Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 | 8:47 p.m.
Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Hannah Brook was tired of dinner fundraisers.
She wanted to do something fun and family-oriented. That’s when chairwoman Janice Wolf came up with the idea of a gingerbread-themed event. On Saturday afternoon, families crowded the gym at Faith Hill High School for the center’s first "We Knead the Dough" fundraiser.
Eventgoers were treated to dancers, holiday-themed games and a choir singing Christmas music. But the real attraction was the gingerbread. Children and adults ogled at the gingerbread mansions donated by the Monte Carlo bakery and got messy creating their own gingerbread men.
“Everybody has negative associations with sexual assault and rape,” Brook said. “We started this event so that it would be family-oriented; people can walk away with good memories.”
Brook said the nonprofit hopes to raise at least $10,000 to put toward purchasing a new home for the center, and not the gingerbread kind.
Monte Carlo baker Leyla Jimenez described her gingerbread display as Willy Wonka meets Santa Clause.
The entire town is edible, from the sparkling snow to the frantic elves on the roof and Santa Clause stuck in a chimney. There are candy cane posts and presents made from molding chocolate. The three homes are an explosion of icing and color. It’s all a sugar rush waiting to happen, but it also tells a story.
Jimnez said the elves have lost Santa and are on the roof frantically searching for him. She spent four hours decorating the village.
“I have a passion for what I do,” Jimenez said. “… It’s me being a kid again, building something with my imagination."
Monte Carlo baker Tanye Shea’s Christmas-bell earrings jingled as she described her mouth-watering gingerbread village that looks like it was hit with an icing blizzard.
She used pastel-colored Neko wafers for the roof tiles, built gingerbread train tracks around the homes, and added a train carrying black jellybean coal and sugary gold and silver. She also added a tiny doghouse and birdhouse to give it a cozy feeling.
Shea said it took her nine hours spread over three days to build the village.
“My favorite part is the birdhouse, just because it’s so little,” Shea said.
How to Build a Gingerbread House
Monte Carlo Executive Baker Jesus Castillo said the key to building a gingerbread house is in the icing — the rest is just imagination.
Castillo demonstrated the art in front of a crowd of curious kids mesmerized by the sugary treat. He set up the cutout gingerbread walls and roof first. Then, he added lifesavers to outline the front of the house and molded chocolate dough for roof shingles.
Everything was solidified in place with a white, paste-like icing. Castillo said he’s built gingerbread homes for 10 years; the trickiest part is just making sure everything is centered and straight, but the icing is most important.
Once, he said his icing was too thin, but he didn’t realize it until after he built the house. He walked away, only to return and find everything had fallen apart and splattered onto the floor.
While the professional bakers showed off their gingerbread homes, festivalgoers decorated their own gingerbread men. Adults and children sat at tables, getting their hands messy with frosting as they decorated their cookie.
Maria’s Gourmet Bakery and the Monte Carlo bakery supplied the cookies, frosting, mint gumdrops, marshmallows and sprinkles for the families. Marisa Nivatvongs from Marie’s Gourmet Bakery said everyone gets excited to decorate their own gingerbread man, even the adults.
“It’s fun,” Nivatvongs said. “It makes them feel like a kid again.”
Each person had their own unique design; some were messy, others carefully crafted. Aiden Kendrick, 13, spent five minutes designing his. He plans to admire it for as long as it takes to eat, which he estimated to be “one minute. No, more like 30 seconds.”
“I’m going to eat the head first,” he said.
Throughout the event, people had a chance to purchase $2 raffle tickets to win one of the gingerbread homes or a do-it-yourself gingerbread home kit.
Brianna Check, 22, won the first drawing and had her pick of homes. She chose Jimenez’s design partly because of the detail and sparkle, but mostly because it looked delicious.
“I’ll probably have it for decoration and then eat it,” Check said. “I mean, look at it. I want to eat it right away.”
Mike Wied said he purchased about $20 worth of tickets, hoping to win a gingerbread home that he planned to donate to a charity. He said he has no baking skill to build his own gingerbread house, so buying tickets was the next best thing — especially because it was all for a good cause.
“This was a nice way to do the fundraiser,” Wied said. “And with a chef making (the gingerbread houses), it’s perfect,”