Royal Icing Recipe for a Gingerbread House

Royal icing in a bowl alongside decorated gingerbread house cookies

The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 12 to 15 servings
Yield: 1 large house
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
122 Calories
0g Fat
30g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 15
Amount per serving
Calories 122
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 14mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 30g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 1mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 30mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Royal icing is the edible "glue" or mortar that holds a gingerbread house together and can be used to make fancy sugar decorations. It's the best option for projects like gingerbread houses since, unlike buttercream frosting, royal icing will harden once dry. It's the key to keeping your gingerbread house from falling down.

If you plan to eat the gingerbread house after it has served its decorative purpose, we recommend using pasteurized fresh egg whites since the icing is not cooked. Pasteurized egg whites are available at grocery stores in cartons and better options than meringue powder because the result is smoother and the icing has better "stickability." No matter what kind of eggs you use, make sure the egg whites are at room temperature for better volume and be careful not to over-whip your royal icing, or it will crack as it dries and your house will collapse. Don't omit the cream of tartar—it helps stabilize the egg whites and keeps the icing smooth.

The best and easiest way to use royal icing is to transfer it to a piping or pastry bag. The piping bag makes it much easier to get into corners when assembling the gingerbread house and allows for more exact placement of candy decorations like icicles and curlicues. This recipe makes enough royal icing for assembling and decorating a standard-sized gingerbread house, so plan accordingly.


Click Play to See This Royal Icing Recipe Come Together


  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1/2 cup (3 large) pasteurized egg whites, at room temperature

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients gathered for royal icing for gingerbread house

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  2. In a large bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, cream of tartar, and pasteurized egg whites. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

    Royal icing ingredients mixed together in a bowl with a spatula

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  3. Turn the mixer to high and beat until the mixture is thick, bright white, and will hold a stiff peak. This should take at least 7 to 10 minutes. If the icing is still too soupy, add more confectioners' sugar a little at a time. Don't add too much, or the icing will be dry and hard to work with.

    Royal icing in a bowl being beaten together with a hand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  4. When finished, cover with plastic wrap, making sure it touches the royal icing so a crust doesn't form. Royal icing dries out quickly, so make sure it is covered all the time. Otherwise, lumps will form in the icing and they will never pass through an icing tip.

    Royal icing in a bowl with plastic wrap pressed on top

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  5. When ready to use, transfer to a piping bag and decorate. Enjoy.

    Royal icing in a bowl, piping bag, and piped onto gingerbread house cookies

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs poses a risk for foodborne illness.


  • You can tint the icing by using a small amount of paste food color (don't use liquid food color because it will dilute the icing and make it soupy). For 1/4 cup tinted icing, dip the tip of a toothpick into the desired color, then into the icing and whip. Repeat until the desired color is achieved. For strong colors, such as red, royal blue, and dark purple, use 1/8 teaspoon color to 1/4 cup icing.
  • Royal icing can be used immediately or stored with plastic wrap pressed against the top and completely sealed in the fridge for a few days.

Recipe Variation

  • Substitute an equal amount of lemon juice for the cream of tartar, if you don't have cream of tartar in your pantry.

How to Use

Royal icing can be added to a piping bag and used to make intricate decorations and outlines and be used to glue a gingerbread house together:

  1. To stick a gingerbread house together, start by lining up two adjoining walls and marking their location on the base. Made a thick L-shaped line of icing where the walls will go and place the walls on top, holding them until the icing sets. Add a line of icing on both sides of the wall joint and gently press together, holding until the icing sets.
  2. Repeat with the two remaining walls, allowing the icing to set each time. Let the house dry for at least a couple of hours before adding the roof.
  3. The icing can also be used to secure shingles, a chimney, draw on windows, and more.

Is Buttercream or Royal Icing Better for a Gingerbread House?

While buttercream icing has a delicious buttery flavor and fluffy texture, making it ideal for cakes and decorating cookies, it won't hold a gingerbread house together. Royal icing, made with the help of whipped egg whites, is a sturdier mixture and will harden as it dries, cementing the gingerbread house together.

How Long Does Royal Icing Take to Harden?

After being piped onto gingerbread or cookies, royal icing should harden in about 15 to 30 minutes. The exact amount of time will depend on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen. When building a gingerbread house, it's best to let the walls set up for a few hours before adding the roof.