How Far Ahead Can You Make Gingerbread House Decorations?

When the Christmas season is over and the gingerbread house is done, it’s time to start planning for the next one!

Planning is half the fun, and making the decorations ahead of time can be a big help when you have an elaborate design to build. But how far ahead can you make the decorations for a gingerbread house? Maybe farther ahead than you think, depending on what they’re made from!

As a general rule, you can make decorations for gingerbread houses up to a year in advance if the materials being used won’t deteriorate from drying out over time. Some candy decorations can be constructed without any noticeable changes in appearance over time, but if the candy will be affected by changes in humidity, it might be better to wait.

So what kind of things can be made ahead, and what should wait?


How far in advance can I make the gingerbread house itself?

Contrary to many opinions, gingerbread can be baked ahead of time and frozen to be used at a later date. If the house isn’t meant to be eaten, any deterioration in the flavor of the gingerbread that results from long freezer storage won’t be an issue. It may be necessary to dry the pieces out before using them when they’re defrosted if the freezing process results in softening.

I’ve seen a lot of articles that say to dry out the gingerbread before using it, and they make it seem like there’s an exact amount of moisture that has to be in the gingerbread pieces or the house won’t work.

It’s really not that delicate…I bake my gingerbread and usually let it cool off completely overnight, but there’s no need to let it sit for a specific amount of time if it’s baked correctly to begin with.

The trick is that if the kind of gingerbread that’s used is more of a cookie than a construction gingerbread, it can remain soft and not make for a very sturdy house. It’s better to use a type of gingerbread that’s specifically meant for building houses.

If your gingerbread pieces are very soft, they might work okay but if it’s really humid where you are they might never be super sturdy. It doesn’t mean that the house won’t stand up, but using that kind of gingerbread for smaller houses is best.

You can bake the pieces months ahead of time and freeze them until a few days ahead of when you’ll need them, then defrost and test them for softness. If they seem too soft, you can put them in the oven on a low temperature (under 200 degrees F) to dry them out.

If they feel sturdy enough after defrosting, you don’t need to dry them out, just go ahead and use them to make the house!



Candy planters and topiaries that were made ahead of time
Candy planters and topiaries that were made ahead of time

How far in advance can I make candy decorations?

Gingerbread house decorations that are made from candy can be made a few months ahead if the candy can be stored in a climate-controlled environment. If the candy is made only from sugar, like peppermint sticks and hard candies, it can be affected by high humidity in the air and soften up. If the candy is made from chocolate or has other ingredients, it will probably be fine unless the environment is very hot. If the decorations are made and stored in an environment that’s generally comfortable for most people, the decorations will be fine at room temperature.

If you really think about it, there’s not much difference between making the decorations ahead of time and making them as you spend a month decorating an elaborate gingerbread house! They’ll still just be sitting there aging, so you might as well work ahead if you can to save time as you’re assembling the house.

Sugar is hygroscopic, which means that it attracts moisture in the air to it and will get softer over time. If you’ve ever started eating a lollipop that turns out to have a softer layer on the outside so that it feels like it’s old, that’s an example of the sugar attracting moisture. It might still look the same, but it won’t have the same texture.

Because the candy can soften up, it could also make any colors run, which you might have seen if you’ve ever seen peppermints that had their red stripes running into the white parts a little.

If the candy is made from chocolate or includes other ingredients like gelatin, those might not get softer, they might dry out. The different ingredients affect how the candy reacts over time, but regardless, they’ll probably still look the same. Marshmallows are a good example of things that end up drying out over time.

With all of these, other than the ones that have colors that could run, the decorations will probably end up looking the same if you make them months ahead of time. They might dry out or be softer than they started, but they will probably look exactly the same.

That means that you can make them months ahead of time and not worry about whether they’ll be usable or not. The quality for eating them might degrade, but they’ll still look okay!


Fondant garden arch gingerbread house landscaping decoration.
Fondant garden arch gingerbread house landscaping decoration.

How far ahead can you make fondant gingerbread house decorations?

Fondant is a sugar clay that dries out over time, so you can make decorations for gingerbread houses well in advance, then use them to decorate the house as needed. Fondant can be used to make landscaping details such as cobblestones, fences, and flowers, and all of these can be made ahead. Fondant that is stored at room temperature will dry out slowly over time from the outside in.

The garden arch in the photo was made from fondant and was used as a detail in the landscaping of a gingerbread house that I made. This is the kind of thing that you can do ahead of time, then place it in the garden when you’re ready.

The difficulty here is to make sure that the scale of the fondant pieces is right for the scale of the house, so planning ahead is important.

You can also make things like snowmen, wreaths, roof shingles and things like benches to place in the garden.

Fondant that has a little tylose or gumtex added into it will dry harder faster, so if you need things to dry quickly, add about 1/4 tsp of the gum into a pound of fondant.


Making decorations for your gingerbread house ahead of time is a good time-saving technique, and it will allow you to spend more time on making more elaborate decorations, too. Just make sure that you have everything planned out so that it fits together when it’s all assembled!

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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