Every year the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, North Carolina hosts the National Gingerbread Competition and it attracts hundreds of competitors in its four categories. A panel of professional judges carefully scrutinized each entry looking for overall appearance, creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme and they arrived at six winners. Check them out:
"Russian Stacking Dolls" by Heather Lynn Lewis
Grand Prize Winner
This is an interpretation of the Russian wooden nesting dolls called matryoshka. It begins with the smallest doll being a little Russian girl and all the other dolls are the characters that she dreams of in her Christmas world including a snowman, an elf, Rudolph and Santa. Lewis constructed the molds out of different-sized hemisphere pans covered with foil to form the various size dolls. It took several weeks of baking to bake two pieces to perfectly match each other. They are attached with royal icing. Once placed together with icing, Lewis used a dremel and sanding paper to sand-down the edges. The smallest doll is made entirely of rice krispy treats, and the dolls are glazed with a food coloring, vodka, corn syrup mix. Lewis also used gumpaste and fondant to decorate the outside of the dollars. This was her first entry in The National Gingerbread House Competition.
"Believe" by Angel Adkins
First Place Adult
The name of this gingerbread creation is based on the story of a little girl who wrote a letter to Santa Claus. Adkins started baking on October 1st and used a pattern for a real wooden rocking horse, which she reduced in half in order for the horse to fit on the 24-inch base. The wood is gingerbread; nails became candy canes; and, royal icing holds the pieces together. The eyes and leather ears are made of gumpaste, and the floor is stained with a food coloring/vodka mix and sprayed on edible lacquer. The doll has a candy cane running through it to give it support, and also includes tiny shoes for the doll made of gumpaste. To tie it all together, Adkins made a letter out of gumpaste asking Santa for a doll and rocking horse. Adkins spent approximately 200 hours on her creation.
"Noah's Ark" by Barbara Evans and Mary Jo Dowling
Second Place Adult
The ark is made of gingerbread, and the animals are made of fondant and gumpaste, which were shaped by hand. No molds were used on the animals; instead, isomalt water was used to help form the animals. All details on the animals were hand painted. As a team, Dowling made the animals, and Evans baked the ark and made a custom mold to bake the round pieces for the ark. The night before The National Gingerbread House Competition, both Dowling and Evans met at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa to put all the pieces together. They spent approximately 150 hours on this gingerbread piece.
"Santa's Pre-Flight Pampering" by Suzanne Kanaly
Top Ten Adult
Santa treats his hardworking reindeer to some well-deserved pampering before the big flight on Christmas Eve. Hoof shines, nose buffing, mini mud baths and mineral baths are just what the reindeer need for the long night ahead. This piece took approximately 150 hours to construct, and is made primarily of gingerbread, fondant, and gumpaste. Kanaly used a honey-based gingerbread recipe instead of molasses because she lives in a humid area. She also used seeds and lentils for the stairs and risers, and vitamin C capsules for the light bulbs on the front entrance lights.
"Santa's Globe Theater" by Cathy Christiansen
Adult Top Ten
Santa's Globe Theater is based on the Globe Theatre in London. A scale of "1 inch equals 3 feet" is used throughout the piece. The building is gingerbread, and the thatch roof is made of various types of pasta tied in bundles with sweet potato stems. The floors are supported by the beams, which are made of whole wheat fettuccini glued together with edible glue. In addition, the large posts and beams are made of gingerbread, with the columns on the stage made with spaghetti, shaped into a column, and covered with mixed fondant. The black flag on top indicates that a tragedy is playing. Oranges and hazelnuts are being sold by the street vendor.
"UP" by Skyla Delerme
Teen First Place This creation is based on the movie "UP." The house is constructed of 32 pieces of gingerbread covered with icing. The characters were hand-molded from fondant and gumpaste. Skyla spent about 6 hours on each character and about 150 hours in all, beginning work in September. The balloons coming from the chimney are spaghetti noodles topped with jelly beans. Skyla is 16 years old, and has been entering The National Gingerbread Competition since she was five years old.
Here are a few more beautiful gingerbread homes that were also involved in the competition.
"Victorian Mansion" by Rita and Monte Adams
The Victorian mansion is primarily constructed of gingerbread and fondant but also contains dry pasta, rice paper, ice cream cones, coffee, ground graham crackers, dried herbs and edible gold, silver and pearl coloring. They created silicone molds by modeling a toy horse, to create the solid chocolate horse, ornaments for the wreaths, candy canes, cats and designed a mold for the windows. The inside walls were painted with powdered coloring and stencils. The Adams spent a little over 300 hours on their house. This is the 4th year they have entered.
Amazing Gingerbread Houses
"The Fall" By Carolina Montoya
This gingerbread house is inspired by the diverse colors of autumn leaves. It depicts a ballet theater with an atmosphere to honor fall color. The theater is constructed of white chocolate, gumpaste, gelatin sheets, royal icing, fondant, edible papers and ink, marshmallows, frosting sheets and edible gold dust. The white chocolate leaves were starting to melt when Montoya delivered her creation to The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa; however, she was able to use a hair dryer to re-melt and re-form the multi colored chocolate leaves.
"Cajun Night Before Christmas " by Peggy Reitz
Reitz is originally from the New Orleans area. Every year she reads a "Cajun Night Before Christmas" to her children, which is where she came up with the idea for a Cajun-themed gingerbread house. Reitz only worked on the creation for two weeks because she says she didn't decide to enter until the last minute. She used poured sugar for the bayou; gingerbread for the canoe; and, made the Santa and the gators from gumpaste. The tree is a big candy cane covered with gum paste, with rice krispy treats used for other parts of the construction.