The Making of a Gingerbread House.

My dear pal Curly’s recent post about gingerbread got me thinking. Specifically, about the time I entered a competitive gingerbread contest…..

[INSERT WAVY MEMORY LINES …]

The year: 2006. The Place: Philadelphia. Bush Jr. was in the White House. Gas was $2.23 a gallon. And I was feeling the heady surge that was completion of my first culinary course “Cake Decorating I.”  My instructor suggested I undertake the annual Peddler’s Village Gingerbread Competition. Being a complete novice as well as over-confident newbie, I said what the heck. Although I’d never created anything out of gingerbread before (not even cookies), I was PSYCHED. After all, my cakes looked better than they ever had.  No gloppy sides and hanging out middles for me! NO Sirree! And so, ignorant of the fact that this competition is PROFESSIONAL GRADE ALL THE WAY, I dove into the gingerbread pond headfirst.

The contest rules state ALL VISIBLE MATERIALS must be edible.  I knew I was going to need a sturdy structure.  Something interesting, and yet not too difficult to build.  I thought if I did something a little bit different, it might score me bonus points.  And then it hit me.  I would do a CHURCH.  It was Christmas after all!  The judges were bound to love that.  And so I decided I’d build a small chapel.  Simple and clean.  An unadorned building with a steeple and humble stained glass windows.  I would surround it w/ a shallow “stone” wall and to the side & back I’d lay a graveyard.  Oooooh. This was IT.

I had to design the building = draw it out the way I envisioned, and then craft the dimensions.  I cut each piece out of cardboard to use as a template with the actual dough.  And so it began.

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Each piece had to be individually measured, cut, remeasured and then baked.  I used the back of an ancient cookie sheet circa 1980, b/c I didn’t have anything better.  It worked.  The most important thing is precision, and I took my time.  The last bit I needed to make were the windows – since they had to be affixed internally.  I made them out of broken-up lifesavers I melted in the oven.

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Finally all of the pieces were done & I was ready to start assembling the structure.  The base had to be a flat piece of wood.  I forget the exact dimensions now, but my husband gave me a piece of scrap from the basement.  I must mention once again, as a newbie, I had no idea you could cheat your way through this competition.  I now know people glue their stuff to the base, and do all sort of “tricks” to get ahead.  But, for good or for bad, my entry was 100% legit.  The only adhesive keeping my church together was icing.  YES, sticky and hard as hell once dry, but simply icing nonetheless.

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Finally the structure was standing.. on its OWN!  Now for the details and decoration.  I’d made gingerbread “wreaths” to decorate.  On the frosting went.

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The miniature tombstones were painted grey w/ watered-down food paint, then planted in the snowy coconut yard.  The retaining wall was made of dried beans and frosting.  It took me FOREVER to build – and I am not kidding.  If I’d laid one more bean I would have screamed bloody murder.

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I did like the effect of the tombstones.  Too bad I didn’t know they’d be BLOWN OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD by the stellar competition.

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Here it is, completed.  You can see the proud gleam in my eye, of hope and happiness and every other good and noble thing.  Note also the crucificial positioning of my arms and hands, which will definitely come in handy later.

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It’s a damn shame I didn’t know my poor pathetic church would be competing with the likes of (insert THIS YEAR’S competion)

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Oh well.  At least I tried my best.

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36 thoughts on “The Making of a Gingerbread House.

  1. STOP IT!!! that is a stunning gingerbread church! i can’t believe you didn’t win. i never realized you could actually BAKE the gingerbread–i just thought it came in a box. 🙂

    you’re the best, dishy pie. don’t forget it. xoxo

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  2. Thanks Curl – you’ve made it all seem worthwhile. 😉

    PS: Yes I do have 2 mixers, had them both for yrs. One was a gift, the other was my grandmother’s. Very handy this time of year!

    PPS: NO JOKE _ do you have Connie’s address?? I need it NOW (like the next 2 mins).

