There's no ignoring the fact that 2020 has been a year like no other. It was the year that we went from living life outside of our homes to living life within our homes. Home became the place where we were quarantined from the world, but also where we connected with the world. Through Zoom meetings, schooling, work, and social media, we welcomed and were welcomed into each others' homes.
So, it is only fitting that this next challenge be about creating the perfect gingerbread house – or perhaps, in this case, the perfect gingerbread home.
But before I mention the details of this challenge, let's talk about our AMAZING prizes! Yes, that's right – not one, but three lucky entrants will be chosen at random from among all entrants to receive one of three memberships in @Tunde Dugantsi's Club Cookie Academy! Cookie Connection member – and gingerbread artist – Tunde has generously donated the following three prizes:
- One Club Cookie Academy one-year membership ($120 value);
- One Club Cookie Academy 6-month membership ($60 value); and
- One Club Cookie Academy 3-month membership ($30 value).
Club Cookie Academy is a continuous learning opportunity on Facebook. Members get access to the Facebook group Club Cookie Academy (the platform used for classes and communication), two new live online classes with Tunde each month, discounts on decorating tools and supplies, exclusive designs and tools related to classes, help with cookie decorating questions, and more! THANK YOU, Tunde!
Now, on to the details of our challenge! As mentioned, for many of us, our homes have become, now more than ever, an important part of our lives. And while we may be doing things a little differently this year, our homes have always been a place where we gather together with friends and family for events like the upcoming holiday season, and for joy and celebration.
With this in mind, the goal for this challenge is to create a gingerbread house that reflects what "home" and/or the spirit of this season mean(s) to you.
Creating Your Gingerbread House
All great gingerbread houses start with a great gingerbread recipe. In this video tutorial, @Julia M. Usher teaches us how to make her Cutout Cookie Gingerbread, the one that she typically uses in all of her 3-D cookie construction projects. You can also find the printable recipe on Julia's site, here. In this Sugar Geek Show post by Liz Marek, you will find a recipe for "construction gingerbread” which is gingerbread that is not meant to be eaten, but rather is meant for building a sturdy gingerbread house.
If you would like to add some delicious edible gingerbread accessories to your project, then I would suggest this post and video tutorial by @SweetAmbs or this recipe for honey gingerbread by @Teri Pringle Wood. Likewise, Tunde also has gingerbread recipes for both "construction" and edible gingerbread that are worth checking out.
For architectural elements, this video tutorial from Julia demonstrates how to contour cookies to create curvaceous pieces that can be used to adorn your gingerbread house. And to help make sure your 3-D projects turn out as planned, I recommend watching this video with accompanying pdf (also from Julia), which explains the science behind baking over molds and curved surfaces, and offers controlled experiments so that we can better understand the process.
There are also numerous recipes that can be found online to create royal icing, which can be used to both "glue" and decorate your gingerbread house. This post by Julia, as well as this post by Tunde, are great places to start. Additionally, this Serious Eats article and this The Spruce Eats post offer royal icing recipes specifically made for gingerbread houses.
Once you have decided on your dough and icing recipes, you will need to begin constructing your gingerbread house. Food scientist Ann Reardon offers several tutorials and videos that walk us through the entire process. Here you will find tips on everything from cutting out and constructing your house to decorating and even lighting your finished project.
And, if you prefer your corners to look "clean", then Cookie Connection contributor @Manu biscotti decorati has several tutorials, such as this 3-D wagon cookie tutorial, that show how to create precisely mitered corners.
When it comes to creating your gingerbread house, you are welcome to use your own architectural designs, however, if the idea of creating a 3-D structure seems a bit challenging, then this basic gingerbread house template from Taste of Home is a great place to start.
If you are feeling ambitious, you will want to check out Catherine Beddall's Instagram feed and this Bon Appétit article about award-winning Certified Master Sugar Artist and gingerbread architect @Beatriz Muller for ideas and inspiration.
