A cake stand can be the perfect place to create a charming Christmas vignette. I’m sharing how I created a gingerbread vignette on a cake stand, as well as tips and other vignette ideas.
Gingerbread Vignette on a Cake Stand
To create a gingerbread vignette on a cake stand, you’ll need a few different items and a plan.
The main things you will need are:
- A cake stand or an alternative (keep reading for more ideas)
- Small items to add to your vignette such as trees, people, or animals
- Fake snow
- A decorated gingerbread cookie backdrop, and optional other gingerbread items
I will explain each component and walk through my process for planning out my gingerbread vignette.
The Cake Stand
I’ve been hunting for a cake stand for more than 10 years, but I have never found the right one. I always wanted a white ceramic one – nice and classic – but I was picky about the edge and didn’t want anything too fancy or scalloped. And I’m glad I didn’t find the right one – until recently.
A few weeks ago, I found the perfect cake stand at the Real Canadian Superstore, here in Canada. It’s ceramic, 12 inches in diameter, and a beautiful mint/aqua colour (my favourite blue greens again!). It was $25, but I redeemed points and got it for free. Even better! (I would link it, but I think they’re all sold out already unfortunately.)
I envision using the cake stand on a hutch in the dining room for display, or on open shelves in the kitchen, neither of which I have yet. It would also obviously look beautiful with a cake or pie on it, but I would even use it on my craft room shelves.
A cake stand is a great display space for a vignette as the added height gives it a sense of drama and emphasis, making whatever’s on it seem special. There’s a reason we put museum treasures on pedestals.
Alternatives to a Cake Stand
If you don’t have a cake stand, there are several other items you could use to make a vignette, even if they aren’t elevated. For example:
- Large plate (which you could also prop up on an upside down bowl as long as it’s stable)
- Round tray (a tarnished, vintage silver or brass one would be lovely)
- Rectangular tray
- Even a shallow ceramic baking pan could look cute and work in a pinch
- Or build your vignette inside a large glass cookie jar
Tip: You can also deploy a trick I love using and elevate a plate or tray on a stack of large books (vintage books would look great). Just be sure it’s stable so you don’t end up with any broken dishes.
Items to Add to Your Gingerbread Vignette
Go through your Christmas decor and see if you have small things that you would like to add to your gingerbread vignette or scene. Think things like elves, deer, trees, or other miniatures of some sort.
If you don’t have anything that works, you can create items out of gingerbread using a template or cookie cutter. You’ll need to either figure out how to make them self supporting by design, “glue” a support behind with icing, or prop them up against another object.
Tip: If you’re using a larger tray for the vignette, try building some 3D mini gingerbread houses with walls and roofs to take up more space.
I also think that knitting some small creatures would be a great addition to your vignette. For example, I’m imagining using the little knitted mouse pattern in my holiday knitting pattern roundup (it’s #10).
In a recent post, I wrote about the miniature pipe cleaner versions I have of our two dogs. Every year I set them up in some sort of little scene, and this year I wanted to create the gingerbread vignette for them.
I also have a trio of medium sized vintage bottle brush trees that I wanted to incorporate.
Typical fake snow from a craft store is made of styrofoam or plastic bags which static clings to everything. It’s also not very environmentally friendly. But I bought a 3 quart bag of Buffalo Snow a number of years ago and I carefully reuse it each year, scooping it back into the bag. I tried to find a link, but I feel like the fake snow market has changed quite a bit since then and I can’t Buffalo Snow at Michaels anymore.
There are other food alternatives to fake snow such as granulated sugar, or shredded coconut. These would be a good choice if you are making all of your items out of gingerbread or using a cookie jar, but I wouldn’t put them around precious treasures you’d like to keep.
Tip: If you do use or purchase some sort of fake snow, save it to reuse year after year. It’s more economical that way, and better for the environment.
Gingerbread Cookie Backdrop for the Vignette
Planning the Cookie Backdrop
To plan the gingerbread backdrop for the vignette, I used my cake stand and some regular 8.5 x 11 inch paper. I knew I wanted a trio of houses to curve around the back of the cake stand that would feel a little bit like a town square.
So I played around with the paper, folding, trimming, and taping, until I had the size and scale I wanted. I also brought out my vintage bottle brush trees for scale.
I knew that I would not be able to create the correct scale of cookies for the pipe cleaner dogs I have. The cookies would need to be much bigger. But, by setting the cookies at the back, and the dogs at the front of the cake stand, I hoped that perspective would make the cookies look like they were farther in the background. Plus, it’s a vignette made of gingerbread – it doesn’t have to be perfect!
