This is our popular recipe for a perfect gingerbread house icing, it’s an easy-to-make royal icing that holds its shape beautifully for pretty piped icing on your gingerbread houses!
There are countless types of icings and frostings out there (in fact, I have a cookbook called Frostings full of dozens of delicious frosting recipes). Not every type of icing is good for gingerbread houses, however. This royal icing is the best gingerbread house icing to use when constructing your houses.
What’s the best type of icing for gingerbread houses?
ROYAL ICING is the ideal icing to use for gingerbread houses because when it dries, it becomes very hard so your gingerbread house will stay secure and your hard candies will stay where you place them.
Essentially, this gingerbread house royal icing serves as the glue or mortar that holds the gingerbread house pieces together and keeps the candies on the house. Pipe thick lines of this icing to hold the front pieces, side pieces, walls and roof pieces together AND to add pretty, ruffled borders along the edges.
We have found through the years, that since you have to let the walls and sides “set up” (aka let the royal icing harden), it can be hard to also decorate at the same party. So we pre-make our gingerbread houses and let the kids just get to the fun part of decorating, this is especially helpful for little kids who just want to put candies on the house!
Now, if you’re wanting a fully edible house, then this royal icing is perfect. It basically acts as edible glue to hold your gingerbread house together.
If you just want to decorate the house (but not eat it), then you can construct your house with the help of hot glue and then make this royal icing to pipe the edges and use as a glue for candies like gum drops, red hots, candy canes, etc. The option is yours!
Is it safe to eat gingerbread house icing?
Since the icing is not cooked, be sure to use pasteurized egg whites if you plan to eat the royal icing. Keep in mind, royal icing won’t taste great because as it dries, it becomes very hard.
How do I make colored royal icing?
I recommend you use gel food coloring if you want to tint your royal icing a color because liquid food colorings might change your consistency if you use a lot of drops.
The gel food coloring produces the best colors, in my opinion, and you just dip a toothpick into the gel food container and then straight into your icing. A little goes a long way!
Tips for Piping Fluffy, Ruffled Royal Icing Edges
This royal icing is a thick consistency, which means it will hold its shape when piped through a pastry bag + tip or an icing decorator tool + tip. I recommend this icing decorator and the star tip that comes with the set for standard or large gingerbread houses. For smaller, mini houses, I recommend a pastry bag with a small, star tip (any smaller sized star-shaped tip will work).
We use star-shaped or “fluted tips” to create the ruffled shape and as we pipe along the edges, we zig-zag ever so slightly to create a ruffled, wavy border along the houses. This gives the houses their big fluffy, snow-like borders!
For the roof pieces, I like to simply use the back of a spoon to smear this royal icing over the roof and then add sprinkles, hard candies, peppermints, candy canes, etc.
Royal Icing: Just 3 Ingredients
Do I have to use Cream of Tartar?
Yes, don’t leave out this crucial ingredient. The cream of tartar acts as a stabilizer for the egg whites so you have a big fluffy, glossy icing.
Tips for Making Royal Icing
This is a very simple royal icing recipe, but here are a few tips that you might find helpful!
- Make sure your eggs are room temperature.
- You can substitute the carton liquid egg whites for the fresh egg whites! This is super helpful if you’re making several batches for a gingerbread house party!
- This makes a very thick royal icing which holds its shape which is perfect for piping pretty ruffled edges using a piping tip, but feel free to adjust the powdered sugar down (by about 1/2 cup) if you find it too thick to pipe.
- Add more powdered sugar (a little at a time) if your icing consistency is too loose.
- Always keep a damp cloth over your icing bowl to prevent it from crusting and drying out while working with building your gingerbread house! I’ve also heard that you can layer plastic wrap over your bowl as well.
- Where do I find cream of tartar in the grocery store? Look in the baking aisle, with spice section! Or you can find it online here.
- Double or triple this recipe for larger or multiple gingerbread houses. (Tip: Costco is a great place to buy big bags of powdered sugar)
If you need a good gingerbread cookie dough recipe to make a gingerbread house from scratch, then I highly recommend this gingerbread cookie dough! You can also use graham crackers or other cookies for a semi-homemade gingerbread house! I use this recipe for royal icing shown below as the gingerbread house icing on ALL my gingerbread houses, semi-homemade or fully constructed from scratch!
- Check out my Gingerbread House Tutorial (Graham Cracker Houses)
- Check out my Mini Gingerbread House Tutorial
- Create a Gingerbread House Cookie Board
Gingerbread House Royal Icing
- electric mixer
- 3 large egg whites room temperature, (or 1/2 cup liquid egg whites)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 5 cups powdered sugar (also called confectioners' sugar)
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (on medium speed), beat together egg whites and cream of tartar. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time and beat for about 3-4 minutes or until mixture is thick and fluffy, and has fairly stiff peaks. Stop the mixer to scrape down the bowl periodically, as needed.
- You may need to add more powdered sugar if your icing is too loose, do so by adding more powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments, until desired consistency I achieved. Humidity/weather can also cause icing to be too loose/runny. You want to be sure you have stiff peaks, so increase powdered sugar until it's stiff. We find 4 1/2 – 5 cups to do the trick, but adjust accordingly. You want to be able to pull a knife through the icing and it doesn't run back together. This will ensure that it holds the shape you want when piped! If too thick to pipe, add just a teaspoon or two of water (at a time) to thin the icing out.
- Since it dries quickly, keep the icing covered with a damp cloth while working. Ideally, use the royal icing right away. If I starts to set up while you are working on your gingerbread house, just give it a good stir to soften it back up.
I hope you’ll enjoy making gingerbread houses this holiday season! It’s a favorite holiday tradition for my family!
1st and 3rd photo by Evin Photography