UPDATE: We won 1st place in the Professional/Business category!!
This weekend marks one month since Yummyholic relaunched and opened its online store! It's been a whirlwind where I've thought, "It's only been a month??" while also thinking, "It's already been a month??" Part of the wonderful chaos is likely the fact that I've entered three competitions within the last month on top of building my menu, my website, and my social media presence - Threadcakes, the Good Food Pittsburgh Cookie Swap, and finally, the PPG Gingerbread House Competition.
I am so extremely proud of my piece which I've entitled "First Snow at Jack's House." It took me exactly one full week to design, bake, assemble, and decorate. It's the first gingerbread house I've ever made, and I'm so excited to share it with you all!
If you aren't familiar with the PPG Gingerbread House Competition, it's been named one of the best gingerbread house contests and displays in the country. Living in Pittsburgh now for years, I've become familiar with the famous Wintergarden display that premieres on Light Up Night when Downtown Pittsburgh kicks off the holidays with an evening full of family-friendly events. The display runs from late November to early January and collects funds for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
I entered every competition wanting to promote Yummyholic and take on a good challenge. Little did I know how daunting of a challenge I accepted when I made the decision to enter the PPG Gingerbread House Competition and pay homage to one of my favorite movies, "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
The architecture of Jack's house had the wow factor I wanted to create, so I wanted to stay as true to an image of Jack's house that I could find:
Having never constructed a gingerbread house before, the design itself took me a day (about seven hours):
In total, I hand cut just over 50 custom shaped cookies to build the display. I'm especially happy that absolutely everything in the display is completely edible! Other than the baked cookies, I used:
- 1 bag of shredded coconut flakes
- Homemade Rice Krispie treats
- 2 boxes of "Crows" black licorice gum drops
- Black licorice swirls
- Gray sprinkles
- White sanding sugar
- A sugar cone
- Some chocolate biscotti
- Pocky sticks
- Black cherry swirl pops
Everything is glued together with royal icing. Some research led me to try melted gummy bears as a glue, but I found it extremely difficult to work with; the royal icing alone was perfect for me.
I started the display with the octagon base, which would serve as the perimeter for Jack's House. With the rice krispie treats, I built out what would be the base for the snowy hills to surround the house.
I wanted the house to be completed at every angle, so I decorated inside the octagon base too. It's a bit of a shame that it can't be fully seen with the stairs inside of it, because sticking on those licorice swirls took me the second longest to assemble out of the entire display!
Like I said, I used melted gummy bears as a glue at first to stick on the licorice swirls, so you can see some of the melted red seeping out. I thought it was actually perfect for a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. Since I knew it would end up being displayed for all ages to see though, I kept it away from the creepy as much as I could. I filled in all the gaps between the licorice swirls with gray royal icing and covered with gray sprinkles.
Outside of the perimeter base, I cut every gum drop I had into half and affixed with gray royal icing. This is the part of the display that took me the longest, since I held each into place for up to 30 seconds before letting go.
I found Black Cherry swirl pops that I thought would work perfectly as poles for the entrance of the perimeter. As for the staircase, my inspiration came from wanting the house to look as yummy as I wanted it to look impressive. Nothing on this house looks as delectable as the s'mores staircase in my opinion. I sandwiched gingerbread cookies and chocolate sugar cookies with extra royal icing around the edges to create its effect. It's one of my favorite aspects of the display.
For Jack's door, I decided a cute little cat would work well as an adornment. The Pocky sticks worked perfectly too as added structures for each level of the house.
Assembling the top roof took me the longest time because of its large size and unique angles. I debated between mini oreos and fondant as shingles for the roofing on the house, but ultimately wanted it to have a neat appearance so went with strips of gray fondant shingles. Brushed lightly with a corn syrup and water mixture, I was able to sprinkle on some white sanding sugar and added more coconut snow for its wintery appearance. It ended up with a purple tint, which I think worked out nicely for its final look.
The extended chimney roof was constructed with chocolate biscotti cookies and the tip of an ice cream sugar cone:
The front of the top level was definitely missing something when it was blank. Adding in the wreath from the movie took my house from awesome to epic:
For reference, the wreath in the movie I'm referring to looks like this:
Once the construction of the house was complete, I was able to move onto all the characters and adornments I wanted around it. The pumpkin patch was made from rolling and sculpting fondant and attaching santa hats onto them with royal icing:
No matter what, I knew I needed Jack, Sally, and Zero in my display. I also love the mayor in the film. Following the mayor, my favorite character is actually the man with the axe in his head that yells "BUNNY!" at the Easter Rabbit:
Thinking a character with an axe in his head would be too graphic for this family-friendly display, I stuck with the trick-or-treating children: Lock, Shock, and Barrel.
Ultimately, I wanted to recreate the scene where the main characters in the film are enjoying snow for the first time in Halloween Land. Jack and Sally are romantically admiring a snowflake while Zero watches on as the kids build the mayor into a snowman and make snow angels.
After countless hours spent over an entire week, I dropped off my entry today like a parent dropping a child off at camp. I'm not sure when winners will be announced, but I won't deny that I'm crossing my fingers to place. I ended up entering into the "Professional/Business" category even though I'm technically self-taught and still consider myself a home baker currently in the process of attempting to build her own pastry business.
I learned so much and completely lost myself in this project. Here, you'll see how I went from tiny paper model to lifesize cardboard model to full blown baked gingerbread display. The final display measures at about 17" x 13" at base and stands at about a foot and a half tall:
I'll keep everyone posted once I hear the winners announced. UPDATE: My entry won 1st place in my category for Professionals and Businesses! It will be displayed in the PPG Wintergarden from Nov. 20th, 2015 through January, 7th, 2016!