Making gingerbread houses has been a long-time tradition, but lately, more people have been wondering, “do you eat gingerbread houses?”
While it may seem like a silly question, you would be surprised as to how many inedible gingerbread houses emerge during the festive season. Our answer; depends on how you want to use it. Decorative houses go stale after standing out for too long and sometimes contain inedible ingredients like glue. But, houses made from scratch and most pre-mixes are entirely edible and can definitely be eaten.
What Is A Gingerbread House?
Gingerbread houses are building-shaped confections made entirely from gingerbread biscuits, frosting, and sometimes, candy. Think of these houses like a puzzle; the gingerbread is molded into specific shapes and sizes which are then baked. These pieces are “glued” together with frosting after they have completely cooled.
Once the foundation has been built, the houses are decorated with frosting and candy. Today, there are thousands of decorating options! Traditionally, only frosting was used to decorate the houses. If you still only want to use frosting, then you have the option to color it for different details on the house.
Many households also use different candies to create details on the house. For example, colored M&M’s are used to show Christmas lights and a pinwheel lolly is used as a wreath on the front door.
Popular candies that are used today that make excellent decorations include gummies, sprinkles of all shapes and sizes, glitter, chocolate chips, and hard-shaped candies.
Needless to say, making gingerbread houses is an extremely fun activity over the holiday season. And, it is a fantastic way to keep your kids busy during school break!
How gingerbread houses are made
As we have briefly mentioned before, gingerbread houses consist of shaped pieces of gingerbread biscuits. These biscuits are stuck together using royal icing. This icing becomes hard as it dries.
Once it dries, the fun part begins. You can use royal icing to decorate the house with fine details. With only icing, you can create very elegant and minimalistic houses or elaborate and heavily-detailed ones.
You also use royal icing to stick on candies and sprinkles.
Do You Eat Gingerbread Houses?
The question isn’t really whether you should or shouldn’t be eating gingerbread house buildings, but more whether it is safe to do so or not.
Depending on where you are from and your family’s traditions, gingerbread houses can be made for eating or only as a decoration. This is an important factor to consider because it changes the type of biscuit and decorations you use. Not to mention how you store it!
Gingerbread Houses that are made for decorations usually use extremely hard and dry gingerbread biscuits. These are edible, but they are not always appetizing. They are made this hard so that they can stand upright. But, if you are making gingerbread houses to be eaten, the biscuits will usually be softer and have more flavor.
Can You Eat Gingerbread House – Factors To Consider
In general, gingerbread houses are safe to eat, but, there are some factors to consider first.
Making gingerbread houses from scratch
If you are making gingerbread houses from scratch, it is pretty safe to assume that you can eat the gingerbread house. You won’t likely use inedible ingredients in the biscuits themselves or when assembling the house.
Store-bought gingerbread house pre-mixes
These are pre-mixes that you use to bake the biscuits and make the icing. These kits also only contain edible ingredients. There are many different types of kits, but they generally contain mixes for the biscuits, the frosting (or “glue” part), and decorations (which can be Sprinkle or candies).
But, to be safe, always check the box to make sure each of these elements is edible. You should also check if they contain anything you or your family are allergic or intolerant to.
Pre-made gingerbread houses
These are pre-made and pre-assembled houses that you can buy at the store. However, you should be very careful with these types of houses. Many of them are made to be decorations only and contain inedible ingredients like glitter and actual glue.
Always ask the store or baker whether or not you can eat that specific product and if they contain any allergens.
Eating Gingerbread House – When You Shouldn’t
When people ask us, “can you eat a gingerbread house?” it is almost easier to start with when you cannot! Here are a few reasons you shouldn’t eat them.
If the house is made with real glue
This is quite an obvious one, but you would be surprised how few people know what is in their gingerbread houses, especially the store-bought and pre-assembled ones!
If you are making a gingerbread house for decoration only, it isn’t a problem. Just make sure that you responsibly dispose of the gingerbread house. If, however, you want to eat the gingerbread house, definitely check that the “glue” is made with edible frosting.
If you used inedible decorations
We highly recommend only using edible candies and decorations for your gingerbread house. Or checking that the decorations on the house are edible if you buy them from the store.
It is also crucial to make sure that any glitter or sprinkles are edible. You would be surprised at how many manufacturers (especially local small businesses) don’t choose edible glitters when making these types of baked goods.
If you left it out for weeks
This mostly goes for the gingerbread houses that were made for decoration. Do you eat gingerbread houses that were left out for weeks? The obvious answer is no, but you won’t necessarily die from it.
Extremely hard and dry biscuits are used to make these types of gingerbread houses. But, its low moisture content means that it will still likely be edible, albeit unpleasantly so.
And, most glitters, sprinkles, and candies also have a naturally long shelf life, even when exposed to oxygen. In our opinion, you can eat them, but they won’t be as good as freshly baked ones.
Can You Eat Gingerbread House? – How Shelf Life Affects It
It depends entirely on what you intend to do with the gingerbread house. If you are only using it for display purposes, it will last for up to a year!
But, if you want to eat it, we wouldn’t recommend keeping it for more than a couple of weeks. If kept out for too long, the candy and gingerbread become stale and won’t be appetizing to eat.
Can You Eat A Gingerbread House? – Final Takeaway
Making gingerbread houses is a fun activity for kids and adults! You can get creative and it takes up some time during the holidays. Make sure to share this article with your family and friends so no one is left out of the loop!