As Christmas time rolls around, one of the many things I think about is gingerbread. Gingerbread cookies, cakes, and of course gingerbread houses. There are just infinite ideas it seems for decorating gingerbread houses. You can really create anything from gingerbread!
When I started my baking career, I became so interested in tackling gingerbread houses. My journey in constructing my first house came during culinary school. Our program was asked to participate in a local gingerbread house contest and there were about 4-5 of us that jumped in whole-heartedly!
It was so much fun, we all worked together, each of us had unique houses we constructed. My first inspiration: Germany, as it was our first army assignment and I found a great picture I had taken of a building that represented a classic German residence. I loved the houses there and I replicated the traditional German house (Gasthaus) with the trademark wooden planks embedded into the stucco.
Here is my very first gingerbread house.
The wooden planks I constructed from rolled Tootsie Rolls and the window boxes were done from pretzel sticks. They worked perfectly!!!!
Oh, and did I tell you during the contest, one of the judges was no other than former White House Pastry Chef, Roland Mesnier? Wow, what a thrill. It was such an honor to be able to meet and talk with him. As a European himself, born and classically trained, it was a thrill he liked my rookie attempt in this beloved spiced project!!
Years later I decided to enter the gingerbread category at a local cake show. I replicated this same German Gasthaus but put a little spin on it and cleaned it up a bit by adding different materials for the windows and adding a small side house. To my surprise, it took first place!!! It was so exciting!
From then it became a passion at creating different houses each year. Inspiration came through books on gingerbread as well as the internet. However, I tried to put my individual spin on each house. I just love Wheat Chex and Golden Grahams they make great roofing materials!!!
Come let me share some of the houses I created throughout years past.
This house was based on a fall farm theme I found in a book. I loved the piping of the gingerbread with the royal icing to replicate the siding. The popcorn balls really gave the house an authentic look for landscaping.
This “Country House” focused on a spring theme. Wheat Chex work great for roofing on this one. The grass was made of coconut colored green and Necco wafers are perfect for sidewalks.
This was by far the toughest project I undertook but I was up for the task. I didn’t really realize just how much work it was until I was knee-deep in gingerbread! It had so many pieces to cut out and bake but when the project was complete it totally was worth it.
If you haven’t guessed yet this is a replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame is a great memory of mine. It was the last year of our Germany assignment when we made the trip to Paris and toured this amazing cathedral. I still remember it like it was yesterday.
I really loved this one, it was the most challenging project but it was so great to see it completed! I used a brown royal icing to really bring together the rustic look of the cathedral.
If you look closely through the stained glass windows, you will see a variety of colors. Wonder what I used to get that look? None other than mixed color fruit roll ups! They work great!
This toy shop was one of my favorite houses to make. I was able to try out some new techniques and decorative touches. But, I took some techniques from previous houses like the popcorn shrubs and wafer walkways and implemented them here. However, my favorite part on this house was constructing the candy cane fence. I colored the gingerbread red before baking, then decorated with royal icing.
I’m thinking of what project is next!