Christmas Means Gingerbread . . . Houses and More

Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg, VirginiaHotels have a history of celebrating the holiday season with inventive gingerbread creations — some of which are life-size buildings rather than decorated miniatures. Here are some of the most spectacular (and most will be on display for at least a week after Christmas).

* The Williamsburg Lodge (Autograph Collection) in Williamsburg, Virginia, is showcasing (pictured, above) a life size gingerbread house. Located in the lobby of the hotel, it took 15 people more than 330 hours to bake, construct, and decorate. Approximately 150 pounds of icing, 55 pounds of candy, and 375 pounds of gingerbread were used to make this gingerbread creation come to life. The interior of the gingerbread house is complete with a mantelpiece and a Christmas tree.

*It took four people from the pastry department to create and implement the gingerbread creation for the Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock, Vermont. The bakers started at the beginning of November working on the shingles and the setup was completed the first week of December. The bakers had help from the Inn’s carpenters to create a wooden structure and then the pastry team placed the shingles onto the wood, and after that the decorating commenced. Ingredients used include: 150 pounds of flour, 51 pounds of molasses, 40 pounds of shortening, six pounds of ginger, six pounds of cinnamon, two pounds of baking powder, one pound of salt, a ton of eggs, and 15 pounds of candy to decorate.

*The gingerbread display at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C., this year is of the Jefferson Memorial, including The Tidal Basin and D.C.’s iconic cherry blossom trees in an effort to bring awareness to the hotel’s campaign and the ongoing efforts needed to preserve the Tidal Basin, named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Standing at eight and a half feet by five feet, The Willard’s gingerbread display features a southeast view of the Jefferson Memorial. The display also includes an audio feed of Thomas Jefferson’s Inaugural Addresses, as well as a real water component to simulate the Tidal Basin complete with live fish. Intricate chocolate techniques, along with the use of fondant, bring the famed cherry blossom trees surrounding the memorial to life.

Gingerbread House, Fairmont Royal York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada*This is the first year for a life size gingerbread display (above) at Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, created by Executive Chef JW Foster and his engineering and culinary elves. Inspired by a New York Brownstone, the gingerbread creation stands more than 24 feet high and six feet deep. It holds 4,500 bricks and 500 delicious pounds of royal icing.

*Now on display on the second level of the Event Center all throughout the 50 Days of Lights at French Lick Springs Hotel, French Lick, Indiana, is a dazzling gingerbread that guests might even be able to smell from a mile away. One of the most unique parts about this year’s version is that the resort’s audio/visual department got involved to kick it up a notch. This Santa’s-workshop-themed gingerbread house is tech-savvy, with animated scenes scrolling on one of the front and side windows. You can “see inside” the house and watch St. Nick and the elves busy at work. This gingerbread creation involves a couple hundred pounds of gingerbread, dozens more pounds of icing and sugary decorations, and roughly 450 hours of work by the hotel’s bakery staff to make this happen.

*The gingerbread construction at the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Point Clear, Alabama, starts with baking gingerbread bricks in mid-October. At the beginning of November, the construction of the Grand Hotel in gingerbread begins. A team of eight pastry cooks works on the display each day while continuing daily production. They spend approximately 20-30 hours a week creating it. The entire construction process took about a month to complete and is unveiled on Thanksgiving night. This year the pastry team decided to build the resort brick by brick instead of using sheets of gingerbread, as in the past. More than 4,000 bricks have been used and the Grand culinary team puts great details in the display.

*2019 marks the fourth annual Hudson Valley Gingerbread Competition at Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York. Mohonk invited its guests, members of the local community, and employees to construct their best gingerbread creation for a chance to have it displayed throughout the resort during the holiday season. A panel of local judges selected three prize winners and two honorable mentions in three categories and the top five finishers have their creations on display throughout the Mountain House. Similar to the Holiday Tree Tour where guests can view multiple decorated trees, Mohonk has created a self-guided Gingerbread Tour for guests to explore the winning creations.

Gingerbread at Chicago Hilton Hotel, Illinois*This year’s gingerbread display at the Hilton Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, features the city’s iconic cityscape (above) with notable structures including the “Bean”, Buckingham Fountain, Willis Tower, John Hancock Tower, and Soldier Field, amongst a few others. It took the hotel’s pastry team more than 270 hours to bake and construct, and is estimated to weigh more than 750 pounds, with its 16,500 gingerbread bricks.

