Gingerbread House + Icing (Paleo, Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)
This is one of my most favorite things that I've ever made because there's so much heart and nostalgia behind it. I've wanted to make a gingerbread house for years, but I've never really taken the opportunity to do it until now. I've even come close to buying a pre-made kit just so I could have fun decorating it and then, well, stare at the box because I couldn't eat any of it due to food allergens and intolerances.
This gingerbread and icing recipe is gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, cane sugar-free, paleo, low/no sugar and it tastes really yummy. It's like being a kid again, and around Christmas time it's a wonderful feeling.
I'm going to tell you everything you need to know in this blog post: tips, a recipe for gingerbread and royal icing, my favorite food coloring options, specific ingredients and also a few things I've learned along the way.
This isn't about making anyone else feel bad for buying a kit. If you can buy a kit and it works for you, that's great. Not everyone has the luxury to be able to eat store-bought gingerbread. Plus, you might still get a few tips on decorating and perhaps enjoy this royal icing recipe, too.
Gingerbread House tips:
Use a cookie cutter kit like this one -- seriously! It's much easier, and you don't have to measure any walls (or a roof) out. It will have all the cookie cutters you need to build a house (and 3D Christmas trees, reindeer, snowmen and a sleigh!), and you can reuse it every single time. (See photo below)
Let the gingerbread cool completely before building.
Make sure you have all the pieces you need before moving on to decorating.
I really prefer to use this cassava flour from Otto's Naturals over other brands. It seems to work best no matter what I use it for.
I used a granulated monk fruit sugar from Lakanto (see it here) to keep the sugar and carbs low.
I experimented with maple syrup and other sweetener options, but the added maple syrup really helped with bringing this recipe together. I used real maple syrup, but you could experiment with a low-carb option.
If you want to make "windows" for your house, cut out window shapes on the sides of the house, or give yours a "skylight" like mine. Place it on the cookie sheet and in the open window areas before baking, add crushed hard candies (I used a cane sugar-free sucker from this brand). I tried candy canes, but it made them like "foggy windows" rather than "glass" looking. If you use different colored candies then they will look like stained glass.
Make sure you blend/whip icing with a hand beater (or stand mixer) until stiff peaks. I like this cordless hand mixer.
If the icing seems too airy, mix it for 10 seconds with the mixer to bring it back to life.
You could use traditional powdered cane sugar if that's what you prefer and it should work, but I haven't tried it.
Use powdered food coloring (like this one) to make fun colors.
I prefer to use this confectioners blend of powdered stevia for the icing. Perhaps you could use something different, but this is what has worked for me time and time again.
First and foremost, have so much fun with this.
You could either wing it with the decorating, or you could sketch out what you picture in your mind... either way works!
Gingerbread houses can be messy. Frosting will get everywhere and some sprinkles will fall on the floor, but the fun outweighed the mess for us.
Start early in the day with the decorating if you want to do it all at once.
You can spend a little time each night - you don't have to do it all in one shot.
Bake the gingerbread the day before so you can focus on decorating.
Find fun and random things to use for decorations.
Consider decorating each piece of the frame before putting it together. Just make sure everything has dried and set before trying glue it together with icing. It's more fun to put the house together first (in my opinion), but it's more "professional" to decorate and then assemble.
Consider using a Lazy Susan like this one to help you decorate with ease. I'm so glad I bought one for a few bucks for this specific reason. It also protects your gingerbread house when turning it and moving it around.
For decorating, I like to use sprinkles from Supernatural and Color Kitchen Foods, Smart Sweets low-sugar gummies, (discount code: KrystensKitchen), cereal and other cute little gingerbread cookies that I made with leftover dough.
If you have any silicone molds that aren't too small, you can use the icing in the silicone molds to create shapes. Just pop them in the freezer to harden faster.
Just for fun, I put a remote and battery-operated flameless candle in my house so that I could make it look like a cute little gingerbread family was inside sitting by the fireplace. I'm assuming they're either watching Hallmark Christmas movies or listening to Bing Crosby. Sounds nice and cozy.
This will make one full house + lots of props and extra cookies:
1 cup cashew butter
1 cup granulated monk fruit sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon clove
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 cup cassava flour
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Using a hand mixer, beat together cashew butter, monk fruit sugar, vanilla and maple syrup until creamy. Add in 2 eggs and mix.
In a separate bowl, mix spices, baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot and cassava flour. Pour half into the wet mixture and mix with a fork or large spoon. You may need to use your hands. Add in the rest of the dry mixture and combine until sticky dough forms. If it seems too sticky, add in 1/2 tablespoon of cassava flour, but only if you think it's too wet. It's okay if the dough is sticky, though. Let the dough sit for a few minutes (wash your hands and clean up your space).
Spoon out about half the dough onto a piece of parchment paper laid out on your counter. Place another piece of parchment on top and roll out flat (about 1/4 thick) with a rolling pin. I like this rolling pin.
Use cookie cutters to create shapes and carefully place shapes onto a parchment lined baking sheet. See notes above for making "glass" windows. Bake big pieces for 15 minutes and smaller pieces for 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer cookies (which might seem soft) to a cooling rack after 5 minutes. Do not start "construction" on your house until your gingerbread has cooled.
Royal Icing Recipe:
This will make enough to glue your house together and decorate a few things. You might need a second batch, but start with one before making a second batch.
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp lemon juice
4 cups powdered stevia
Prepare the icing once the gingerbread has cooled completely.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together 3 egg whites until stiff peaks -- about 5 minutes. Add in lemon juice and mix for another 2 minutes. Pour in powdered stevia 1/2 cup at a time and mix well. Frosting will be thick and spreadable.
Spoon the frosting into a piping bag or plastic Zip Lock bag and cut one corner to decorate.
If the frosting seems dry or too stiff after it has been out for a few minutes (or even 15 minutes), just blend again with a hand mixer for 15 to 30 seconds and it will come back to life. If you'd like to make other colors, spoon some frosting into a smaller bowl and add coloring of choice.