How to Build a Gluten Free Gingerbread House!

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While Santa’s away, the reindeer will play! Welcome to my gluten free gingerbread wonderland!!!


It’s important to me that celiac disease doesn’t get in the way of my family indulging in all of the normal holiday traditions. Gingerbread houses are no exception. If you think gingerbread fantasies are a thing-of-the-past for your newly-diagnosed family, think again. In today’s post, I’ll share my tips for creating the gluten free gingerbread display of your dreams!

First, every good gingerbread house needs a strong foundation, but not so strong that it is inedible. In a previous post, I mentioned that my secret to a soft gingerbread cookie is cake enhancer and a short baking time. To get my recipe to hold up as construction material, I simply decrease the amount of cake enhancer and lengthen its time in the oven; these modifications are described in my gingerbread cookie recipe post. Even though this produces a slightly harder gingerbread, it is still delicious!

Gingerbread houses require royal icing to glue them together, which can be problematic if you must avoid trace gluten in foods. A primary ingredient in royal icing is meringue powder, which we can’t use since it is produced in facilities that also process wheat. I could have substituted egg whites, but since the gingerbread house will hang around for several weeks, I was nervous about Salmonella. My solution? I created a gluten free construction paste that is also eggless, and I use an all-shortening icing that spreads and holds shapes well (both recipes follow).

What gluten free candies are available for decorating your gingerbread scene? You’d be surprised by just how many there are! Just over the past two years, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of candy companies that declare allergen information on their packaging. Tootsie Roll Industries is a leader in this respect. That makes me very happy, because warmed briefly in the microwave for about 5-10 seconds, or in the oven at 200 degrees, Tootsie Rolls become extremely pliable. All of the animals, the garden vegetables, and pond in our scene were molded from Tootsie Rolls!

Santa practices four season gardening too! All of these vegetables and reindeer were molded from Tootsie Rolls (including the blue hubbard at the reindeer’s foot). For extra support, I inserted gluten free pretzel sticks into the necks and legs of the animals (inset).

Miss Muffet requested that our scene have a wishing well; a curious reindeer explores it, while a goat comes to investigate. Tootsie Roll sculptures are so much fun!

Ducks check out a reindeer snorkeling in Santa’s pond. Wilton blue food coloring gel was mixed into melted vanilla Tootsie Rolls, then scooped onto wax paper; a short melt in a 200 degree oven created a smooth pond surface (top panel).

To create a haystack, cover an apple with peanut butter and Rice Chex cereal. For added whimsy, I first inserted a candy cane into the apple, then molded a reindeer’s head around the support.


The apple tree was constructed from a gluten free ice cream cone, gluten free pretzel sticks, and marshmallows sprayed with Wilton Color Mist.


What gluten free candies did I use to construct our scene? My list follows, but always remember to check your labels. Companies can change product formulations or production facilities, so even though my product list is accurate for December 2012, it may no longer be in the future.

Ingredients for “The Great Gluten Free Gingerbread Barn Breakout:”

  • Cinnamon Imperials (available certified gluten free at – lower stonework on the reindeer barn
  • Domino Sugar Cubes – wishing well
  • Dots (Tootsie Roll Industries) – cut in half to make apples; incomplete cuts into quarters for cauliflower and cabbages (which had Tootsie Roll centers)
  • Ghirardelli white chocolate bar (signs above reindeer stalls; names were written by dipping toothpick into Wilton black food coloring gel)
  • Glutino Gluten Free Pretzel Twists and Sticks
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Bars
  • Jelly Belly Jelly Beans
  • Kraft Marshmallows
  • Let’s Do… Gluten Free Ice Cream Cones
  • Peanut Butter
  • Gluten Free Cocoa Pebbles – ground with a mortar and pestle, these created the soil in the garden and dirt for the pigs
  • Rice Chex cereal – haystack
  • Tootsie Rolls, regular and fruit – Tootsie Rolls are easily dyed to other colors using Wilton food coloring gels; simply warm Tootsies and mix in color with a toothpick (once mixed into candy, it will not bleed onto your hands)
  • Spangler Candy Canes (Miniature and Cherry)
  • Sunkist Fruit Chews – I cut out centers with an apple corer and exchanged them with other colors to make the wreaths on the top level of the gingerbread barn.

Construct your own gluten free winter wonderland!!!


Eggless Gluten Free Gingerbread House Construction Paste
This recipe will produce a paste that dries rock-hard. I use it to hold the seams of my gingerbread houses together, as well as an edible glue for heavier candies that I want to affix to the house sides and roofs.
Recipe type: Dessert

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp milk, or milk substitute (such as gluten free almond milk)
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup (Karo is gluten free)
  • 1 Tbsp shortening (Crisco is gluten free)

  1. Sift powdered sugar and mix with milk and corn syrup.
  2. Melt shortening and add to the sugar mixture, mixing well.
  3. Add small amounts of additional corn syrup to adjust icing to the consistency that you desire.

Gluten Free Gingerbread House Icing
This is a basic icing recipe that can be found in most any cookbook. Most call for the addition of clear vanilla extract, which can be hard to find gluten free. Since gingerbread has enough great flavor on its own, I simply omit the extract.
Recipe type: Dessert

  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup shortening (Crisco is gluten free)
  • 2 Tbsp milk, or milk substitute (such as gluten free almond milk)
  • 2-4 Tbsp light corn syrup (Karo is gluten free)

  1. Cream shortening. Gradually add sugar, about 1 cup at a time, scraping down sides of bowl and beating well with each addition. Add milk and beat until fluffy. Add corn syrup until desired consistency is reached (less for spreadable icing, more for icing that can be piped).



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