Deborah Heyd puts more detail into her gingerbread houses than the average dabbler in holiday-inspired edible architecture. For most of us, having four walls that stay upright and are roughly parallel would do the trick, but her just-completed creation is a replica of the Roosevelt Hotel, the place where she works as head pastry chef.
“I just rolled out the sugar dough to make the bay windows,” she said. “It’s almost like a hard fondant I’m using so that I can put it on the building and it hardens, and I can put lights through it. Gingerbread won’t hold up to all the decorating.”
Because Heyd’s mini-Roosevelt is about 5 feet tall and about 6 feet wide, it started with a wooden frame.
She’d already baked the gingerbread, let it cool and glued it to the wooden walls. “I did two colors, white and dark gingerbread, because both sides of the building are different. The lobby side is white marble; the other is brown brick. Then the decor can match the building and not cover it.”
Now it was down to the fun part: decorating. Within a couple of days would come the finishing touches — sidewalks, plants and tables around the pool. And maybe people, or at least gingerbread men.
Surely the challenges are many when trying to reproduce a complicated building. But the artistry seemed to come easier to Heyd than the engineering.
“The bay windows are the hardest part — I’m not an architect. I waited until the last minute to decide on how I’m going to construct them (to make them) stay on.”
Like an artist who favors an emphasis on the raw materials, Heyd likes to leave some gingerbread showing. “I like to use as much candy and decoration as I can but show the gingerbread itself so people can see that it’s edible. I try not to use a lot of fondant to cover the baked gingerbread.” There will be fondant piping aplenty, though, to replicate moldings around the building.
Heyd likes to create realistic buildings. Previous years have included restaurants such as Commander’s Palace. “I try to go with some sort of New Orleans theme that will really kind of bring emotion and memories to people who come to see it. I think it’s important for people to remember our buildings, think of their past and bring back childhood memories without it being too over the top.”