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…..


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.






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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.





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)



Oh well.  At least I tried my best.


It’s been five days of HARD WORK PEOPLE.  Cranking out batch after batch of scrumptious goodies.  Almond Butter Crunch at 9 am, elfin shortbread bites at noon. My yoga pants have never had such a workout in all their life.

BUT AS PROMISED, I am here to announce the three winners of my FIRST Annual Low Sodium Holiday Bake-Off. TA-DAHHHH!!!


Natalie (aka, CURLYWURLYGURLY) makes her debut today w/ Bratty Natty’s Berry Bars. We all know Nat brags about her lack of culinary prowess, but these little babies are FABULOUS.  Many thanks NAT (and NAT-IN-LAW!)

Tracie has wowed me with one heirloom recipe after another. Look for her Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge tomorrow.  Big on taste and short on work, this one promises to please even your pickiest PB lover.

And last BUT NOT LEAST, the lovely Lucille G. sent a stupendous recipe from her own grandmother as well.  Lucille’s Lemony Sprinkles will shine on Wednesday.  Light and ethereal, these simple sugar cookies are simply DELISH!

MANY THANKS to Nat, Tracie and Lucille for sharing such delicious treasures w/ the rest of us. You’ve all earned a treat — look for Lindt Chocolate arriving in the mail soon!

And for EVERYONE: Now through Christmas Eve, check back daily for another new holiday favorite on THE DAILY DISH!