Are you as hooked on these cake challenges and reality shows as I am? What a great way to see how the pros turn blobs of sugar, flour, eggs and other ingredients into edible art. Sounds kind of similar to what we are doing with gingerbread, only our end result won't likely be eaten. Watch how the colorful Barcelona building comes together in the clip above. I'll be glued to the tube tonight watching the wedding cake drama unfold.
It doesn't get any better than this, folks. A company called Peak Definition Productions took up-close shots of every gingerbread entry in this year's National Gingerbread House Competition. Now you can see the detail, creativity and imagination that went into these glorious Grove Park Inn gingerbread masterpieces. If you couldn't make the trip to Asheville, NC, this year, no matter. Just sit down and enjoy these pics of some of the best gingerbread you'll ever see.
Unless you're a steady-handed, experienced cake decorator, squirting royal icing between gingerbread pieces can be a messy task. I've discovered the perfect solution for the globby, sloppy icing situation that happens to me every year. Just tint the icing brown so that it blends into the overall gingerbread shape. All your imperfections will vanish, especially after you apply your decorative touches with white royal icing and various candy bits.
Above is my old, old Pampered Chef device that squirts icing from a variety of decorating tips. I used a special Wilton icing tint to get this shade of brown.
Look closely at this year's Gingerbread House of Cats and you'll see the brown icing bursting out of the seams of the building. But it doesn't show up much, does it? Instead of all my globby mistakes, your eyes are drawn to the white icicles and decorations.
When you see a recipe in Southern Living magazine, you know it has to be good. Here are instructions for gingerbread votives. To cut corners, just crush and melt hard candies rather than making the homemade sugar candy for the "windows." Jolly Ranchers work well for this purpose and provide some vibrant colors.
I've been thinking a lot about this year's community gingerbread contest. Good thing, because Jessica and I received our invitations and entry forms in the mail yesterday. With the deadline bearing down, I've been pondering how I can integrate some sort of stunning glass or ice structure into this year's entry. I've got to say I'm inspired by that intriguing, glistening Fortress of Solitude.
My Grandma Wills and I used to make rock candy on her stove way, way, way back in the 1950s and '60s. Just when I decided that rock candy or hard candy would be a great ingredient, lo and behold I found a recipe. And there's also an entire set of good, solid instructions at Cakes by Jan, in Bangor, Maine. Look about half-way down the page for Jan's hard candy recipe. She has an entire page on making hard candy here. I'm using it for a set of windows and for some as-yet-undetermined sculptural element.
For further inspiration ... below is a prime example of a beautiful gingerbread window treatment. This house may be lit electrically, but I'm going to light up the inside of mine with battery-operated tea lights.
American Profile's feature piece on Deni Cole (circa 2002) includes a wealth of ideas and advice for building wonderful, award-winning gingerbread. Try using rye flour for color and texture. Cut the dough with a pizza wheel. Create stained glass windows with red Lifesavers and yellow Hall's cough drops. Drip cinnamon oil down an inside wall for extra scent.
Deni Cole has won first, second and third prizes over the years in the National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn in Ashville, NC. Her houses have been featured on Good Morning, America, as well as in Southern Living magazine. They are spectacular! Be sure to visit her website, which is packed with photos.
Making a spooky Halloween gingerbread scene? As we all know, gingerbread house construction can be a time-gobbling ordeal. Here's a unique approach for Halloween (and adaptable to Christmas as well) that can save time while still offering an impressive result.
A couple years ago, I used pre-made Rice Krispy Treats to build a staircase for my gingerbread house and these little goodies turned out to be great building blocks. Above is a clever idea using the same packaged treats for the faces of Halloween goblins. The folks at We Grow By Our Dreams have thoughtfully posted detailed instructions with how-to photos. For a completely-edible gingerbread scene, you could attach the faces to toothpicks as shown above and then slip each toothpick into a hunk of licorice. This would be a great technique for making Christmas gifts, trees and people.