Thank you for this opportunity to share a fun Christmas gingerbread collaboration project. For me, it started when I found the cookie community, nearly a year ago now, and just fell in love! I loved the art, the clear camaraderie of everyone blogging and chatting on Facebook, and most of all, the collaborations. The first one I saw was on Lilaloa's blog, a group of cookiers turning Christmas cards into cookies. It just looked like so much fun! When I started my page, The Cookie Architect, my goal was simply to jump into the conversation and share my newfound love of the art of cookies, but my dream was to participate in one of those great cookie collaborations. So this is a tale of a dream come true!
Most of my best ideas start from a question like this:
"Why on Earth are people talking about Christmas cookies?!? It's August!!"
Before I know it, I'm thinking about gingerbread season in the heat of summer, and trying to figure out how to apply my cookie art love to my next big project.
"Hmmmm . . . Something that can be built out of cookie-size pieces, like a house of cards."
Cue "house of cards" search on Pinterest. I'm an architect, so when the most popular result (after the TV show) was a card game designed by modernist architects Charles and Ray Eames, I knew I was onto something. Their cards had notches cut into them that you could build into a variety of shapes. And they were printed with random modern images. And they were cool.
So now I've decided to build a gingerbread house of cards. It's August (Did I mention that already?!) And I'm so excited that I go blabbing my idea to some cookie friends, and it occurs to me as I'm telling them about it - "Hey! I should just make the cards, and get cookie artists and friends to decorate them and then I will put them all together. That would be THE BEST!!" The friends with whom I was talking agreed, and a collaboration was born.
But wait, there are 32 cards in the deck, so I had to come up with more than the half a dozen who'd signed up so far. And I thought, well, I'll just ask a bunch of people, dream big, and see what happens. What happened is I asked cookie friends, cookie idols, and my mom. And they all pretty much said yes!
"Oh dear, now I'm in over my head!"
Deep breaths . . . make
a spreadsheet and collect everyone's addresses. Start
sending out what will turn into a
million emails. Make a template for
the cookie, and then come the
middle of October, make the
The cookies had to be strong, and I'd made elaborate constructions from gingerbread before, so I already had a great recipe. The secret to this recipe is the corn syrup. The cookie ends up being part cookie, part candy . . . hard candy. Next up, I knew that the cookies would have to be an even thickness, so that they would notch together, so I got two basswood strips from the craft store as rolling guides. And then comes the part that might seem like the tricky part - the notches. In order to interlock a number of cookies, the notches would have to be very consistent, with square edges. From my previous gingerbread experience, I had just the solution:
The bandsaw (or the jigsaw, if a shop isn't handy). For my gingerbread work, I bake up the gingerbread in sheets, trace the pieces on to the cookie, and cut them out on the saw. Near perfect pieces every time. In the end. I baked and cut out about 50.
Miles of bubble wrap and a wince-inducing swipe of the credit card (Canadian shipping! ouch!) later, and cards were winging themselves all over North America. Only one broke on the way out, but a replacement card was found, and everyone got to decorating!
Cards started to trickle in - so much beauty! Do you ever wonder if the cookie art you see is *really* that beautiful? I'm here to tell you, they ALL really were THAT BEAUTIFUL. My hands would shake sometimes opening the boxes. I was worried that I would break them, just unraveling the bubble wrap.
In true cookier procrastination fashion, the last week was the busiest, what with me decorating my cookie, and making some spare cookies for those hidden inside spots, and generally preparing myself. Some of the cards needed to be repaired, as they had broken in transit. In one case, I cut the fondant off the cookie with dental floss and applied it to a new cookie. Okay, two cookies - I figured while I had it apart I could turn it into two panels for the tower. In another, the royal icing was hard, but the cookie had gotten damp and disintegrated. I scraped the cookie right off the royal icing and trimmed and reapplied the icing to another cookie - icing transfers usually are on wax paper! In many cases I also had to trim a little icing out of the way of the notches - I'd forgotten the importance of leaving space for the two interlocking cookies to miss each other. I learned that royal icing can be very strong - I used a mini chisel and a X-Acto blade, and a lot of patience!
When it came time for construction, I built a design out of the "real" House of Cards deck that my son and I play with. I spread out the cookies so I could see them, and got out the Post-it notes. I assigned cookies to spots based on both logistical and artistic factors.
Some of the heavier and thicker ones I wanted on the lowest level for support, and there were color and content themes that I wanted to tie together as you looked at it, so it didn't come across as a random mix. I had such amazing cookies to work with - my only regret was that it was going to be hard to see both sides of some cookies.
But in the end, it all worked - even with a few last-minute additions! In fact, the whole thing can be taken apart and put together in a variety of ways, because it is just notched together.
And the results . . . Well, you can see for yourself! And don't forget to scroll down to see all of the amazing contributions close up. You can also see more pictures at The Cookie Architect on Facebook. It's the best cookie card collection a girl could dream of!
The Cookie Architect (Rebecca Weld) and The Gingerbread House of Cards
Here it is! I think of this as the front door! The overall size of the house is 14 inches (36 cm) by 14 inches (36 cm) by 15 inches (38 cm) tall, with each card 5 x 3.5 inches (12.7 x 9 cm).
I did the un-iced cards with the cutouts so that the cards in the very middle of the house wouldn't need to be some of the beautiful contributions I'd received. I put the star cookie on the right so you could get a better glimpse of some of the colors and art on the inside of the tower.
The Nativity section - I loved the recurring themes that happened!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: What a remarkable collaboration! I soooo regret that my schedule would not allow me to take part. Rebecca, thank you so much not only for organizing this epic event, but also for writing such an illustrative post!]