*Each year, the pastry kitchen at The Peabody Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee, turns into Santa’s workshop. The staff were busy for months leading up to the holidays, designing, ordering supplies, baking and prepping for their gingerbread creation. The amount of ingredients used is staggering. This year, almost 400 pounds of sugar, 150 pounds of flour, 3 gallons of molasses, 5 gallons of egg whites and 30 pounds of candy were used to create the annual holiday masterpiece. In the past, they have created giant gingerbread houses, Whoville from the Grinch movies, Chutes and Ladders (the board game) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory displays. This year’s display is a complete gingerbread village with certain items, snowmen and trees that rotate, bringing the gingerbread display to life.

*This year Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, has one “el” of a gingerbread installation to “loop” in the holiday merriment to downtown Chicago with the introduction of interpretation of the holiday CTA Red Line. Created by Executive Chef Christian Brassfield, the installation was assembled by five Palmer House team members who clocked in 1,400 hours to create. Comprised of 34 sheet pans of gingerbread, 150 pounds of royal icing, 15 pounds of sassy spheres, 15 pounds of chocolate curls, 10 pounds of lollipops, five pounds of gumballs, which is sure to be a crowd pleasing stop for photo ops throughout the holiday season.

*The confectionery showpiece at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. is an Arctic scene depicting Santa and his elves making a Christmas visit to the indigenous animals. The gingerbread scene includes several igloos, a polar bear, a penguin and an otter, all made with hundreds of pounds of gingerbread and royal icing and decorated with individually placed candies.

Nittany Lion Inn, State College, Pennsylvania
*Penn State is all about tradition, and the holiday season brings with it a favorite tradition for The Nittany Lion Inn of State College, Pennsylvania: a gingerbread replica of the historic hotel (above), created by the Penn State Bakery. This is the 13th year that the bakery has delivered the much-anticipated gift to the inn. The replica, constructed from about 50 pounds of gingerbread, 100 pounds of icing, and 20 pounds of candy, takes approximately 32 hours to prepare.

*Since 1907, Fairmont San Francisco in San Francisco, California, has delighted generations with its heartwarming holiday festivities. For more than a century, the hotel has provided a winter wonderland where families can gather to celebrate the season in style. In 2008, the hotel began the tradition of creating a life size gingerbread house for children (adults) to enjoy in the hotel’s lobby. With each passing year, the house has grown larger in majesty and size. This year’s creation was inspired by San Francisco’s Painted Ladies and Victorian architecture. The engineering team and culinary team begin planning/baking as early as July in preparation for mixing, baking, and setup. The Pastry Shop spends approximately 450 hours creating the gingerbread house, and the engineering department spends 772 hours to build, light, and animate.

*This year’s creation at The Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, took more than three days and three five-gallon buckets of royal icing, 50 full sheet pans of gingerbread, five pounds of poured sugar work, and more than one pound of candy to create. The theme is Victorian homes and it took the pastry team 26 days to make. The gingerbread village is a popular backdrop during the holiday high tea the hotel conducts.

*The historic Settlers Inn, Hawley, Pennsylvania, has an annual gingerbread display that guests have come to know and love throughout the years. The windows of the gingerbread house have intricate details with noted similarities to the Inn. This replica of the hotel features most details of the hotel including the sign out front. It takes three days to bake and assemble about 28 hours of total manpower to put together this replica gingerbread creation.

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado*Led by Executive Pastry Chef Adam Thomas of the Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado, this year’s gingerbread display (above) is a tribute to The Broadmoor Special — founder Spencer Penrose’s 1918 Pierce-Arrow touring car that was legendary for racing in the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb. The gingerbread display was crafted by The Broadmoor’s Baking and Pastry Team over two weeks, creating a life-size replica car. The ingredients include 375 pounds of all-purpose flour, 47 pounds of molasses and 482 pounds of sugar.

*The gingerbread village at Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, Alaska, weighs more than 1,000 pounds, with over 700 pounds of gingerbread. The finished houses can be over 17 inches tall. The gingerbread houses were started in July, assembled in late November, and finished by the first week in December. It is named “Marina’s Village” after the daughter of the pastry chef and co-owner of the Hotel Captain Cook. Each house is named after longtime friends and employees of the hotel. The village is up until after Christmas, and many Alaskans come to visit and take photos.

The tradition of gingerbread fairy-tale houses reportedly started in the United States more than 200 years ago with the German immigrants to Pennsylvania.

You can make a reservation at any of these hotels on the hotel’s website, or via the usual hotel booking sites such as, Priceline, Expedia or Travelocity.

(Photos courtesy of Historic Hotels of America)

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