Hello, and Happy New Year! I am sure that by now most of us are more than happy to say goodbye to 2020 and welcome in 2021. The past year may have been challenging, but we did our best to remain upbeat and positive while learning to connect with the world from our homes. And that brings me to our Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #43. One of the things I enjoyed most about this challenge was reading the stories and messages behind your gingerbread houses. They were heartwarming and inspirational, and I thought it important to include them in the spotlighted entries below.
But before we get to our spotlighted entries, I would like to remind you of our THREE AMAZING PRIZES! That's right, not one, but three lucky winners were chosen entirely at random from among all entrants to each receive a membership 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 for generously donating these prizes!
And the randomly drawn winners of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #43 are . . . @Petra Florean who will receive a one-year membership in Club Cookie Academy ($120 value); @Megan Britt who will receive a 6-month membership in Club Cookie Academy ($60 value); and @mintlemonade (cookie crumbs) who will receive a 3-month membership in Club Cookie Academy ($30 value). CONGRATULATIONS, Petra, Megan, and Noriko! As you can see below, all three winners had some very impressive entries!
Tile Gingerbread House by Petra Florean
This unique house was cleverly created by baking gingerbread on top of real roof tiles. Petra kept the Christmastime meaning alive by creating a giant Santa on one side of her house - an unexpected surprise behind the actual gingerbread house facade on the other side. I really like how Santa, with his bold royal icing beard and bright red suit, serves as both the perfect backdrop and contrast to the delicate wafer paper cutouts of the girl offering food to the woodland animals. This entry is one of four submitted by Petra. Her other three are filled with fantastic textures and traditional motifs, and are inspired by the importance Christmas, family, and Santa.
Christmas Cookie Village by Megan Britt
Not only did Megan create a gingerbread house, but she also created a gingerbread village. This image (a still from her video), shows just some of the decorations that Megan created for her village, which include beautifully decorated trees, Santa and his sleigh, mistletoe, a nativity scene, and so much more. Also to be noted are the rich traditional colors, the attention to detail, and the amazing brick-effect roof. Megan's goal was to capture the magic of Christmas in a gingerbread house, and I must say that she accomplished her mission! "The lettering 'I Believe' fits perfectly," noted one of our judges, referring to another image in Megan's video. This house beautifully captures all of the wonders and magic that Christmas has to offer.
Christmas Cottage Set by mintlemonade (cookie crumbs)
Noriko made this gingerbread house as her dream Christmas cottage, and it is not hard to see why. What could be cozier during the cold winter months than to relax on a comfortable chair by a warm fireplace while reading a favorite book? As one judge exclaimed, "I'm ready to move in! This house feels so cozy, thanks to all the little homey details Noriko has painstakingly created. The books, armchair, and fireplace all make this house feel like the perfect little refuge to weather the storm of 2020." Our judges were also impressed with how Noriko ingeniously thought of decorating her house on both the inside and the outside, and to have it open and close just like a book! Noriko is a master of understated elegance, and there are many wonderful examples of that here, such as the soft muted colors, the fine detail work, and the textured exterior walls where we can see her talent shining through.
And now, on to our spotlighted artists for Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #43. In no particular order . . .
I Know a Fun Lady Who Lived in a Shoe by Kim Damon
There's no denying the creative brilliance behind this gingerbread entry. As one judge noted, "Kim really challenged herself with the construction of this shoe-house, but she pulled it off expertly." From the texture of the shoe to the leathery tongue hanging over the perfectly formed laces, to the detailed stitching, Kim absolutely nailed the realism. Kim's inspiration was drawn from having raised six kids of her own while running a daycare! Kim also included a personalized nursery rhyme with her entry. Another judge also remarked, "I love how she related the nursery rhyme to her personal experiences, and each little gingerbread person has so much character. Kim's house feels imbued with love and laughter despite this year's challenges."
Gingerbread Living Room by JulieCZ
The details in this entry are nothing short of phenomenal. Julie used multiple techniques to create this very realistic looking and perfectly scaled gingerbread living room. I am blown away by her attention to even the smallest of details as can be seen throughout her house: the scalloped edges of the coffee table, the scrollwork on the corner hutch, the embossed pattern on the sofa and window valances, the pattern of the area rug, the needlepoint artwork, and the very realistic wood flooring (and much more). As one judge commented, "It seems particularly poignant and fitting for the challenge (and this year of stay-at-home orders) that Julie showed us the inside of her gingerbread house. She used an impressive array of techniques to create an impeccably detailed and welcoming home."
Small Gingerbread House by Annelise (Le bois meslé)
Nothing makes me happier than to hear that a Practice Bakes Perfect challenge has motivated someone to create beautiful cookie art. Such was the case with this entry by Annelise (Le bois meslé). I love the clean look of the white icing against the golden gingerbread. Using all-white icing really highlights the many beautiful textures and patterns that adorn this house, including that fantastic "2020" roof. One judge observed, "The numbers were so perfectly staged that I had to look twice to see the "2020"! It just looks like a beautiful pattern!" Another judge added, "The first thing I noticed was the beautiful stringwork. I love the contrast of the red windows against the gingerbread and the white icing." Annelise also included a photo in the comments section of her entry that shows off her working chimney. She added some edible pearl powder in the draft, which makes it look magical!
