The gingerbread house. A holiday tradition built on a structure made of gluten. Sigh. But there is always a way to make things gluten-free!
Are you searching for a solution to the gingerbread house dilemma that appears the first Christmas you or your child need to eat gluten-free? We have all been there. My family has tried several options for nearly a decade since two of us were diagnosed with celiac disease. We think we have found the best solution. A gluten-free, gingerbread house CAKE!
Read on to find out why this is the best gluten-free gingerbread house and how easy it is to make!
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Why This Is the Best Gluten-Free Gingerbread House
Your gingerbread cake will actually taste good. No inedible gingerbread-that-tastes-like-cardboard here. This one is so good that we have thrown a mini-party with the kids’ friends to eat the gingerbread house. No way that’s happening with the old, boxed, gluten-full, gingerbread house.
It’s easy. Admittedly, it’s not as easy as opening a box, but it is really easy. The finished cake just sits there in one held-together piece while your kids decorate it. You won’t be struggling with frosting “glue” while the house pieces fall and crack. Ask me how I know this is a problem.
You can make it a couple of days before. Or up to three months before if you freeze it. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the freezer. Do not refrigerate, as it will dry out in the fridge.
It’s affordable. After the initial purchase of the gingerbread house bundt cake pan, you are just buying ingredients for future Christmases.
It’s gluten-free! That’s the real reason you’re here. You just need a gluten-free gingerbread house, because your kids want to join in a gingerbread house decorating event or it’s an important tradition in your home. The best part is this homemade gluten-free gingerbread cake gives you all of that back. And did I mention, it tastes good?
That last one was a biggie for me. I grew up in Germany, the land of gingerbread houses. It was part of the magic of the holidays. These houses were made with real, flavorful gingerbread. We cut out the side walls and roof pieces, and then constructed the houses from scratch.
As a young adult, convenience won out. I often decorated boxed gingerbread houses but never ate them. Ew!
When my kids came along, we soon had the yearly tradition of attending a gingerbread house decorating event, always with the boxed houses.
Then came Miss E’s celiac diagnosis shortly before Christmas, and I was determined (and still am) that she would not miss out on any of the childhood fun because of celiac disease.
The first time, we attempted to use gingerbread house baking tray molds which made large gingerbread cookie walls that were glued together with icing. It was cute and included extra gingerbread decorations, like a sled, children, and a snowman. However, I found it difficult to assemble a sturdy house with such large gingerbread pieces. The kids still had a blast decorating it, but it was a lot of work and did not survive the drive home.
The following year, I set out to find a better solution and discovered the gingerbread house bundt pan. It was a game-changer. We now have a new and precious tradition of making a gluten-free gingerbread house cake each Christmas season. Our house is filled with the smell of gingerbread, and my kids have so much fun as they decorate this easy gluten-free gingerbread house. You can find the gingerbread house pan on Amazon.
Adjusting the Gingerbread Recipe Flavor
This recipe is adapted from the gluten-full recipe by Nordicware. It is a very forgiving recipe, and I have tweaked it over the years to get the best results with gluten-free flour.
If you want more warm, seasonal flavor, substitute ⅓ cup of the granulated sugar for ½ cup of molasses, and reduce milk to 1 cup. Leave the cake in the pan for an additional five minutes (15 total) before transferring it to cool on a wire rack.
If you want a less spiced flavor, reduce the following spices in this recipe to: 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.
Tips for Working with Gluten-Free Flour
Choose a gluten-free flour blend. While one-ingredient flour, like almond flour or coconut flour, may have an important place in your kitchen, baked sweets are sadly not the place. One-ingredient flour simply cannot replicate all that gluten does in a baked good, so gluten-free bakers started making their own blends to get good results.
For a cake, it’s also important that the flour includes a binder, such as xanthan gum, guar gum, or psyllium husk. If your gluten-free flour blend does not include xanthan gum, add it to your batter according to the recipe directions. The flours I recommend already have xanthan gum added.
Thankfully, to make our lives easier, most stores now carry several options of gluten-free flour blends with binders. For this gingerbread house cake, I have used and recommend using one of the following cup for cup flours: King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour, or Cup4Cup Gluten Free Multipurpose Flour.
Important tip! After mixing all ingredients, let your batter rest for 15-20 minutes before filling your bundt pan. This little bit of patience gives time for the starches in your flour blend to hydrate, rewarding you with a fluffier finished product.
Place the gingerbread house on a cake platter or simple cake board and let the fun begin!