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  3. Oh Daff, you really are too kind – but seriously, my church was schlock next to the powerhouses of gingerbread in this competition. Including the “Kids Only!” category – which mostly looked like they were made by the parents.

    *NOTE TO SELF* Before entering another contest, size up chances of winning.

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  4. Your GB church (which I think fits into the spirit of the season) looks better than most churches; at least around here and twice as delicious.

    And props to the Eagles cap while cooking.

    great, now I totally want gingerbread. This coming from a woman who copped out an purchased a box from which to make gingercreatures.

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  5. Oooh you are all just too sweet. Trying to convince me of my greatness when truly I know better. Thank you anyway!

    Bouncy, your lovely words have touched my soul. I wish i could gift you my gingerbread church, but alas it is gone. Probably a good thing too, as 2 yr old gingerbread would not do either of us justice. PS: YES! I must represent while baking b/c I bleed green AND our house really is THAT COLD!!

    Sue, I love you. Even though it’s not true, thank you for saying so.

    Hayden, I wish you did too! Not only would we have a blast, but I could heap all these sweets on you instead of needing yoga pants till spring.

    NO MORE COOKIES!

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  6. Christy, this is just DARLING! You should be very proud of yourself – yes, you should! I have never even attempted a gingerbread house of any kind. As much trouble as I have with layer cakes, it would be more like post-Katrina! But yours is wonderful, creative, clever and actually looks edible. You should let your blog friends judge instead of the “stuffy” judges. Please don’t give up!

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  7. P.S. Besides, you looked really cute while making yours. They should have to submit their photos with their entries and be judged on panache while baking – you’d win, hands down!

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  8. Christy, I’ve been marveling at your GB Church for the past day! Lilia and I love it!
    What do you do with a gingerbread house after the season’s over? Do you keep it for the next year? Do you offer it to birds?

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  9. What do those judges know anyway…yours was made with HEART!!! I love the look of pleasure on your face as you made it and the joy of completion! That makes you a winner in my book! and I agree with Tracie…next time let us be the judges!!! You are so clever and creative…I LOVE the stained glass windows.

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  10. Thanks Trace! Unfortunately the judges are neither stuffy nor wrong — my instructor is/was one of them and she is a superwoman. Seriously, you all think I’m joking but this gingerbread contest is serious stuff. Pastry pros on STEROIDS. I felt honored just to be included, and I am not joking. PS: Thanks for the panache comment. Keep it coming. 😉

    MTAE – you seriously need to see the competition. It’d blow your mind. People sculpting realistic animals out of marzipan and fondant, recreating pagodas and historic buildings, this year someone even did a tribute to the Twilight series, with body parts and everything. It’s crazy.

    Thanks so much Laura. And what a great idea. I SHOULD have fed it to the birds! Unfortunately, it probably got tossed in a dumpster. I really don’t know. I never went back to pick it up. After 2 months on display in an unheated outdoor gazebo, it wasn’t fit for human consumption. And we had plans the day you had to retrieve them, so we couldn’t make the 2 hr drive there & back. 😦

    Thanks Connie! I really appreciate the outpouring of love AND COMPLIMENTS. YAY!!

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  11. I watched a competition on Extreme Christmas and I think those people only work on the g-bread houses ALL year! The winner, holy crow, made individual teeny tiny bricks and motared them into this huge house. Everything must be edible, the judges broke off a piece of a tree on one and disqualified it b/c it was twigs. Those things were crazy amazing…I think they prob should have a pro competion and one for honest to goodness beginners or amateurs!!!

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  12. Dish Lady I love you, I love you with all of my heart!
    I loved my hedgehog… I loved my Christmas cd but most off all, (sorry for having favourites) I love my tree ornaments! They are amazing!
    It was so funny becasue as I was unwrapping them, my hubby came in the room and picked up one of the birds.
    “oh it’s a one of those bird whistles!”
    and he proceeded to put the birds tail in his mouth and he blew!
    So funny! :o)
    I’m so grateful Christy, thank you so much. You are such a lovely friend.
    Expect a little return package after Christmas and once again, many thanks.
    xxxxxxxx

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  13. I adore my Christmas CD and all the yummy treats! How in the world did you know I was a Smurf’s fan…love the “50” Smurfette! Hopefully my humble offering will arrive before Christmas.

