It’s not often that you get to have your place – even an imaginary one – and eat it too, but for Geoff Cram, owner of the Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith, his annual gingerbread house is a delectably edible piece of architecture.
This is the twelfth year – or thereabouts – Cram has been building his annual gingerbread creations at the Old Time Bakery, a tradition that started four or five years earlier when, as a child care worker, he used to build gingerbread houses as an annual activity.
Since transferring the tradition to Old Town Bakery, his works have become bigger, more elaborate and more popular. From small, edible abodes atop one of his display cases, the projects have grown to the proportions of castles. “Now it’s kind of a personal challenge,” he said.
This year’s masterpiece is an invitation to imagine the inner workings of a sweater factory, which looks for all the world like a candy and icing coated version of the Kremlin.
Gingerbread men, or boys, enter the top of the factory unclothed, and emerge below, sporting brightly decorated sweaters. Watching over the process are strategically placed minions.
There’s more to this illusion than you might be aware of. Cram achieves perspective by layering the scenes, and reducing the scale of characters, architecture and other elements as you go farther back.
But the whole thing is put together without an elaborate plan or drawing. He makes the gingerbread panels, doctorates them before assembly, then puts it all together on the fly.
What goes into a gingerbread house. In Cram’s case, a lot of everything. Ingredients include: 24 pounds of flour, 8 pounds of butter, four dozen eggs, and four litres of molasses; plus six weeks or so working on the masterpiece as time permits; plus a lot of inspiration and a sense of fun.
People love the results, and that’s one of the gratifications Cram gets out of the project. “For us the cool thing was when families started coming in and getting their pictures taken in front of it,” he said.
As for the edibility of the masterpiece, well, that’s not the fate for Cram’s projects. Once Christmas is over, his son will figure out some ingenious way to demolish the structure. “One year he made a catapult of boulders,” Cram said.
Who knows what this year’s implements of demolition might be? But whatever the means, the job must be done to clear the ground for Christmas 2016, and another edible edifice.