So yes, last year, on Christmas Eve, and again on Christmas Day, pnr came over for a few hours, and we built this gingerbread TARDIS together.
The pictures below were taken by me and pnr, and most were polished up and hosted by pnr. Click all thumbnails for larger images!
First of all, we started by making the dough. You need special gingerbread dough for houses, and this is one I found online. The dough swells up a bit more in the oven than ordinary gingerbread dough, but it gets very sturdy and tough. The house stood well into summer this year, although the signs fell off quite a while before the walls started to sag. The dough needs to be made at least a day in advance.
Measures are metric, since I live in a European country. :)
(NOTE: Half this batch was quite enough for our TARDIS. I added more spices, but this is not important if you don't plan to actually eat the house.)
Gingerbread House Dough
400 gr (a little over 350 ml) granulated sugar
400 gr (a little less than 300 ml) golden syrup
200 gr butter
1 kilo (ca. 1.7 litres) plain flour
25 gr (1½ tbsp) bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
150 ml water
Bring sugar, syrup and butter to the boil in a thick-bottomed saucepan.
Mix all the dry ingredients and stir in the water to make a dough.
Pour the hot sugar-suryp-butter mix into the flour-and-water, and mix until you have a smooth dough. Let the dough rest overnight, covered with cling film.
½ of an egg white
ca. 200 ml icing sugar
½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (or a few drops acetic acid)
Stir the icing sugar little by little into the egg white. When the mix is smooth and holds together well without being too thick, add the lemon juice. Put the frosting into the corner of a plastic food bag, make a knot or put a bag clip on it, and when you are about to begin the frosting, snip off one corner of the bag. Make as small a hole as you can. (You can always make it bigger, but not smaller.)
You also need a big frying-pan to melt sugar in, for the "glue". As big and wide as possible!
Next: Make a paper pattern. A TARDIS is a really simple basic shape, just a square shed, really, so we sat down and draughted it right before starting. This is why the measurements are a bit odd -- we didn't really plan it all that thoroughly! The finished TARDIS is a bit too squat for my taste, but at least it was sturdy. :) Anyway, feel free to alter the dimensions; I'm just posting ours here in case it helps somebody.
• 1 base square, 13.5 - 14 cm square
• 4 sides, 21 x 11.5 cm (make the walls narrower if you want the TARDIS to look more proportionate)
• 4 side panelling pieces, same measurements as the sides (if you want the panel look of the TARDIS; for a simpler version, you can omit these and paint the panels on the sides with frosting instead). Not in the picture below is a pattern for the narrow panel strips that go in the middle of the panelling, between the doors, and right on top of them. That's because we forgot to make a pattern for them and had to cut them out on the fly as we went along. You can see them clearly on the third picture below.
• 8 corner post pieces, 21 x 1.5 cm
• 4 Police Public Call Box signs, 1.5 x 10.6 cm
• A roof plate, 11 x 11 cm. For the proper tiered roof, you need an additional roof square to put on top of this, 10 x 10 cm or so. Make a hole in the middle of both for the roof light.
• Small pieces to make a roof light with, if you don't plan to have a real light. I'm afraid you're on your own for that. :)
You also need to make the window panes and the front plaque out of something. We cheated, and printed out the plaque on ordinary printing paper, and made the window panes out of baking paper (which has that half-transparent quality). The wording on the plaque has varied slightly over the years, and sometimes it has been light text on dark background. Use whatever feels right to you.
We wanted to have a door that stood slightly ajar, so we cut out a door from one of the four side pieces and baked it separately. This also means cutting out the panelling for that door from one of the four panelling pieces, like you see on the pieces in the picture below.
Now, take out the dough, and knead it until it's soft and smooth. Roll it out with a rolling pin (or a clean wine bottle) until it's about 2 millimetres thick. Dust your table top with flour first, it makes it much easier to move the pieces later without messing them up. (I use a metal tea strainer for this.) Then lay the paper patterns on top of the dough, and cut them out carefully, using a scalpel or a sharp knife, or whatever you find works best. I used a metal dough scraper, which made really nice straight cuts.
Carefully transfer the pieces onto a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper on it (or just greased).
Heat the oven to ca. 200º C. Bake the pieces for 6-9 minutes -- times vary with ovens, check them as they bake!
We made a little mistake when we made our sides, which turned out to be a stroke of luck. We forgot to put the panelling bits on top of two of the sides before putting them in the oven -- so we had to put the pannelling on when the bottom layer was already done, and bake it again. It made the walls darker, but it really brought out the structure, AND those two walls didn't bloat as much -- they kept their shape much better! So this is what I recommend you do!
Check the finished pieces against the patterns as soon as you take them out of the oven. If they have altered shape too much, you can trim them with a sharp knife while they are still hot and soft. After they have cooled off, this is not possible.
When all the pieces are done, I recommend writing the text on the Police Public Call Box signs, as it's much easier to do before you stick them onto the TARDIS. So bring out that bag of frosting and snip the corner! Also, if you are going to make the panelling with frosting, you should consider doing that now as well. Also, now is the time to stick the window panes onto the insides of the window openings, and the front plaque onto the front wall. We used frosting for this.
Next, melt some sugar in that wide frying pan. This is a bit tricky, you need to keep the sugar from burning (too much), but you also need to keep it melted. N.B.: Melted sugar is really hot. Take care.
Dip the long edges of the four walls into the melted sugar and stick them together immediately. It sets really quickly. Then, dip the whole bottom of the square structure into the sugar, and set it onto the base. The door goes next.
Hopefully, the walls will be of roughly equal height, so that you can glue the roof on quite easily.
Then the eight corner posts pieces. The easiest way is to stick them on with lots of frosting, since you can't really dip the whole structure into the sugar at this stage. You can try glueing the corner posts together first, but you need to get the angle exactly right. We didn't trust ourselves that far. N.B. that frosting takes much longer to set than the melted sugar!
Last of all, glue the four signs onto the corner posts, above the doors.
(Please note that the thing on the top is a makeshift light -- we really wanted to get a big blinking diode light, but didn't think of it in time, i.e., before all the shops closed for X-mas.)
And just for good measure, here are a couple of more pictures, for your enjoyment:
And, last but not least, an example of pnr's mastery with Photoshop:
Good luck! :)