Ah! The fun begins here and the kids can safely have a ball with it. Put the music on. Turn on the special lights if you have a tree and let a big sticky mess be made with everyone creating masterpieces. (Of course, if you’re decorating the Eastern European way, which is simply magnificent, you’ll need some of your work to happen by an expert hand.)
Royal icing is the classic and it’s typically made with a basic rule of thumb: one cup of sugar (caster or icing sugar) per one egg white (room temperature.) Add in ½ teaspoon of lemon juice or cream of tartar.
It’s wonderful stuff. It’s fun to glue gingerbread houses together or make drippy snow all around. It’s shiny. It keeps for ages after icing your gingerbread. And, of course, the best part is licking the beaters. That is the rule of thumb, yes, but thumbs vary and if you find it’s too sweet, you can lessen the sugar per egg white.
Tried and true recipe that we have used forever:
4 cups of sugar
4 egg whites at room temperature
½ teaspoon of Cream of Tarter or lemon juice.
Beat egg whites till foamy on high speed. Fold in sugar, gently, until fully dissolved. Add Cream of Tartar or lemon juice.
This works well too, whether you make your own or buy it prepared. Not everybody likes fondant, though, but, if they do, it can save you a lot of work and give another long-lasting result. Like playdough, only edible, you can also use to shape characters or animals or other bits of nature. It’s not drippy, though, so a bit harder to use for snow effect.
This is easy to make and great for many things, but not recommended for gingerbread! The oil from the butter seeps into the cookies and softens them. That makes for slightly icky cookies and a fully imploded gingerbread house!