using my pattern xx

  7. Cara Elaine,
    ho trovato il tuo blog e penso sia assolutamente fantastico. Questo tuo tutorial mi ha rapita e non sono riuscita a non tentare di farlo. Voglio dirti che sei bravissima e ti ammiro molto. Tenterò di tradurre in inglese ciò che penso, spero tu capisca anche con parole sbagliate!
    Dear Elaine,
    I found your blog and I think it's absolutely fantastic. This tutorial kidnapped me and I HAD to try it! I just would like to tell you are great and I admire your work. I'll try to translate in English what I feel, hope you'll understand even through wrong words!

  8. This is such a neat idea - thanks for laying out the whole pattern! I'm going to try it this Christmas and add some melted boiled candy to the background to make it look like the starlight is pouring down on the manger.

  9. I can't figure out how you painted the horse and how you were able to put the horse background in and have the horse look as if it is gingerbread and not white. How did you cut that shape to be gingerbread and to give you space to put white frosting on the horse to have it stand out?

    1. I haven't made this yet, but it appears the donkey is not a separate piece. It is drawn and piped directly onto the arched background piece of gingerbread. Mary and Joseph are separate pieces from the background.

  10. Köszönöm szépen ezt a gyönyörű betlehemet, a fantasztikus bemutató alapján én is elkészítettem tavaly karácsonyra, nagy sekere lett. Köszönöm!