If you are looking for an elegant gingerbread house for your tablescape, pipe white frosting to trace architectural details on the house, or sprinkle powdered sugar for snow, and you are done.
If, like me, you want a fun cake for your kids to decorate, let’s talk frosting options. Frosting serves three purposes: decoration, glue for candy, and taste. Consider those three roles when choosing your frosting, as well as your budget or time constraints.
You can make your own royal icing, the traditional icing of gingerbread houses.
Buttercream frosting is ALWAYS an option. You are decorating a cake you are going to eat after all! I love this delicious and simple buttercream frosting recipe from Betty Crocker.
Ready-made alternatives to making your own buttercream frosting include Pillsbury frosting in a pre-filled pastry bag or one of many brands of (labeled gluten-free) storebought frosting in a tub. Check the label, as most brands are gluten-free these days and will state gluten-free right on the label.
My preferred shortcut is cookie icing. It is similar to royal icing, but cookie icing will not give you the hard outer layer royal icing provides. Betty Crocker lists the current gluten-free status of its products on the Betty Crocker website. At the time of this writing, the Betty Crocker cookie icings are gluten-free.
I advise keeping an eye out for sales at your local grocery store. These otherwise pricey cookie icings often go on a BOGO sale, especially around the holidays.
Piping Icing or Frosting
If you are using homemade frosting or buying frosting tubs, decorating bottles are easier for little hands to use than a piping bag.
To keep things more affordable, buttercream or tub frostings can be added to the cake with a butter knife or piped from a ziplock bag with the corner cut off.
The Celiac Disease Foundation maintains a list of gluten-free candy for many major holidays, but not Christmas. The list, however, is reliable and worth a quick browse for inspiration.
We have varied our gingerbread house decorations over the years, but the following is a list of some of our favorite candies. Always read labels or refer to manufacturer websites, to determine the current gluten-free status of any product. This is especially true with seasonal products where manufacturing conditions vary, and what was safe last year is not safe this year, or vice versa.
- Miniature Candy Canes: Spangler Candy Canes are listed as gluten-free on the Spangler website and Yum Earth’s Candy Canes are labeled gluten-free right on the box.
- Peep’s Christmas Marshmallows (gingerbread men, snowmen & Christmas trees) are labeled gluten-free
- Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Dots, and Mike & Ikes are all labeled gluten-free and fill the role of colorful gumdrops.
- Andes Peppermint Crunch Thins make delicious roof tiles, windows, and pathways and are labeled gluten-free
- Betty Crocker Cinnamon Imperials are listed as gluten-free on the Betty Crocker website, and taste like Christmas
- Tootsie Roll Snowballs are super cute and labeled gluten-free
Please keep in mind, the seasonal candies and icing listed above will likely be dramatically cheaper in your local grocery store than via Amazon, unless you are shopping on Amazon Fresh. I recommend using the grocery links for informational purposes and then picking up your decorations when you do your regular grocery shopping.
When looking to make a larger quantity of gingerbread houses for a decorating party, the adorable Cozy Village pan by Nordicware is perfect. Check out my recipe to make mini gluten-free gingerbread houses.
Simply in the mood for a quicky gingery and sweet dessert? You can bake cookies! I highly recommend you try these chewy, gluten-free gingersnaps.
I would love to see how your gingerbread house cake turns out. Please post a pic and tag @GoGlutenFreely on social media! Go make a memory!
Gluten-Free Gingerbread House Bundt Cake
- 2¾ cups gluten-free flour blend (plus extra for flouring the pan)
- ¾ tsp xanthan gum (omit if your gluten-free flour already contains it)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup butter at room temperature
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1¼ cup milk
- Optional for decorating: powdered sugar, frosting, and candy
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, xanthan gum (omit if already in your flour), baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside medium bowl.
- Using a stand mixer, mix brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter for three minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until combined. Blend in vanilla.
- Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk to maintain moisture. Mix an additional two minutes.
- Let batter sit for 15-20 minutes.
- While the batter rests, preheat oven to 325℉. Grease and flour the gingerbread house bundt pan, using cooking spray and a pastry brush for the flour, to dust the details of the pan.
- Spoon batter into prepared gingerbread house bundt pan, filling only 3/4 full. Spread the batter up the sides of the pan, so it is lower in the center and the sides are covered.
- Place the filled gingerbread house bundt pan on a baking sheet and bake for 60-70 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then, turn the cake out onto a rack and cool completely.
Looking for a non-cake option? Here’s a list of traditional-style gluten-free gingerbread house kits.