When you’re sticking a gingerbread house together, you want it to stay in one piece fast and not fall apart as you’re decorating it.
Different types of glues work better to accomplish this, so I’ve rounded up the pros and cons of four different types of edible glue for making and decorating the houses.
So what is the best glue for gingerbread houses? It depends on whether you want to decorate or build with it, and the age group that’s using it.
Royal Icing is generally the best glue for gingerbread houses because it can be used to build the house and to decorate it as well. In addition, it’s used at room temperature, so it’s safe for kids to use and won’t cause burns. It’s also edible, so it can be included in houses that are meant to be eaten later.
What are other types of gingerbread house glue, and how do they stack up against the classic royal icing?
Using Royal Icing as gingerbread house glue.
Royal icing is the classic white icing made from confectioner’s sugar, cream of tartar and egg whites or meringue powder that is used for decorating and assembling gingerbread houses. It’s used to build them and also to decorate them because it dries hard and will stick the candy decorations to the house when the icing dries.
Different consistencies of the icing can also be used to create water effects and piped decorations on the gingerbread house.
Royal icing is used for edible glue, but is also used in cookie and cake decorating for floodwork and piping designs.
Because it can be thinned down by adding a little water to adjust the consistency, it can be used in many ways on one gingerbread house.
The thicker icing should be used as glue to hold the walls together and to attach the candy decorations to the house.
You can spread icing on the roof and stick candy onto it, or put a little bit on each candy individually.
Thinning the icing a little will make it stickier and easier to pipe, and at that point it can be used to ice the roof or pipe designs and vines onto the gingerbread.
Be careful when thinning down royal icing, because a tiny bit of water will make it a lot runnier than you expect it to.
If that happens you’ll have to add more sugar to thicken it up, and maybe more egg white or meringue powder if you have a recipe that uses those.
The downside of royal icing is that it’s very humidity-sensitive, and if you live somewhere humid it can take a very long time for the icing to set up and dry.
Verdict: Good for all ages, can be used for both building and decorating.
Using hot glue for gingerbread house glue.
Using hot glue to attach a gingerbread house together immediately makes it not edible, so make sure to only use it if that’s fine for your project. Hot glue works fine for building a gingerbread house, and might also be used to attach some of the candy decorations, but the surfaces need to be free of flour and other loose materials, and the candy shouldn’t be anything that will melt.
Cleaning the pieces before gluing them will work best to allow the glue to attach to the surfaces.
Hot glue is generally best to use for gingerbread houses that will be displayed only, and also for houses where little kids won’t try to pick pieces off to eat them.
I wouldn’t recommend using hot glue to attach the candy decorations because of this.
Because the hot glue isn’t edible, using it to decorate the house will run the risk of people who don’t know about it being on the house eating it by accident.
Even if people don’t eat the gingerbread itself, it’s not unusual for someone to pick a piece of the candy off to eat it, so someone might eat the dried glue.
It’s usually better to stick to the edible glues for decorating to avoid that happening!
Verdict: Good for building the house, not great for decorating, not edible, not great for young kids.
Using candy melts or chocolate for gingerbread house glue.
Candy melts, candy coating, and chocolate are sometimes used to build gingerbread houses, and they can be fairly effective. When these cool off, they form a really strong bond, especially the candy melts/candy coating. They can be used to stick the house together and can also be used for the decorations, but that might be less convenient because of the need to keep the candy melts hot so that they don’t seize up.
Candy melts are completely edible, so if you want to keep everything edible on your house they’ll work fine for that purpose.
Building the house using candy melt glue will generally result in a sturdy structure.
When it comes to attaching the decorations, though, you would need to have melted candy melts in a piping bag to use to attach each candy individually, because you can’t spread the melted candy melts out and stick the decorations to it over time.
If the candy melts cool off they’ll harden, and you’ll have to keep putting them in the microwave to soften them up again.
This makes it less kid-friendly as an icing, so it’s something to keep in mind.
Verdict: Good for building, edible, inconvenient for decorating, not the best choice for kids.
Using hot sugar or isomalt for gingerbread house glue.
Hot sugar or cooked isomalt can be used to create a sugar glue that will bond the pieces of a gingerbread house together, but it needs to be used with the proper precautions. The sugar has to get to temperatures over 320 to 340 degrees F to melt, and it presents a burn hazard as a result. Never use this method when you have children or pets in the kitchen because they can present a danger to the person cooking the sugar.
Hot sugar glue is an old method that professional chefs have used to attach gingerbread houses together for years, because the sugar forms a very strong and fast bond.
However, it’s dangerous! Don’t do it if you’re not familiar with working with hot sugar.
I saw that someone recently posted a video on social media that shows herself doing this, but I wouldn’t recommend that people use this method unless you’re clear on what’s involved with it.
Always wear gloves when working with hot sugar, because if you get the melted sugar on your skin it will stick there and continue to burn your skin, and you can’t wipe that stuff off.
I’ve burned myself pretty badly on hot isomalt and sugar in the time I was decorating wedding cakes, and it’s nothing to play around with.
It’s also difficult to use hot sugar to decorate the houses, because of the same reason. It’s HOT!!! It’s much safer to use royal icing unless you’re really well-versed with sugar work.
Verdict: Edible, not a kid-friendly material, good for building, not great for decorating unless you’re experienced with sugar work.
For an article with more warnings about things to be aware of if you want to use the hot sugar glue, click here!
Overall, Royal Icing is the go-to for gingerbread house decorating because of how many ways you can use it. Start with that, and if you need a different method for a specific reason you can try out one of the other ones.
Another question that people have is whether canned icing can be used for gingerbread houses…Read this article for more information on that! Can You Use Regular Icing For Gingerbread Houses?
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