Building a gingerbread house is a festive holiday tradition that is becoming firmly established in many households.
This is one of those activities that all of the family loves to get involved in and afterward you get to sit and share the efforts of your hard work.
But how long do gingerbread houses last? Gingerbread house kits contain shelf-stable dried ingredients and, if stored correctly, will last for up to two years. Kits containing premade gingerbread have a shorter shelf life. Once you’ve made your kit, the time it lasts will depend on whether it is for display purposes or consumption.
Whether you’ve found a gingerbread house kit lurking in the back of a cupboard or want to know how far in advance you can make your festive house, we’ve got everything you need to know about how long gingerbread houses last right here!
How Long Do Gingerbread House Kits Last?
Making a gingerbread house was once something that only specialist cake makers could dream of.
But with the advent of gingerbread house kits, now every family can have a go at making a cute little festive house all of their own!
Gingerbread house kits normally contain all of the dried goods and decorations necessary to create this fun baking project, saving you the hassle and expense of sourcing each ingredient individually.
More importantly, they also come with detailed instructions to help you through this complex (but fun) culinary task.
Some kits also come with premade gingerbread pieces, so all you need to do is construct the house — definitely a good option if baking is not your strong point!
Gingerbread house kits tend to include only the ingredients with a longer shelf life, such as dried gingerbread cookie mix and icing sugar. This means that they can be stored for a long period of time.
Those with premade gingerbread pieces will not last for as long if you are intending to eat them, as the baked biscuits will eventually lose flavor and become stale.
Whatever type of kit you have, you should expect the packaging to be marked with an expiration date.
This will be an advisory “best-before” date and is a guarantee from the manufacturers that, if eaten before this date, the food will be in perfect condition.
After this date, the food may still be edible, but the quality may have deteriorated.
A gingerbread house kit that contains the ingredients necessary to cook the dough yourself will have a shelf life of up to 2 years. Pre-baked gingerbread kits will have a shorter expiry date, around 6 months.
Do Gingerbread House Kits Go Bad?
The packaging that the individual components of a gingerbread kit are sealed in will keep it fresh and perfectly fine to eat for a long period of time. Each ingredient should be in a moisture-proof sachet, keeping it in peak condition.
However, these ingredients will not last forever! There is a time limit on when a packet of gingerbread dough mix can safely be consumed. But is it OK to make a gingerbread house kit after the best-before date?
This comes down to your own personal judgment and the item of food itself. You will need to carefully assess to see if the food has gone bad, or if it has deteriorated to the point where it is inedible.
The good news is that best-before dates are used for foods that will not be too harmful if they have started to go bad.
The other date commonly referred to is the “use by” date, which is for foods that can cause food poisoning, such as meats and fish. Food that has gone past the use-by date must never be consumed.
Luckily for us, the ingredients in a gingerbread house kit are dried and shelf-stable — this means that it will take them a long time to go bad.
If your gingerbread house kit is in its original packaging, it will last in your pantry until at least the best-before date.
The good news is that manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution with the best-before date, as they want you to eat the food at its best — this means that many foods will still be edible even after the best-before date has passed!
How To Tell If Your Gingerbread House Kit Has Gone Bad
If you’ve found an old gingerbread house kit in the cupboard, you may be wondering if it is safe to use. Luckily, even if it is beyond the expiry date, it may still be absolutely great!
The other good news is that baking an expired gingerbread house kit is highly unlikely to cause significant illness. It might not turn out as successful as you’d hoped, but at least you won’t become unwell — nobody wants that.
Because a gingerbread house kit contains several different components, you will need to scrutinize each one carefully to ensure it doesn’t seem to have gone bad.
Have a look at the packaging – have any of the moisture-resistant sachets been damaged in any way? If so, this component should be discarded as the contents will not be in the best condition.
Then, take a look at the ingredients. Any powdered ingredients should be fine and dry, with no clumping. If they have stuck together into lumps, they may have been affected by moisture and should not be eaten.
If you see any black, brown, green, or grey flecks in the cake mix or icing sugar, they may have been affected by mold and should be thrown away.
These ingredients should both smell sweet and pleasant, so if you detect an acrid smell they must be discarded.
But what about premade gingerbread house components?
If your kit comes with the house already baked and ready to assemble, the biscuits should be sealed in moisture-proof packaging to keep air and dampness at bay.
This can keep them in good condition for several months, but eventually, they will go stale and deteriorate in terms of both texture and flavor.
Check the baked gingerbread carefully for any signs of discoloration or mold — this is more likely to occur if they have been in contact with water.
Mold will also have a distinctive smell, unlike the sweet, ginger scent of delicious gingerbread. If you suspect your gingerbread has been contaminated with mold, it must be discarded.
The other problem that can occur with gingerbread that has been stored for a long time is that it might look fine, but it will have turned stale.
Now, this could go one of two ways — it could turn soft and crumbly, or it might be hard and brittle. Either is not particularly pleasant, or good for building a gingerbread house!
Unfortunately, the only way to assess if your gingerbread has gone stale or not is to taste a bit of it. And as this means you’ll need to eat a bit of the house before you build it, this poses a bit of a problem!
In this situation, you could risk building the house anyway, and accept that the gingerbread might not be all that tasty. But at least you’ll have a gorgeous festive gingerbread house to decorate your home during the holidays!
How Long Do Gingerbread Houses Last?
So, your gingerbread house kit hasn’t expired yet, and you’ve built and decorated your festive display. How long can you keep your gingerbread house before it goes bad?
It all depends on whether you made it with the intention of eating it, or whether you want to keep it as a decoration for as long as possible.
Gingerbread will become increasingly stale the longer it is exposed to air and moisture.
If you can minimize exposure to these by storing the house in an airtight container, your gingerbread house will be good to eat for two to three weeks.
It seems a shame to hide your hard work away, so how can you display your house and eat it too?
Well, firstly you could minimize the length of time it is exposed to air by only displaying it for festive occasions. The trick here is to build your gingerbread house on a board that can be lifted easily in and out of a cake tin for easy storage.
Alternatively, you could resign yourself to the fact that your gingerbread house is going to get devoured pretty quickly, and just leave it on display for all to enjoy!
Can You Preserve Gingerbread Houses?
When it comes to the world of gingerbread houses, there are two types of creation — those intended to be eaten, and those that are supposed to be displayed and admired.
If you’ve baked a glorious gingerbread house, it can seem far too good to eat! So, how do bakers and artisan cake stores preserve their favorite creations for longer?
The secret is to spray the finished gingerbread house with a clear varnish or lacquer — this seals the gingerbread and icing, keeping it safe from air and moisture.
However, once you’ve done this your gingerbread house is no longer safe to eat, so make sure no one tries to take a bite out of it!
Keep it well away from pets and children who might not be able to resist trying your beautiful holiday creation.