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  14. Thanks, Christy, I just got my Lindt chocolate prize, yummmm! The poor little snowman was a bit like Frosty in the greenhouse…but a little stay in the fridge will fix him right up. He’s cute! Merry
    Christmas to you!

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  15. Uh-HUH. And when you get back, you’d better read each and every post and comment in that big ol’ blog backlog you’ve accumulated.

    p.s. Miss you, Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, etc., etc.

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  16. MAN I am really behind w/ these comments. REMEDY TIME>

    Connie, I would love to see that show – though we are cable-less. Oh well. Better that way – maybe I can use some of that TV-free time working towards next year’s masterpiece (yeah right). PS: My sister watches some sort of cake show & is always telling me how amazing it is. Have you seen that one??

    Thanks Michelle! You and your momma sure are sweeter than any GB creation. And that’s the truth.

    Connie – THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH for the amazing package!! The card nearly made me cry – what a touching sentiment. And the girls devoured the santas. I have hidden the kisses. HAHAHAHAHAH! xoxoxoxoxoxo

    Tracie – sorry he went soft on you! Hope he was delicious anyway. Merry Christmas to you too (2 wks late is better than never – right>?)

    I knew EXACTLY what you meant Panny babe – no worries. Many thanks! XOXOXO

    Thanks Spidey!! Hope yours was very happy. Wishing you all the best in 2009.

    I AM HERE CONNIE!! CAN’T YOU SEEE ME??! PS: send more chocolate.

    HEYYA CURLS> I AM BAAAACK. HOORAY! PS: I missed u 2.

    PANNNNNNNNY, I will. BUT FIRST, I have to go walk the dog. Won’t be a tick. Promise. PS: No mumming this year. Too cold. And the budget cuts left the police force lacking. YOU KNOW HOW WILD those cross-dressing revelers get. So WATCH OUT.

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  17. NOOOOOOOooOoOOOOOooO!!! I am so sorry to have skipped you my love. (Slapping forehead)

    I am SO HAPPY you loved the presents!! I knew you’d love the birds – I was absolutely giddy when I packed them. The little hedgie was from the ladies and John too – we picked it up at the Village Toy Shoppe, the greatest store ever. YAY!! So glad you like everything. I felt terrible not being able to send you cookies. Thought they’d be too stale by the time they arrived.

    Love you Daff! xoxoxoxoxo

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  18. *rubs Dish Lady on the forhead* Phew! Well thank goodness for that. I got all sniffy and worried for a minute. We all love the birds… I even caught George (my dad) trying to sneak one into his pocket…. I caught him though just in time! I have some bits to send, just little things but I will hopefully get organised by the weekend. Give the ladies a hug for me. I’m trying so hard to find something for Kiwi…what does one buy the bird with everything! lol Thanks again sweet lady, I still smile when I think of seeing that little hedgey peeking out from the box! xxxxxxx

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  19. When it comes to cooking, you have more talent in your pinkie nail than I have in my whole system. Sad, but true, when my children were babies I burned the water the bottle was warming in. Not kidding!! wondered what the horrible smell was and found the bottle sitting in an empty burning hot pot on the stove.
    Great, Fabulous, Wonderful Gingerbread Church!! Such patience went into it. (something I also have a short supply of)

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  20. Trust me Daff, Kiwi wants nothing in this world other than ME! ALL TO HERSELF. Good news. John culled through his wardrobe yesterday, so I’m gotten several new oversized “safety shirts” to add to the collection. More often referred to as SH*T shirts. Ahhh. the life.

    Howdy hisqueen! Many thanks for the laugh and lovely compliments. 🙂

    Like

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