The Making of a Gingerbread House.

Back in 2008, I wrote a funny blog post about entering my first (and to date only) gingerbread contest.  To get you all geared up for this year’s HOLIDAY BAKE-OFF! I wanted to re-share.

As a reminder: there are still a few days to send me your favorite festive cookie or candy recipe.  It need NOT be salt-free or original; I’ll be adapting submissions and as long as you provide the source (whether Great Aunt Milly or The Joy of Cooking) it’s all good!  So send me your recipes!! Details here.

Now onto the show!

Long ago 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, 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 competition)

Oh well.  At least I tried my best.

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14 Responses to The Making of a Gingerbread House.

  1. Christy, that was a great post! I love your church! I have had singularly bad luck with gingerbread houses–I have never even managed to make one stick together, so I am very impressed with everything you did! 🙂 Cindy

  2. Christy says:

    Hah! Cindy you are too sweet, but seriously – my poor pathetic church was blown away by the competition. Even the kids entries (which I suspect may have been parent produced) were stellar. If you ever make it down to Philly at Christmastime, go to Peddler’s Village and check it out. It’s about an hour north of the city in beautiful Bucks County. You’d get amazing photos.


  3. Darla says:

    I am sorry to say this but– your church was spectacular! Seriously much better than anything I could even think of trying. I loved the little graveyard and the details. I had to laugh at all your comments though. Well done!

  4. Christy says:

    Darla, thank you. You are so kind. Too bad you weren’t there to pick up my shattered self after that contest.. LOL

  5. Country Wife says:

    Wow– very impressed! I love the stain-glassed windows idea. You did great! Your church reminds me of the old, abandoned country church near our place, tombstones and all. And now I want to break off one of those white house pillars and eat it… mmm….

  6. Christy says:

    Thanks babe – I was going for rustic. And BOY did that gingerbread taste spectacular! I should share the recipe here too. Maybe Friday?

  7. Jenn A says:

    That is a great little church you made! Maybe not as over the top as the competition, but VERY good anyway!

  8. Christy says:


    Perhaps we could hold a new contest, w/ all of you as judges? I don’t mind if you sample some of the structure. 5 yr old gingerbread is still okay. right?

  9. Sandi says:

    Your church ROCKS and the tombstones are a MUST! I would have been over-the-moon with mine, if I had stopped at “structure-standing on its own” :/

    Please share recipe!

  10. Christy says:

    Hhah! Thanks for the love AND the reminder! Off to find that recipe now! 🙂

  11. I completely agree with what everyone has already said, Dishy…
    your entry was RIDICULOUSLY impressive! Your pieces look a million times better than the ones that come from kits made with machined molds! And all those details are so creative… stuff like lifesaver windows and bean retaining walls would NEVER have occurred to me…
    I am BEYOND impressed!

  12. Christy says:

    Thank you, my friend. Coming from someone as talented as you, that means so much. I only wish you’d been able to see the array of gingerbread creations I competed against. It felt like docking at a yacht club in a leaky wooden dinghy!

    But thank you, truly all the same. I loved my church. The one thing that made my spirits soar was when we visited the exhibit, the place was packed, so we were walking very tightly, person to person. And I heard the woman in front of me whisper to her husband when she got to my entry, “That church is so pretty.” It was as good as a ribbon.

  13. Angela @ The Chicken Scoop says:

    I think your church is awesome!!! I love doing creative things like that but I have never actually made a gingerbread house. Love yours!

  14. Pingback: Best Recipe for Gingerbread » The Daily Dish

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