Nothing says the holiday season quite like decorating a gingerbread house with your friends or family members.
For lots of folks, this time-honored tradition signifies the beginning of the winter and all the fun activities these colder months have to offer.
When decorating your gingerbread house, typically you’re using edible ingredients such as icings, candies, gingerbread cookies (store-bought or homemade), gummies, and other items.
When combined together you would think that whether to eat your gingerbread house is a no-brainer.
However, sometimes we make our gingerbread houses and let them sit out as decorations for months, or we use inedible ingredients such as glue or plastic objects the answer may not be so obvious.
So, can you eat gingerbread houses? Typically yes, so long as your gingerbread house is made from edible ingredients then you are free to eat as much or as little of it as you like. If you left it sitting out for several weeks, then it likely won’t taste very good as the gingerbread and candies will have gone stale.
Read on to discover more about whether you can eat gingerbread houses and in what circumstances you should avoid them.
Can You Eat Gingerbread Houses?
Most gingerbread houses that you either buy as a package or create yourself at home are made from ingredients and items that are all edible.
Typically, the house is made from strong, crisp gingerbread and is held together with icing as opposed to glue.
The houses are then decorated with frosting, edible sprinkles, candies, and gummies all of which can be safely eaten.
With that being said, often the gingerbread that is used for the walls and roof of the house has been cooked hard enough to stand upright. That doesn’t always make for the tastiest cookie.
With that in mind, if you are buying a gingerbread house kit from the store, it might not taste the best once it has been assembled since it was designed to stand upright and not necessarily to taste delicious.
There are certain to be different brands out there that are better or worse in terms of flavor and texture. So if you want to eat your gingerbread house, make sure you look for a kit that has good reviews of its flavor.
Another way to create a delicious gingerbread house is to bake the cookies yourself. That way you can flavor and cook them exactly to your liking, and they will likely taste better.
With homemade gingerbread, they might not look as finessed as a store-bought version, but it’s all about the fun of putting it together and eating it anyway, so who cares?
You’ll also want to buy icing and candies that you enjoy if you plan on eating your gingerbread house.
When Shouldn’t You Eat Gingerbread Houses?
There are a couple of instances in which you won’t want to eat your gingerbread house.
While they may still be technically edible, in some situations they won’t taste very good so it’s better to use them as a decoration and go buy some delicious gingerbread to enjoy instead.
The following instances might make a less than edible gingerbread house:
1. If you have left it out for weeks.
Since part of the fun of creating a gingerbread house is having it as a decoration throughout the holiday season, it may end up sitting out for several weeks.
That means the candies, icing, and gingerbread itself is likely going to dry out and become stale.
While they may still technically be edible, I would bet a large sum that they won’t taste very good. In this case, I suggest buying or baking some high-quality gingerbread to enjoy while you admire your beautiful gingerbread house.
2. If you used real glue to stick your gingerbread house together.
Unsurprisingly, if you use real glue to stick your gingerbread house together as opposed to frosting or icing, then you shouldn’t eat it since some glues can be toxic.
Even if they aren’t technically toxic, they definitely won’t taste very good.
If you really want to eat your gingerbread house and you’ve used glue to stick it together, then please eat around the areas that are stuck together with glue. Throw those bits in the garbage.
3. If you used inedible decorations.
The part of building a gingerbread house that is the most fun is definitely getting to decorate it as creatively as you like.
Most folks will decorate their gingerbread houses with edible candies and gummies, but some folks who want a high-quality and fancy-looking creation may use paints and other inedible materials to decorate their houses.
If you have painted your gingerbread house or otherwise used any inedible materials to decorate it, such as glitter, please don’t eat it.
How Long Do Gingerbread Houses Last?
If you’re not planning on eating your gingerbread house it will last a lot longer than if you want to make one that is edible. Edible gingerbread houses typically use softer gingerbread cookies and candies, which have more moisture.
When foods have more moisture in them, they are more prone to going moldy. You definitely don’t want to eat moldy food since it can make you very sick.
If you’re making a gingerbread house out of edible cookies, you will want to eat it within about 1 week or so.
After about a week, the cookies start to go stale and may go moldy, so you shouldn’t eat them after this point.
Even if they haven’t gone moldy, I still wouldn’t eat a gingerbread house that has been sitting out more than 5-7 days since it is likely stale and unpleasant tasting.
If you are building a gingerbread house more for aesthetics and decoration then it can last a lot longer.
These gingerbread houses are made from hard biscuits with low water content, which makes them less prone to molding. These houses will last about 4-6 weeks.
I don’t suggest eating these houses after the first week since they will taste stale and unpleasant. Especially since the biscuits they’re made with are already dry.
Having them sit out in the dry winter air will only make them less pleasant to eat.
So, how long do gingerbread houses last? If you’re planning on eating your house it should only be left out for about 5-7 days (fewer if you notice mold).
For decorative houses, you can typically leave them out for about 4-6 weeks before they start to fall apart. The perfect length to enjoy them for the holidays.
How To Protect Your Gingerbread House
If you want to protect your gingerbread house from dust and to keep it from drying out too quickly, then storing it under some plastic wrap or cling film can prevent the dust from gathering.
It also interferes with the visual impact, so you might leave it uncovered during the day and then cover it back up before you go to bed at night to keep it fresh and dust-free.
Why Do We Build Gingerbread Houses?
The tradition of building gingerbread houses is so synonymous with the holidays that we don’t stop to think about where it actually came from.
Why do we build edible houses covered in treats and icing as a symbol of the holidays? Well, the answer dates back to the 1600s in Germany.
The actual act of baking and putting together walled gingerbread houses covered in foil and gold leaf (a little different to the houses we make today) started in 17th century Germany as a Christmas tradition.
After the publishing of the Grimms Brothers’ fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel”, the popularity of these houses became even more evident.
Though it’s not entirely possible to tell if the popularity inspired the story or the story inspired the popularity of the gingerbread house, after that time they were everywhere.
Gingerbread houses as we know them today came to America with Pennsylvania German immigrants. After many years, these delicious gingerbread houses still hold a special place in our cultural celebration of the holidays.
What Can I Do With My Gingerbread House?
If you’ve had the fun of building your gingerbread house and now want to enjoy eating the fruits of your labor, here are a couple of creative ways to do so:
- Try crumbling it up and putting it on your favorite ice cream or custard.
- You can break off pieces to dunk in hot chocolate, fancy winter coffees, or lattes.
- You can crush it up and use it as a pie crust for your festive holiday feast.
- Grind them up and make chocolate-dipped truffles.
- Add pieces to your cereal for a festive touch.
- Crush them up and add them to your sweet breakfast French toast casseroles.
- Coarsely break up your gingerbread house and add it to pancake or waffle batter.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to use up your gingerbread house so you can enjoy it all season long.