This is part of a series. If this is your first time reading about gingerbread, I suggest taking a look at my first piece, How To Make A Gingerbread House.
When constructing a gingerbread house, it’s imperative that you use Royal Icing for your gingerbread house cement. It’s made from water, powdered sugar, and egg yolks. The frosting dries rock hard and works to “cement” together the walls of the house. It’s the perfect construction adhesive for the candy as well. Here are some tips for making and using Royal icing.
Here is the royal icing recipe I use every year:
3 tablespoons Meringue Powder (found at any craft store that sells Wilton supplies)
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons warm water
Place all ingredients into a thoroughly clean glass or metal bowl and mix on medium speed for 7-10 minutes. I love to use my Kitchenaid for this job, but a regular hand held mixer works just fine, too. You are looking for a glossy, thick consistency. This recipe makes 3 cups of icing. It’s perfect for a small project. You will need to add water (1 tsp at a time) to thin the icing if it is too thick to come out of your icing bag.
You can also make royal icing replacing the meringue powder with egg whites. I have never made that recipe before for two reasons. One, I don’t want to hassle with separating the eggs and two, I often end up cleaning the tip of my icing bag by putting it in my mouth. I’m leary of the raw eggs in the icing. So I opt for meringue powder, which works perfectly every time.
There are two enemies of royal icing: air and grease. Keep your icing well covered because it will dry out quickly. Literally, you get the cement factor very quickly when using this icing. I generally use the last scrapings from the bowl to frost the yard around my house. Once icing has started to crystallize, it’s tough to push through an icing bag, so just keep it covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. The grease problem can come into play if you mix the icing in a plastic bowl. Just don’t do it. Plastic bowls can hold onto grease you didn’t know was there and the frosting will never mix up right. Also, I use disposable frosting bags so that there is never an issue with grease.
Royal icing has about 4 hours of shelf life before it starts to deflate. Make it as closely to the time you need to use it as possible. And mix what you need then make more if necessary. After it sits around too long, it will need to be re-whipped to get the air and body back into it. You’ll notice a difference when your star tip shapes stop looking like stars and start looking like globs. Just re-whip some air into the frosting.
PS: You might also enjoy this book I reviewed, Gingerbread For All Seasons.