Tip: Think about scale between the gingerbread and your other objects when planning. Use the depth of your cake stand or tray to space elements apart to create a background and foreground. This will help to create perspective if your scale is not accurate.
I decided on the centre house being 5.5 x 11 inches and made both side houses just slightly narrower at 5.25 inches wide.
Next, I took a cereal box and opened it up flat. I drew the size of the rectangles on the cardboard – one for the centre and one for both sides as I decided I would make those the same.
Then I searched on Google Images for tall and narrow Amsterdam row houses for inspiration, as well as looking at pictures of gingerbread houses with white piped icing. This article has the picture of the Amsterdam row houses I looked at.
I lightly sketched out some doors, windows, and decorative features, but I was mostly concerned about the roof shape at this point. Then I cut out the templates.
Constructing the Gingerbread Houses
To make my gingerbread, I used my Betty Crocker gingerbread recipe, which called for 7 cups of flour. That seemed like an awful lot, so I made a half batch and that was adequate for what I needed. I rolled out the dough quite thin, and then laid my templates on top. Holding them in place with my hand, I used a paring knife to trace around the template edge.
Then I ended up sliding the template carefully underneath them to move them onto parchment on my baking sheet. I got a few rips in the dough which I just patched as well as I could.
Then I baked the gingerbread houses until they didn’t indent any more when I pressed on them and they were starting to brown around the edges. Finally, I let them cool fully and ended up leaving them out overnight because I didn’t have time to decorate them.
Tip: While you don’t want to burn your gingerbread, make sure it’s well baked so it’s not soft and will have good structure. Once baked, let them cool completely and handle the pieces as little as possible so they don’t break. If they do break, you can glue them together again with icing and hide the crack with decorations.
Decorating the Gingerbread Cookies
Because I am using these cookies for display and not for eating, I chose to make Royal Icing with raw eggs (which is not safe to eat). It hardens nicely and acts as the glue to attach the cookies together, and also to decorate them.
I mixed up one batch, and put it in a piping bag with a small round tip. Now, I have extremely little piping experience. And I wondered if I had overbeat the icing because it took so much effort to pipe it. But slowly I freehanded the designs I had drawn on my templates, adapting them slightly as I went along.
It was hard work – definitely my arm workout for the day – but also fun. My piping is pretty messy, but the beauty of white piping on gingerbread is that any blobs can be viewed as snow. Plus, when you look at it quickly as a whole, it looks better.
When they were mostly dry, I carefully ran icing down the right side of the centre house and stood it up on the cake stand with a can of tomato soup behind it. Then I attached the right house, holding it for a while. Once that was drying, I ran icing down the left side of the centre house and added the left house. Then I held them again for a bit. Finally, I just stood nearby to make sure they didn’t start to fall over.
I was so relieved when they were dry and nothing had collapsed and I hadn’t broken them. Afterward, I added some more icing at the back of the seams for good measure. When it was dry, I carefully transported the cake stand and gingerbread to the shelf in the living room. Then I removed the tomato soup can and *carefully* slid the whole cookie structure to the back of the cake stand. Success!
Assembling the Rest of the Gingerbread Vignette on a Cake Stand
The rest came together very quickly. I placed the bottle brush trees off to the sides. They block the houses a little bit, but that’s ok.
Next, I placed some fake snow around the cake stand. It’s helpful that the cake plate has a bit of a rim at the edge. And then I positioned my little pipe cleaner dogs at the front to create distance and perspective away from the houses.
Christmas Gingerbread Vignette on a Cake Stand
I love this little gingerbread vignette on a cake stand! I think it’s my favourite scene that I’ve created with my miniature Millie and Oliver. And it has an added bonus that the gingerbread smells delicious every time I walk by.
When the season is over, I will dust the fake snow off the gingerbread and compost it. I will pack up the bottle brush trees and pipe cleaner dogs, and scoop the fake snow back into the bag. I also plan to keep the cardboard templates for next year. That way, I can recreate it next year, or at least save the sizes and start more quickly on a new design.
Tip: Save your templates for starting measurements in case you want to repeat the project in the future.
But I definitely will make a gingerbread vignette again. It may look intimidating, but it was pretty easy (minus squeezing the piping bag!) and a fun holiday project. And I love how it looks with our Christmas decor.
To see more of my Christmas decorating, check out Vintage Christmas Decor.
I want to hear from you. Do you like setting up little holiday scenes with miniatures? Do you enjoy making and decorating gingerbread houses? Have you ever made or would you ever make a gingerbread vignette? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,