The Great Gingerbread House Throwdown

Christmas time is here, and that means so many things: doing an entire month’s worth of shopping in seventeen minutes; eating candy canes and thinking “these just aren’t that good”; enduring the odd slice of fruit cake; and, of course, having some genuinely good times with family and friends. Unfortunately for me, it also means… crafting. Now, I have nothing against crafting, except one thing: I’m terrible at it, and when I say terrible I mean legitimately awful. If, for instance, you asked me to fold a paper crane, I would agonize over it and attempt to construct it for days on end, and I would have absolutely nothing to show for it. So when I showed up to the last writer’s meeting for EAT, I sincerely have no idea why I suggested “making a gingerbread house” for an article idea. What was I thinking? What have I done?


It just so happens that the person who has chosen to inhabit space and time with me for an extended amount of time — my lovely fiancé, Jasmine — is among the most talented artists and “crafty persons” I know. She organized and headed the successful United Eclectic craft fair for two or three years, and has a deft knack for picking up artistic activities remarkably quickly. Naturally, I challenged her to a gingerbread competition.


Our plan was to make a huge amount of gingerbread dough, come up with our own architectural plans for our respective gingerbread builds, and get to work. It’s ethically irresponsible for either Jasmine or myself to decide upon a winner, and that’s why the responsibility of choosing a winner will be up to you readers.




Our gingerbread recipe is uninteresting and uncreative; I Googled “Gingerbread house how to make” and got this link. Highlights from the gingerbread prep include not having lemon and opting for a shot of orange juice instead; listening to an episode of WTF with Marc Maron while prepping; and getting flour all over my black pants. Things, then, went surprisingly smoothly. We whip a ton of not super-creative but buttery and delicious-as-hell icing, and begin designing our gingerbread houses.


Faced with a giant dollop of gingerbread dough in front of me, I’m stumped. “What the hell should I build?” I wonder. I Google “super cool gingerbread houses” and get truly insane examples including this and this. Who are these people?!


Jasmine, on the other hand, seems to have envisioned this whole thing to a tee. She carves perfectly aligned walls of gingerbread replete with windows, doors, and bits of texture. I opt for the classic church steeple style: two rectangles, and two squares with a triangle top are what I end up coming up with. Having toiled for dozens of minutes to establish said basic geometric shapes, I look up to see Jasmine crafting a series of beautiful, three-dimensional spruce trees. I groan. Meanwhile, I’ve opted for the assembly-line convenience of the modern cookie-cutter: four Millennium Falcons, I decide, shall constitute my roof.


We eventually fire everything into the oven, produce a ton of liquid sugar glue (just liquefy sugar — it makes excellent gingerbread glue), and get to work. Miraculously I don’t burn myself with the frighteningly hot sugar glue (careful, folks!), and manage to put everything together. I think mine looks pretty good, but of course, Jasmine’s is infinitely better. Worse, she’s already applied icing, and has begun detailing her beautiful Modern Pacific North West Cabin with almond slice shingles, milk/white chocolate bricks, and majestic coconut mushrooms. Meanwhile, my build gets progressively stranger. I’ve created a pyramid from three gingerbread triangles, which (for some reason) I’ve placed upside down atop the Millennium Falcons. Well aware that I’m just not the craft type, I kind of let madness take over. To begin, I scoop a huge dollop of icing into the upside down pyramid, stick a few tooth picks in, and gently place half an egg-shell atop the icing… Uhhhh.




Jon carefully sculpting his house. This deep look of concentration is the first glimpse of the madness that he will have for gingerbread house building later-on in life.


Needless to say, Jasmine’s turned out beautifully, while mine turns out to be… odd, if not kind of disturbing. I’ve scattered some jalapeno chips on one side, shoved a Cadbury chocolate wrapper into a crack, and lined the outer walls with those simply awful British licorice jelly treats (which look delicious, but taste like the plague). Pacing the kitchen, letting gingery madness consume me, I dash outside and obtain some shrubbery, and peel some moss from the driveway. Carefully placing these bits of detritus to my sugary monstrosity, I deem my creation complete. Delusions of Salvador Dali-esque avant-garde grandeur consume me but, really, I’m pretty sure my creation just looks like actual garbage.




Moss on the roof means serious business in the world of gingerbread house building. “Oh that one has moss on the roof? This house is SERIOUS.” — any competition judge ever.


Meanwhile, Jasmine’s gingerbread home looks eminently habitable. Fresh coconut snow dusts the roof, a chimney lies in the form of an insanely adorable coconut mushroom, while two healthy looking spruce trees shade and protect this sugary little wonder of a home. I fear I’ve already lost.


Always good to use up all the materials. Editor’s note: This could be a satellite dish.



Jasmine’s house looks as if a fresh sprinkling of snow has only just begun. Beautiful.


My creation errs on the side of grotesque, but I don’t really care. Our kitchen is a mess, there’s a huge pile of dishes to tackle, it’s close to midnight, and we’ve consumed a bottle of Phillips Ginger Veer and Hoyne’s Dark Matter. It has, in short, been a blast of a night, and while I’m sure that we won’t eat our creations (indeed, mine simply cannot be eaten for fear injury), I feel festive and warm and good.


For the first time ever, I won’t be home for Christmas, and with that comes a bit of hollowness, a longing, and the occasional feeling that “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.” Part of that, I’m sure, is missing out on those little comforts, those impossible to explain traditions, those feelings of home. I’ve never made a gingerbread house before, but I’ll surely never forget making this weird little gingery abode with one of my favorite people. Just maybe, on that chilly, windy Wednesday night in that small apartment, our own silly little tradition began. Structural integrity, aesthetics, and conventionality be damned — Jasmine’s cozy gingerbread abode and my impressionistic home-of-Nosferatu gingerbread nightmare mark the first feelings of Christmas I’ve had in 2014.


So who takes it folks? Whose gingerbread house takes the win for 2014? Comment on Facebook with a “Jasmine” or a “Jon” and let us know! The winner shall receive bragging rights for an entire year.



Jon’s house (left) and Jasmine’s house (right). Who wins? Let us know in this story’s Facebook comments. Find our Facebook page here.

Written By:

Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Jonathan Johnson reached the silvery West Coast in 2009. In 2014 he completed his MA in English at the University of Victoria, and is a contributor for EAT Magazine. In addition to his publishing ...

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