Hoppo Bumpo (n): A children's game. Played by folding one's arms and hopping on one leg. Aim is to bump opponents, so that they lose their balance. Last person standing wins.

November 23, 2008

A right royal problem

I like gingerbread houses.

I like to look at them. I quite like to eat them. But moreover, I do love making them.

I have all the house-construction paraphernalia. There's the gingerbread house book: for inspiration. The metal cutter templates: for squaring the walls and roof. The piping equipment: for fancy decoration. Its all there. All except for one thing.

I no longer have a suitable recipe for royal icing.

You see, our Bargy has an allergy to the key ingredient in this icing: egg white. If you haven't tried making royal icing before, its essentially a plain white icing that sets like ... concrete. Egg white is the magic setting agent. Whilst quite edible, sugar-laden royal icing is not a particularly delicious confection. I wouldn't recommend eating it in any great quantity, unless you fancy breaking a tooth or two. It is, however, amazing for gluing gingerbread house pieces together.

I would love to be able to be able to make a pretty gingerbread house for the boys this Christmas. So I am on a mission. I'm looking high and low for a suitable egg-free concrete substitute. To be truthful, this search started just before Christmas last year and end with dummy spitting on Christmas eve. No suitable recipe located. But after a hiatus, Mr Google and I have become acquainted once again.

I've decided to track down some recipes and trial each one. To find the definitive non-egg royal icing. So if you - or someone you know can't eat eggs - and you too like to decorate gingerbread houses, festive cookies or cakes, you might like to stay along for the ride.

The search

Finding a sample of suitable recipes has been a bit tricky. Mr Google and I started out using "egg-free" as our search criteria. Many recipes we found, purporting to be "egg-free", contain meringue powder. Meringue powder is produced by companies such as Wilton and is fantastic stuff - I have used it in the past. The setting ingredient is, however, powdered albumin ... which is egg white! A good product to use if you cooking for someone pregnant or infirm and avoiding salmonella risks (the powder contains pasteurised egg). But, definitely not suitable for anyone with an intolerance or allergy.

In fact its been quite an eye-opener seeing the number of websites recommending using meringue powder if egg can't be consumed. It makes me remember how important it is not to take all information on the web at face value!

Once I thought to start searching for vegan recipes, Mr Google and I had a little more success. We high-fived each other several times (is it possible to do this with a search engine?), as promising recipes popped up.

The recipes

Here are the recipes that I have collected. I have listed just the ingredients, but then provided a link to the original recipe.

BBC Food's egg-free royal icing:
Icing/confectioner's sugar
Lemon juice

Goodbaker's vegan royal icing:
Icing/confectioner's sugar
Powdered soy milk
Soy milk
Light corn syrup

Veglicious's vegan royal icing:
Icing/confectioner's sugar
Lemon juice

The test

Edit (7 Dec. 2008): Visit this post for the results of my experiments!

During the week I am going to trial three recipes. I'll look at how: snowy white each looks; nice each one tastes; easily each pipes; and well each one sets. Remember, we're aiming for concrete here people.

In the first instance I have decided to try making a traditional icing recipe using an egg substitute. I already use an Orgran product called No Egg for baking and other cooking. Its available in Australia from health food stores and supermarkets. I'm a bit unsure, however, if No Egg is suitable to use in uncooked products.

I have then chosen the recipes from BBC Food and Veglicious. On reflection I decided that Goodbaker's recipe might be a bit risky in our house. Soy is a known allergen and something Bargy hasn't really tried before. Best not to accidentally poison him at Christmas!

So, if you're interested, head back during the next week and I'll post the results of my experiment. I'll be the one with the tummy ache, smiling at you through broken teeth.

If you have any experience of making egg-free royal icing, I would love to hear them.


  1. I remember my mum making an icing very similar to the BBC one, because she had run out of eggs but had glycerine. I recall that it was prone to cracking (fine cracks, not major ones that compromised structural stability!), but it still worked fine. Good luck, I'll be interested to know how it goes.

  2. We use egg replacer as Moo has an egg intolerance - I wonder if the Ogran stuff would work???? I'm very interested to see how you go as I really want a gingerbread house this year (or pepparkakshus as we call it at our house!)

  3. Well, *I'll* be following along with great interest! My religious dietary restrictions include no eggs, so I have spent YEARS passing over cake designs because of the requirement of royal icing!

    BTW, I'm betting that egg replacer, the Orgran-whatever one, won't work, since you aren't heating it and activating the binding stuff in it. But I'm interested to see if I am right! ;D

  4. I've never tried making egg-free royal icing, but we have substituted caramelized sugar when gluing gingerbread house pieces together. We did this because the sugar sets even faster than royal icing (and proceeded to decorate with royal icing), but if you have a substitute decorative icing that just isn't strong enough to be structural this might be an option.

  5. That'll be an interesting week of testing! Yum. Can I make a special request? Can we have some more gingerbread house posts? I've been wanting to make one for years but despite collect a book full of recipes and instructions still haven't tackled it. It all seems a bit intimidating. Do you eat the finished thing? Doesn't it go soggy if you leave it out for decoration in Australia, do ants ever share your little house etc etc?!

  6. No worries - gingerbread house posts it is! Very happy to oblige.

  7. I too was wondering if it becomes an ant Novotel too. I can turn lots of things in the kitchen to concrete, but not in a useful kind of way.

  8. yes, I'd like to learn more about making a gingerbread house...and I like your scientific approach to these matters. I'll be looking out for your results.

  9. I can't wait to find out the outcome! I stumbled upon you looking for an egg free royal icing recipe. I have a great egg substitute for bake goods (don't use for recipes over 3 eggs) 2 1/2 Tablespoons of fresh ground flax seed + 3 Tablespoons of hot water, mix til thickens and add as recipe calls. My family has never known the difference!;)

  10. I am eagerly awaiting the results. Thanks for sharing. I also use the flax seed and warm water substitute for baking and no one ever knows the difference.

  11. Waiting anxiously for results... I have an egg allergy also. I had a recipe for gingersnaps that had no egg in it, but I can't find it... I got it from one edition of The Joy of Cooking (unfortunately, my copy has been lost), but that edition had been updated and the recipe has been changed to include egg. If you have any no-egg gingy type cookie recipes, I'd love to try them.

  12. So??? how did this end???

  13. Hello, i think that you should add more images.

  14. Just leave out the egg in 1 egg cookie recipes. Doesn't make a difference. Just add a little more milk/mik powder and water.


Thanks for dropping by! I love hearing what people have to say. Leave a comment if you like.