Crafting icing-adorned gingerbread houses and gumdrop-buttoned gingerbread men is a holiday tradition that stands the test (and taste) of time. For most, assembling these sweet and spiced confectionary creations is a fun afternoon activity driven by its festive simplicity and seasonally appropriate sugar content-for others, it's a challenge of epic proportions, a calling to go above and beyond in the quest for the quintessential gingerbread sculpture. These gingerbread greats from the past and present just go to show that sometimes, playing with your food is completely encouraged.
Traditions Gingerbread House/ Facebook
It's common knowledge that everything's bigger in Texas, and both the Traditions Club and St. Joseph Health System in the city of Bryan decided to push this theory to new heights (about 20 feet high, to be exact), when they constructed the World's Largest Gingerbread House in 2013.
Built to shatter the previous Guinness World Record, the 60x42-foot confectionary castle was pieced together laboriously, brick by gingerbread brick, with the help of 1,800 pounds of butter, 3,000 pounds of sugar, 7,200 eggs, 7,200 pounds of flour and more than 22,000 pieces of colorful candy ornamenting the exterior for good measure. Since the money raised in showing off the monumental masterpiece went toward the St. Joseph's Level II Trauma Center, it's much easier to justify 35,823,400 calories in a single dessert.
Ann-Sophie Fjelloe-Jensen/ NY Hall of Science
For the past three years, Gingerbread Lane, an exhibit housed annually during the holiday season in the New York Hall of Science, has broken the Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread village, and for good reason-the 500-square-foot culinary diorama takes an entire year to bake and create. Jon Lovitch, the sole chef and creator behind the sugary replica of New York City, spends more than 1,500 hours out of the year crafting the nearly two-ton village out of his two-bedroom apartment.
This year's creation contains 1,050 houses of more than 30 variations, trees, cable cars, a double-decker carousel resembling the famed Coney Island boardwalk icon, a Gimbels-inspired S.C. Kringle & Co. Department Store, the classic Peppermint Central Park and more.
Debuted in 2006 at the first-ever Festival of Lights in Smithville, Texas, "Smitty" broke the world record for largest gingerbread man, weighing in at 1,308 pounds and standing 20 feet tall. How does one bake a 20-foot cookie man, you ask? With 750 pounds of flour, 49 gallons of molasses, and 72 dozen separated eggs, to be exact.
Ritz Carlton, Moscow
Pastry Chef Troman Felizmenio turned one of Moscow's most beautifully preserved and iconized 16th-century cathedrals and made it even sweeter in 2009, when he built an ornate 6.5-foot gingerbread replica to be housed in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton. Taking three months to get the details and proportions just right, there isn't a gumdrop-adorned onion dome out of place.
Every year New York City hotel Le Parker Meridien displays an atrium full of larger-than-life gingerbread creations crafted by various restaurants across the city. Rolling Pin Productions-in partnership with Aperitivo Restaurant Brooklyn-did not disappoint with their monumental cookie-sculpted nod to the architects of ancient Egypt.
This internet-famous gingerbread construction built by a Canadian propmaker may not be the world's tallest or most dense culinary undertaking, but the amount of replicated detail down to the ramshackle roof shingles and rustic walls makes the famous Harry Potter house look good enough to eat.
Tate Modern, London, Herzog & de Meuron
For some ambitious culinary virtuosos, settling for a run-of-the-mill gingerbread man or house doesn't satisfy the artistic fancy. That's why food artists Caitlin Levin and Henry Hargreaves have gained a niche following for creating too-good-to-be-real replicas of famous museums and art galleries using everyone's winter building material of choice. This flawlessly textured, minutely detailed version of London's Tate Modern made its grand ginger-filled debut at the 2013 Art Basel Festival in Miami.
The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco has, for years, propelled the longstanding tradition of creating out-of-this-world gingerbread displays around the holiday season. The 2012 tribute to the bay area's famed "Pink Lady" architectural style, a 22-foot-high sculpture, is just one standout exhibit credited to the hotel.
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