There’s only really one answer when one of your favourite craft breweries one day asks if you’d like to make a beer out of your gingerbread, and - spoiler alert - the answer isn’t usually no. When the guys at Affinity Brew Co. asked whether I’d be up for it, I obviously said yes with bells on, hopped (geddit) down to their brewery in Bermondsey, and got started on crafting my very own gingerbread beer, which is now available to drink and buy around the country. What a dream come true!
Emily here, Maid of Maid of Gingerbread, alternative wedding cake baker and unique party ideas
maker extraordinaire. With the summer creeping in (almost) and our thoughts turning to the year
ahead, I thought it was about time I told you about how I got into 3D gingerbread construction and why I love it so much (aside from the fact that it’s super fun and delicious!). Here’s a little interview with me about why I love making bespoke event centrepieces.
Maid of Gingerbread came to life because of a rebellion against cakes and the circus…
I first came up with the idea of Maid of Gingerbread in 2010. My friend hosts a big fancy dress party every year and in 2010 the theme was the circus. I wanted to bake a cake to bring to the party but I couldn’t think of a cool enough cake design. I knew it had to be spectacular. I went back home to Colchester in Essex to visit my parents and I came across our old gingerbread house templates. We used to really enjoy baking gingerbread homes and would bake them every year. It was this that gave me the idea to build a gingerbread circus big top - because, believe it or not, gingerbread doesn’t always have to be in the shape of a house or person. I adapted the old gingerbread templates and the circus top came to life.
The great thing about building with gingerbread is that it’s hollow so I was able to create an entire circus to put inside the circus top construction. I added Cadbury’s animal biscuit lions and made them jump through party rings. The making process really brought out my inner child. My friends loved it and were really impressed and I enjoyed making it. At the time, I didn’t really think about it as creating an event centrepiece, but I guess that’s what it was.
When I had to leave my job that summer due to health reasons - I had RSI in my wrists and had to avoid computer work - I decided it was time to give full-time baking a go. And so, Maid of Gingerbread was born.
The hurdles I’ve had to jump
The biggest challenge I’ve had to face so far in my baking career is building a 3D gingerbread model of Castle Howard in Yorkshire. In fact, it’s been my biggest project to date.
The project involved making the main house and seven of its surrounding buildings and monuments and creating a winter wonderland installation in intricate detail. Not only did I have to copy the architectural plans of each building and translate them into tasty gingerbread, hand-piped royal icing, edible metallic paint and pastillage, I also had to make sure the tall obelisk structures stayed upright - no easy feat!
Creating an edible, moving train was my next challenge, which nearly broke me, but it worked in the end and looked great. I created a gingerbread train that worked and weaved its way through the frosty landscape. To top it all off, after I’d made a tasty, edible structure that held together, I still had to transport it in a van all the way from London to Yorkshire. With thanks to good driving and a spot of good luck, it made it in one piece.
I love recreating real-life objects and translating them into gingerbread. My other favourite projects include creating a Temple of Gingerbread and a personal favourite of mine, creating an edible DeLorean (see pictures). To me, these are projects that prove gingerbread is for life, not just for Christmas.
Why I love gingerbread
I've always loved building things and I love food. Gingerbread is the perfect material to combine these two passions. The first time I tried gingerbread was at my 4th birthday party thanks to a house my mum made for me and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since.
About my gingerbread making technique
Traditional gingerbread houses tend to use a puffy gingerbread mixture which includes bicarbonate of soda and a thick, gloopy icing to snow over the joints. Although this technique works to keep the structure together, in my opinion, the end results are sometimes messy and scrappy looking. I wanted to create a mixture that would not only tastes delicious but look professional and give a cleaner, sharper edge to allow me to build modern designs.
I decided to adapt a sugar cookie recipe for the gingerbread and file down the joints using a Microplane zester (one many utensils used as 'tools' in my toolbox). This means the edges fit together perfectly and hide most of the icing on the inside of the structure, creating the clean, smooth looking structure you can see in my finished products.
What’s next for Maid of Gingerbread?
I have dreams to spread the gingerbread love even further by writing a book about gingerbread construction. In fact, I would love to do a gingerbread tour of Europe to explore all the different traditions of spiced bread. It took me a while to refine my unique and top secret spice recipe!
Call me ambitious, but I want to make even bigger, bolder and brighter constructions! I want to spread the love of gingerbread making by encouraging more people to experiment with 3D biscuit building using my BISC KITS and joining me on one of my construction workshops to learn how to do it yourself.