Recently, we had the privilege of being a part of the 11th annual Gingerbread Benefit held at The Umstead Hotel in Cary. This event is opened to the public and designed to raise money for Triangle Family Services. The nonprofit organization supports families in our community through financial counseling, housing assistance, heath treatments, and counseling for individuals of domestic violence. Each year, dozens of talented bakeries and restaurants volunteer to build gingerbread houses that are displayed and auctioned for a great cause. Below is our journey to the making of our gingerbread birdhouse!
First things first, we came up with our concept. We endeavored to build a tree house for snowy owls that lived in the branches of a birch tree in the clouds. I think our heads were a bit in the clouds when we started to brain storm ideas for the assembly, but it was the whimsical details that brought our vision to its fruition. Despite our outlandish thoughts of observation decks, ice skating owls and flying Belties, we decided that it was important to stay on a more traditional level and highlight the simplistic beauty of the gingerbread house. I will skim over the boring parts of making the dough and royal icing because all gingerbread houses have those same foundations. My only tip is to make sure your royal icing is stiff and dries fast. It is the glue that holds everything together, so it can be your best friend or your worst enemy. So straight to the fun part, construction!
Step One: We shingled the roof with rolled fondant tiles and secured our walls with royal icing. It is very important to make sure the royal icing dries hard between every stage to ensure the structures stability.
Step Two: Once the structure dried, we went back and touched up the seams with a decorative boarder and added a string of Christmas lights around the edges of the roof. The “lights” were made by coloring cooked sugar red and green. We then poured the melted sugar onto a flat sheet tray to cool and harden. Once cooled, the sugar looked like colored glass, which we then smashed into little pieces and secured around the rim of the roof. And what kind of architects would we be if we did not include a stone fireplace? The fireplace was constructed out of gingerbread that we covered in fondant to make it look like stones. The wreath is also made from gingerbread, which we decorated with colored royal icing and red fondant berries, brushed with luster dust.
Step Three: We spent too many hours piping too many dots and swirls to finish off our Swedish, winter chalet, Yeah! Once dry, we carefully moved our house onto its final resting place. The base was a 3’x3’ wooden board which we covered in white fondant and secured branches to support our house. We also included a frozen lake, which we made out of blue poured sugar and hung mini gingerbread cookies from the tree branches as ornaments behind the house. Last but not least, we moved in our snowy owl family to their new home!
- Pastry Chefs