Gingerbread House Icing

October  7, 2021
10 Ratings
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • makes enough for 1 house and a ton of decorations (or a few houses and a few decorations)
Author Notes

This is your BFF when building a gingerbread house. It dries like a rock and makes the daintiest little icicles.

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- KitchenAid Cordless Hand Mixer
- de Buyer Reusable Piping Bags
- Food52 x Rosti Margrethe Nested Mixing Bowls

molly yeh

Test Kitchen Notes

The sole expectation of gingerbread house icing is that it be edible glue, and Molly Yeh’s version here rises to the occasion. Take a cue from Erin McDowell’s gingerbread house guide, and make alternate cookies to eat while you build.

While most royal icing recipes call for the addition of egg whites, fewer call for stiffly-beaten egg whites, and fewer still call upon the stabilizing powers of cream of tartar. When egg whites are beaten, air bubbles get introduced into the liquid. The proteins in egg whites are forced to denature and rebuild as a webby network between the introduced air bubbles. Cream of tartar works by stopping these protein networks from growing too strong and close together. This is why cream of tartar often appears in recipes where stiffly-beaten egg whites are too—it allows whipped egg whites to become their most voluminous and elastic selves (as opposed to clumpy and dry).

Maybe you’re wondering: What’s egg white volume and structure got to do with gingerbread house icing? A puffy icing that’s structurally sound, like Molly’s version, swells into gingerbread nooks and crannies with ease, and can build upon itself to create structural, decorative elements ("daintiest little icicles," indeed). Because of the cream of tartar, the icing remains supple as it dries, so it won't crack.

If you’d like to add flavoring or extract, add it after the egg whites have whipped, with the machine running on low (mix until it just disappears).

As Erin mentions in her guide on how to build a stunning and stable gingerbread house: Grab a friend to build with you. Having a second set of hands to stabilize walls when you attach the roof (or need a cookie break) makes the whole process even more enjoyable. —Coral Lee

What You'll Need
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Gingerbread House Icing
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Continue to beat on medium-high speed for 7 to 10 minutes, until very fluffy.
  2. Immediately spoon into a piping bag and use. Any frosting that's not being used should remain under plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should touch the surface of the frosting), so that it doesn't dry out.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kieonna Lynette May
    Kieonna Lynette May
  • Sarah McCann
    Sarah McCann
  • Elizabeth Irwin Harrison
    Elizabeth Irwin Harrison
  • trampledbygeese
molly yeh recently moved from brooklyn to a farm outside of grand forks, north dakota, where her husband is a fifth generation farmer. she writes the blog my name is yeh.

11 Reviews

DT December 24, 2023
This recipe would be much easier to follow if you gave a weight measurement for the powdered sugar, and possibly volume for the egg whites as well. Ours was much too liquid, didn't set, had to keep adding powdered sugar.
tekkie22 December 10, 2023
Excellent glue! Worked perfectly with my gingerbread house. Thank you!
Teeth November 20, 2022
I have a question. I'm using meringue powder. Do I still need to add the cream of tartar
Nickewolfe November 26, 2021
Great recipe. I added 3 TBSPs of lime juice and a 1/2 cup extra powdered Sugar, which makes this recipe a nice contrast to the gingerbread flavors. (If you are using it to glue together a gingerbread house/ village).
Joanna R. December 8, 2020
Can I use pasteurized, liquid egg whites?
Kieonna L. December 6, 2020
Didn’t want to set up for us at all... I don’t know how to help it along 😂 but we’re eating it anyways 🤷🏼‍♀️
Sarah M. December 14, 2019
The best gingerbread frosting (glue) I have ever used! Gets tacky quick and crusts quickly!
Jayma V. December 21, 2018
We used this tonight for our graham cracker houses, and it was perfect!!! Thank you!!!
Elizabeth I. December 21, 2017
We add a few drops of peppermint extract so it tastes (and smells) nicer.
trampledbygeese December 24, 2014
Wanted to let you know that I kid-tested the gingerbread house glue tonight. They say it's the best icing ever!

Happy Holidays.
Layla December 19, 2018
Great GLUE recipe.. THE BEST I have found in the 10 years of making gingerbread houses. Recently made 6 houses for nursing center. No worries..the houses stood up to the test of many . Looking for a great gingerbread house dough recipe? ..try the Necco gingerbread house recipe. Using for 10 years..easy and