These sources are just SOME of the ones I came across while searching online. With so much information available, and no shortage of recipes, tutorials, templates, tips, and techniques, I encourage you to also do your own research to gather ideas. However, just in case you need a bit more inspiration to get started, here are a few examples of gingerbread houses from our own Cookie Connection members:
Victorian Gingerbread House by Kim-Sugar Rush Custom Cookies
This gingerbread house features a wonderful bedtime scene behind the façade. Additional photos are posted in the comments section under this clip.
Shabby Chic Gingerbread House by Incantata
Gingerbread House - Small Mushroom Cottage with Mini Glass (Isomalt) Roses by iSugarfy (aka swissophie)
Gingerbread House by Sofiya
Christmas Gingerbread House by Kristine - The Gingerbread Journal
From My Book "A Year of Gingerbread Houses" 2014 by Kristine - The Gingerbread Journal
As you may have noticed, the wonderful thing about gingerbread houses is that their designs, and the techniques and media that can be used to create them, are limited only by your imagination. As a matter of fact, now would be an excellent opportunity to incorporate some of the media and techniques learned from previous challenges into your gingerbread house projects.
PLEASE READ THEM CAREFULLY. I would hate to disqualify an entry because someone failed to read ALL of the rules.
1. Create a gingerbread house with a theme that reflects what "home" and/or the spirit of this season mean(s) to you.
2. You must include the year "2020" as part of your entry.
3. You must use a minimum of three (3) different techniques when creating your gingerbread house.
4. You can use any food ingredient to create your gingerbread house project, but all decorations must be edible. However, you may include lighting and a non-edible base for support.
5. Your gingerbread house design must be original, and not a copy of any other artist's design. (Though you can use the Taste of Home design template, link above, as desired.)
6. As always, we ask that you make a brand new cookie project for this challenge.
7. And because Cookie Connection is all about learning and sharing, I would love for you to share in the comments section under your entry what inspired your design, its meaning, and the ingredients, media, and techniques you used to create your gingerbread house. Remember: At least three (3) different techniques must be used.
- Please post an image of your gingerbread house to the site under the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set no later than January 3, 2021 at 5 pm central. (I am allowing a little more time than usual for this challenge, as I know how busy the holiday season can be for us cookiers!)
- Because these challenges are ongoing, we ask that you put "Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #43" in your photo caption AND in a tag, so that we can tell the challenges apart from month to month. Please use the main title field to uniquely name your cookies as you normally would.
- Please also assign other relevant clip sets and tags to your images, as you normally would (meaning don't just use the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set and leave it at that, or your photos won't easily be found with keyword searches).
- You can enter more than once, but please post only one clip of each distinct entry. Multiple clips of the same entry are not allowed unless added in a comment beneath the one primary clip.
The prizes are given entirely at random. This means that everyone who participates in the challenge has an opportunity to be rewarded with one of our three fantastic prizes this month!
After the challenge has closed on January 3, we will announce the winner in the Saturday Spotlight on January 9, 2021. The next challenge will be announced about a week after that Spotlight.
And, remember, these challenges are NOT a competition. They are intended to inspire and motivate you to step outside of your comfort zone, to experiment and be creative, and to try something new. The goal is for you to challenge yourself artistically and technically, and to develop your skills so that you may reach your full potential as a cookie artist. And, of course, the goal is for you to have fun along the way.
I can't wait to see what you create. If you have any questions about this challenge, or if you are looking for ideas, technical advice, or creative help - or if you just want to talk cookies - I would love to chat. You can leave me a comment below, or you can send me a private Cookie Connection message.
Christine Dutcher's journey as a cookier began in early 2013 when an online search led her to the amazing world of cookie decorating. After spending countless hours learning all that she could, Christine decorated her first set of cookies in October 2013. In 2016, she decided that she would begin to focus on perfecting her skills, challenging herself each time to create more detailed and progressively complex pieces of cookie art. In 2019, Christine became one of the very first sugar artists from around the world to be named as an "Honourary PME Five Star Sugar Artist" by Knightsbridge PME. You can learn more about Christine's work here on Cookie Connection, and by following her Facebook and Instagram pages.
Photo credit: Christine Dutcher
Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Dutcher that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.