The place to be at Christmastime if you love Gingerbread houses is the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. It began with a few gingerbread houses built by members of the community in 1992. No one had any idea that two decades later the Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition would be one of the nation’s most celebrated and competitive holiday events. The event has attracted the highest quality of competition and the best judges in the United States.
The Grove Park Inn is the perfect venue for displaying the Gingerbread houses. With fires burning in its many fireplaces and immense Christmas trees everywhere, the setting is something right out of a Victorian masterpiece. Christmas magic is in the air.
The winner, from Innisfil, Ontario Canada, created her “Dream House”. The gingerbread castle features Gothic spires and arches – an inspired sugar-filled creation. The details were amazing.
Another view of the detailed work.
3rd Place went to a local Asheville resident whose gingerbread sculpture “The Bakers”, featured two gingerbread cookies baking gingerbread.
Of the top ten winners, this was one of my favorites because of its unique colors and whimsical theme.
I also loved the detail on this entry. There were so many beautiful gingerbread houses. I have not made a gingerbread house before, but this competition has inspired me. What I have made is a delicious gingerbread cake.
I have blogged about this before, but it is perfect for Christmas and full of freshly ground spices and fresh ginger. The recipe comes from Ruth Reichl and was featured in her novel Delicious! I think that you will agree that this is just what you need for dessert during the holidays. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the holidays bring you joy and peace.
BILLIE’S GINGERBREAD ( From Delicious! by Ruth Reichl )
Whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick (I used 2)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large pieces fresh ginger root (1/4 cup, tightly packed, when finely grated)
Zest from 2 to 3 oranges (1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 6 cup Bundt pan.
Grind your peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom (individually) and measure out 1/4 teaspoon of each (You can use pre-ground spices, but the cake won’t taste as good.) Grind your cinnamon stick and measure out 1 teaspoon (Again, you can use ground cinnamon if you must.)
Whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a small bowl.
In another small bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk into the sour cream. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until the mixture is light, fluffy, and almost white. This should take about 3 minutes.
Grate the ginger root-this is a lot of ginger-and the orange zest. Add them to the butter/sugar mixture.
Beat the flour mixture and the egg mixture, alternating between the two, into the butter until each addition is incorporated. The batter should be as luxurious as mousse.
Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until cake is golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean.
Remove to a rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
1/2 cup bourbon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
While the cake cools in its pan, simmer the bourbon and the sugar in a small pot for about 4 minutes. It should reduce to about 1/3 cup.
While the cake is still in the pan, brush half the bourbon mixture onto its exposed surface (the bottom of the cake) with a pastry brush. Let the syrup soak in for a few minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack (I used a serving plate).
Gently brush the remaining mixture all over the cake.
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted or put through a strainer
5 teaspoons orange juice
Once the cake is cooled, mix the sugar with the orange juice and either drizzle the glaze randomly over the cake or put it in to a squeeze bottle and do a controlled drizzle.