Highlander Cottage by Edyta Kołodziej
This gingerbread house is filled with so much old-world charm. Edyta did a spectacular job of replicating the natural elements of her cottage. The rustic walls, cobblestones, and thatched roof are incredibly true to life in color, form, and texture. In her comments, Edyta tells a story of spending the winter holidays in a cottage with friends, and her hopeful journey after a ski accident. As one judge noted, "Her story is bittersweet, but I think we can all relate to yearning for the experiences we had to put on hold this year. Her determination to heal and to return to her cabin in the mountains is uplifting and inspiring."
This is Manuela's first gingerbread house, and I am glad to know she had a lot of fun creating it! The house was designed as a mountain home for a cozy and warm shelter. Manuela incorporated several great techniques and media including colored cookie crumbs, detailed piping, and a spatula effect to create the bricks. I really like the contrast between the quilted roof and the textured walls. The fine details, including the roof and the pine piping, must have taken forever, but they are what make the house look spectacular!
Sweet Home by Yazz Ross
This gingerbread house was a very special project for Yazz who has dedicated it to both her late grandmother and her father. What strikes me first is the grandeur of the house, and the way it is framed so perfectly between the majestic Christmas tree, with its large-scale decorations, and the grand bubbling fountain. The oversize wreath and garland, and the large stone chimney tie everything together beautifully. I am really impressed with the number of techniques Yazz used and how she drew upon different tutorials to create all of the details in her entry. The amount of work and care that went into creating this special home are what make it so noteworthy.
Gingerbread House by BevH
I loved reading how this was Bev's first gingerbread house (along with many other firsts), how she learned from it all, and how she will continue to practice. This attitude is what these challenges are all about. Bev incorporated some great design elements and techniques into her house. The OREO® cookie roof adds wonderful texture (and looks delicious!), while the spiral Christmas tree and isomalt wreath (on the back) show creativity, and add just the right amount of whimsy. Small details, like the animal tracks, add life to the gingerbread house. I also like how Bev thought outside the box by gluing her house together with isomalt rather than the usual royal icing. Bev described her gingerbread house as being much like her own: "filled with light and love, and hopefully emanating some positivity outward."
It is hard to believe that this entry is Shamantha's first gingerbread house; it has been constructed and assembled so expertly. Shamantha's piping skills really shine through in her entry. I love the delicate royal icing Christmas tree, and how its design has been mirrored on the front of the house. The Moroccan pattern on the roof is stunning, and the pressure piping of Santa and the elves is exceptionally well done. I also love the classic Christmas elements such as the candy canes and wreaths. Santa going down the chimney while the elves play happily outside reminds us of the joy and happiness that Christmastime brings.
Happy Home by Zeena
There are so many amazing details in Zeena's entry that it's hard to say what I love best about it. Of special note are the architectural features like the embossed brick walls, the textured shingles (which must have taken forever to pipe), and the dormers and richly detailed doors. The yard is beautifully "landscaped" with royal icing and fondant flowers, coconut grass, and Rice Krispies® trees. And if that weren't enough, Zeena has also included a miniature sweets table and Christmas tree, complete with presents underneath! When we think of Christmas, we usually think of cold, snowy weather, but Zeena's gingerbread house reminds us that it can also be sunny and warm!
The story behind Lisa's gingerbread entry is one that is filled with love, gratitude, perseverance, and humor. The design is based on the song Do They Know It's Christmas? recorded by Band Aid, and features Planet Earth as its base surrounded by people hugging the world. I love how Lisa purposefully created each character to represent a diversity of people, including essential workers and those of different ethnicities. The house on top is small and basic because, as Lisa put it, her house seems rather insignificant relative to the whole world right now. It is, however, overflowing with cookies, (which I suspect are on their way to the food distribution drop-off ). The rather accurate trash can reference to 2020 is, as one judge observed, "simply the best presented." Lisa's entry was not without its challenges. Another judge commented, "Lisa's emotional ups and downs through this challenge really resonated with me. Her design captures a lot of the sentiments I've heard around this difficult year: a little bit of bitterness mixed with a heap of gratitude, and a newfound awareness of the world around us (even while we're confined to our tiny little spaces). The structure, with all of its different contoured pieces and support items, sounds very ambitious and difficult," adding, "Lisa doesn't give herself enough credit." My favorite part of Lisa's gingerbread house is the Santa on top, partly because it is unexpected, but also because it reminds us of the importance of always maintaining a sense of humor.
And that concludes another Practice Bakes Perfect challenge. I encourage you to check out the whole clip set to see all of the wonderful gingerbread houses, to read the stories and special meanings behind them, and also to learn more about the techniques and media used to create them. Thank you to everyone who participated, liked, and commented on the entries. Make sure to look for our next challenge, which will post on or about January 17, 2021.
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.