BY LINDSAY DEIBLER
December is here and all the feels, smells of the holidays have arrived. As the “Ginger Gingerbread Lady,” I love to create show-stopping gingerbread creations to enter in different competitions—one being The National Gingerbread Competition held at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. I started my gingerbread journey by donating two houses to Brenner Children’s Hospital’s Festival of Trees years ago. It took me a few years before deciding to enter a gingerbread competition for the first time. Once I did, I was hooked! The magic of the holidays and the fun of seeing “gingerfriends” at annual competitions keeps bringing me back. It is so fun to dream of what to create next!
Competitions are not just for adults; many involve children, teens, and highly encourage their involvement. Competitions usually are created around charitable events, which by means of the public’s attending to view gingerbread artists’ talents, provide an opportunity for organizations to give back to their communities. Their hard work can be enjoyed by many.
Either family or friends usually come along to every competition I enter. Most larger-scale competitions have receptions, events, and meals as well, so it’s not just a make-something-and-leave situation. You can participate as much or as little as you want; but it is fun to meet other gingerbread artists. I remember meeting a little girl who was so excited to share about her polar bear entry one year. She told me how she had made him and beamed with delight. To my amazement, at the awards ceremony, she was awarded 1st place in her age division! Again, it is not just about competing, but about the joy it brings to everyone involved. Entries are displayed for people to enjoy throughout the holiday season.
I encourage you or your children to enter and have fun! You don’t have to be a gingerbread master; it takes time and practice. As with anything else, you just need to start. Make something, take it, and learn from others. If you want your children to enter, let them to play with fondant; it is very much like using clay to make shapes. Check Pinterest for ideas on things you can use to decorate. Competition entries do not have to be houses; actually, though, I find those more challenging because things have to align perfectly.
A couple of tips—competition pieces are to be built with edible only materials:
- Check the rules of each competition. Typically, the use of non-edible materials will result in disqualification. Judges will drill into pieces if in question (I have seen them do it).
- If your walls always seem to fall, place a rice cereal treat in the corner of your walls and secure with stiff royal icing.
- Corn Syrup can be used to attach small fondant pieces (lightly apply).
- 12″ Cinnamon sticks can be used just like wood dowel rods.
- Edible paints exist and may be easier for younger kids to use rather than coloring and piping royal icing for details.
- Adults only—isomalt is a great glue, but due to high heat, don’t let children use it (simi-cakes-and-confections.square.siteis an excellent resource).
- Impression mats are great for adding extra detail to gingerbread or fondant.
- Baking gingerbread directly on top of bowls/pans creates great shapes.
Take this as your encouragement to try something new and have fun. I have been playing with gingerbread for a few years and have learned much through LOTS of trial and error. Remember, every “expert” started somewhere.
Visit my website (www.gingergingerbreadlady.com) for recipes, competitions, and/or send me questions. Happy to help a “Gingerfriend.”
“Always Have Fun” ~ Lindsay