Delight neighbors and coworkers with edible gingerbread boxes this year. Fill boxes with candy (gumdrops, miniature candy canes and hard candies work well) and place lids on top. Wrap in cellophane and tie with a ribbon.
Make gingerbread: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt shortening. Whisk in sugar and molasses; mix well. Remove pan from heat and stir in flour mixture until combined.
Divide dough in half. Let sit out at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. While still warm, roll out dough on a floured sheet of parchment to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use a knife and a clean ruler to cut dough into 12 3-inch squares (for bottoms and lids), 12 4-by-2 1/2-inch rectangles (for tall boxes) and 12 2 1/2-inch squares (for short boxes). Reroll scraps as needed. Transfer to baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
Bake in batches until firm and browning at edges, 15 to 17 minutes per batch. If edges have bowed, use flat side of a knife to press edges inward while cookies are still hot. Let pieces cool on parchment on wire racks.
Make royal icing: Stir until thick and fluffy. Fill a piping bag with icing. (Or spoon into a ziplock bag; using scissors, cut a small hole in corner.)
Build boxes: Pipe icing decorations on all side panels (4-by-2 1/2-inch and 2 1/2-inch-square pieces); let set for 1 hour. Pipe icing generously around perimeter, close to edges, of a 3-inch square. Pipe along sides and edges of side panels; set side panels on bottom piece. Pipe decorative stripes on outside seams. To create a lid, use icing to adhere a large candy to center of a 3-inch square. Repeat until all cookies are used. Let boxes dry overnight.
GIVE THEM Fill boxes with candy (gumdrops, miniature candy canes and hard candies work well) and place lids on top. Wrap in cellophane and tie with ribbon.