This gingerbread bakery is the kind of project I like best. It was the first time I had designed an entire structure myself but the most enjoyable part was sculpting the tiny cakes and loaves of bread for the inside. I based the design on an English Victorian terrace with a shop on the ground floor and wanted the cake display to be visible behind the windows. It is all completely edible, right down to the sugar glass. I used the gingerbread recipe from the Joy of Cooking and it worked particularly well because the pieces held their shape during baking which was very important for the tiny tables and baked goods. Here are a few tips for any gingerbread architects amongst you:
1. Make the roof pieces bigger than you think they need to be. A little overhang looks better and hides a multitude of assembly mistakes.
2. This detailed recipe for poured sugar worked well for the windows. I poured it directly into the spaces I had cut out of the gingerbread for the windows and glass panel in the door; laying the pieces on silicone paper first. I would suggest taking the sugar off the heat just before it reaches the correct temperature to avoid it continuing to get darker before pouring. I had enough left over to use as glue to stick the majority of the bakery together.
3. If you are using royal icing to stick all or parts of your gingerbread house together, colour it with brown food colour paste first as it doesn’t show as much as when it is left white.
4. Once it is completed store somewhere cool – the sugar windows will start to melt at warm room temperature.
5. I popped a candle inside so that the bread and cakes would show up in the photos. A small battery operated light would be safer though, and less dependent on a sufficient oxygen supply. Next time though I may leave a section of the roof open so it is possible to see the items inside.
6. Snow is a very forgiving finishing touch. It softens any less than perfect edges and draws the eye away from any wobbly piping work and manages to make a bakery look suitably festive at this time of year. Use royal icing and a dusting of icing sugar.
I wish you all a merry Christmas and the most wonderful 2014. May it be a creative, inspiring and joy filled year for us all.