This amazingly realistic gingerbread competition piece made by Heather Plawski Lewis won 2nd place in the 2011 Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House Competition, the most prestigious gingerbread house competition in the U.S. It comes with a wonderful explanation of how they were made. Here are Heather’s words:
Heather’s Inspiration for the Design
My gingerbread piece is a collection of ornaments displayed in a decorative trunk. I chose the inspiration for the decorative elements of my “baubles” from Christmas ornaments I collected from various trips I took across the states in the past year. Many of the ornaments have personal meaning and beautiful memories. The large white ornament with the holly and the red vintage starburst ornament are from my hometown of Las Vegas, a trip I made to be with my mother during my uncle’s last days before he passed away from cancer. The silver holly ornament, the white snowflake ornament, and a few others were collected from Asheville when my husband I happily celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. These are just a few memories worth mentioning, but as you can tell most of the ornaments have a story!
Heather’s Gingerbread Dough & Baking Process
I used a construction grade gingerbread that consists of all-purpose flour, spices, light corn syrup, light brown sugar, and a 50/50 mixture of butter and margarine. My gingerbread shapes were achieved by baking over molds using the following: rimless stainless steel hemisphere molds, wood shapes and dowels, and paper mache craft ornaments enforced with aluminum foil. All gingerbread pieces were baked at low temperatures for long periods of time to ensure the spheres would not cave, and then the oven temperature was raised the last quarter of cooking time to brown the outside.
Gingerbread Cookie Trunk
Made from flat pieces of gingerbread cut with a scroll saw for perfect edges. Outside panels are covered with vanilla and chocolate fondants. Some of the panels are painted with gel paste and vodka to achieve the wood grain look. Inside is bare gingerbread painted with gel paste and confectioners glaze in layers to make it look like varnished wood. I used rice krispie treats to fill the trunk to add height for theornaments. The lid is attached using royal icing, candy canes, isomalt, scrap gingerbread pieces, and rice krispie treats.
Gingerbread Cookie Ornaments
The white, lighter green, gold, light gold, and silver ornaments have been airbrushed with many custom colors made with luster dust and lemon extract. The green colored teardrop ornament was achieved by painting coats of a mixture made with gel paste, corn syrup, and vodka. All the ornaments are finished off with an edible lacquer.
-The gold sequin ornament was made by making gold sheen gelatin sheets and using various hole punchers to make the edible sequins.
-The silver beaded ornament was made with silver jimmies, sugar sprinkles, and dragees.
-The scenic ornament with Santa and his sleigh is an oval piece of gingerbread decorated with royal icing and disco dust.
– I made molds for the ornament toppers made from actual toppers. I also custom made molds for the tiny and larger isomalt gems and for the Santa’s sleigh and Reindeer scenic ornament.
– The gold star ornament was made from cutting a flat star shape with the scroll saw and then I made a mold from a paper mache craft ornament to make “cage” to dry the gumpaste scrolls on.
The Decorated Platform
Fondant panels were impressed with a textured watermark rolling pin and painted with a gel paste and vodka mixture. The floors were finished off with confectioners glaze.
Thank you, Heather Lewis, for sharing the story of your gingerbread Christmas baubles with us. Your craftsmanship and ingenuity are astounding!
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