Every couple years I embark on a dramatic gingerbread-making project, mostly as an excuse to try a new technique I’ve come across. A purchase of new piping tips and silicone baking mat meant this was going to be one of those years; and with a new book release on the eve of a South African summer, it seemed fitting to turn Norbert’s haphazard surf shack into this year’s Christmas gingerbread.
Below is how I decorated. Feel free to grab your surfboards and swim gear and follow along. Templates of the house and icing pieces were drawn beforehand, though you could probably wing it if you wanted (it’s not like his shack is the crowning glory of architecture, lol).
The windows and sea are candy glass (though melted hard candies would also work), and the sand is a mix of various sugars and cinnamon. I piped most of the decorations on the new silicone mat and let them dry before ‘gluing’ them in place with more royal icing. Pre-piping and drying royal icing pieces was especially nice for making three-dimensional parts, like the palm tree.
Most gingerbread recipes should work for dough (I tend to use whichever I find because I usually misplace the previous year’s), though royal icing is a must if you want the thing to stand. Once when I was in a bind I set the foundation of Saint Basil’s in oatmeal, which was effective but not very edible. In retrospect, gummy bear epoxy may have been a wiser choice, but royal icing usually does the job for both building and decorating, provided you support the structure with something until it dries.
If you’re looking for a quick project, this probably isn’t the one. I get really into my gingerbread making, so it’s pretty involved time-wise. If you’re going to give it a go, I’d make the gingerbread first, then the icing pieces, then the glass as needed and more icing. I added color only to small scoops and not the whole batch of icing, and I still went through at least 2 kilograms of sugar. Cookies were made first just to make sure everything worked and that I’d actually have something to decorate, though if you’re really confident you could get the icing pieces going so they have more time to dry.
And that’s about it, I think. I’m not much of a baker, though I do love decorating.