Can You Use Regular Icing For A Gingerbread House?

When you’re making a gingerbread house you might be tempted to use regular buttercream icing, but you’ll be running some risks if you do!

Using regular icing to assemble and decorate a gingerbread house can be risky because normal icing doesn’t dry hard, so it might not hold the house together. Store-bought icing and other types of buttercream icings don’t contain hardening ingredients, so while they can be used to decorate, they won’t work well as gingerbread house edible glue.

While it’s not a good idea to use regular icing to glue the house together, you might be able to use regular icing for the decorating part of it as long as the icing isn’t too thin.


buttercream icing
Regular buttercream icing.

Do you have to use royal icing for a gingerbread house?

Royal icing is the traditional edible glue that is used to build gingerbread houses because it dries hard and will give you a solid structure to decorate. There are, however, different types of edible glue that can be used for assembling the house, and royal icing doesn’t need to be used to decorate the house.

Royal icing has ingredients that make the icing dry like cement, and it contains no fats at all, so it’s good for building, but not necessarily for eating.

If you don’t want to use royal icing, you can use one of the other methods to glue a house together that I write about in this article: What’s The Best Glue For Gingerbread Houses? Four Types Compared.

I’d say that if you want to use regular buttercream icing, you shouldn’t use it to actually build the house.

To put a gingerbread house together, you should use something that will create a stronger bond between the pieces, because you want it to be solid enough that you can put pressure on it while you’re decorating it.

Regular icing won’t be a good choice for the actual assembly, but the decorating part would be fine with regular icing as long as you don’t need to save the house for any length of time.

For an article with a recipe for royal icing, click here: Strong Gingerbread House icing that Hardens.


gingerbread a-frame house
A-Frame house decorated with regular icing.

Can you use normal icing to decorate a gingerbread house?

As a general rule, using normal icing to decorate a gingerbread house will work fine if the icing doesn’t contain butter, and if the house doesn’t need to be saved for more than a few days. If the weather is hot or humid, normal buttercream icing might not hold up well for decorating purposes, but if the air is cool and dry it should be fine.

Buttercream icing is made with butter, shortening, or a combination of the two.

If you’re going to use normal icing to decorate the house, you should use a recipe that doesn’t contain any butter, which will need to be refrigerated to prevent spoilage.

Using shortening-based icing will be fine to decorate a house, and you’ll be able to leave the house at room temperature without worrying about the icing turning rancid.

Air-dry buttercream is used by cake decorators to make flowers and other decorations that can be piped ahead of time and allowed to dry.

You can use this recipe to decorate your house and it will be fine without refrigeration because there’s nothing perishable in it.

It will dry out eventually, and it won’t last nearly as long as royal icing, but it will work for the decorating part.


Air-Dry Buttercream Recipe:


1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
1 cup vegetable shortening (no butter)
Water to add to get to the consistency you want for piping or spreading. Start with about 1/4 cup and add as needed.
2 Tbsp meringue powder (optional)

  • Cream the shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the sugar in and mix well.
  • Add the meringue powder if you want to use any. That will make the icing stiffer.
  • Add the water in bit by bit while mixing the icing to thin the mixture to the desired thickness.
  • For decorating, the icing should be spreadable but not too wet. If it seems like it’s really wet, add some more sugar to thicken it.

You can also use this icing to put a graham cracker house together if you’re using the milk carton method of sticking the graham crackers to the carton.

Use some buttercream icing to stick it all together, then let them set up a little before decorating.

This might be hard to do if it’s hot or humid, because the icing isn’t going to stay in place and the little graham cracker house might slide off the carton!

For an article about decorating gingerbread houses while it’s humid, click here.


Put houses on boards when you decorate with regular icing.

Can you use canned icing for gingerbread houses?

Canned icing can be used for decorating gingerbread houses, but not for building them because it’s generally too soft to act as a reliable glue. Because store-bought icing contains ingredients that prevent it from drying out, it will never dry hard enough to hold a real gingerbread house together.

If you want your canned icing to be stiffer, you can add some confectioner’s sugar to it to thicken it up.

Because it still has fats in it it won’t dry hard like royal icing, but it could be fine for decorating the house if you don’t need the house to last very long.

I decorated the A-Frame house with canned icing to see how it would work, and it was fine because of the design of the house.

The candy stuck to the house and supported itself with the lower rows holding the upper rows up.

It was hard to move the house around, though, because the icing wasn’t hardening and it let the candy get knocked out of its place.

So remember to put the house on something that you can move around without having to pick the house up if you’re using normal icing on it!

If you want to use regular icing to decorate your house, put the house on a board or a plate so that you can move it around without disturbing the candy!


Tips for decorating a gingerbread house with normal icing.

  • Use regular icing to decorate the house, not to assemble it.
  • Making graham cracker houses that are supported on the inside can be done with regular icing for the assembly as long as the weather isn’t too hot or humid.
  • Add some confectioner’s sugar to canned icing if it’s too thin and very creamy. Icing that’s too wet isn’t going to be supportive when you stick candy to the roof or the side of a house, so you’ll need to thicken it.
  • Using air-dry buttercream is a good option if you want the house to last for a few days and dry out a little.
  • Simple house designs are usually better for regular buttercream decorating.
  • Don’t plan on saving houses that are decorated with regular icing for very long, they’re meant to be eaten!
  • You can use both royal icing and buttercream icing on a gingerbread house if you want to decorate parts of it in specific ways, or if some parts need a sturdier icing that dries harder.
  • Put your gingerbread house on a board or a plate so that you can turn that instead of touching the house if you decorate it with regular icing. This will help you to not move the candy that’s on the house already.

The benefit of using regular icing to decorate the house is that it won’t dry rock-hard, and you’ll be able to eat the candy off of the house without breaking your teeth.

The downside of using regular icing is that if it’s warm, the decorations might slide right off of the cake if the icing melts.

Choose your icing wisely, based on the weather conditions and how long you need the house to last!

Kara

Kara is a former wedding cake decorator who has won numerous awards for her cake designs and gingerbread houses. She currently owns a cake decorating supply business at acaketoremember.com

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