Once for a holiday team building activity we bought a gingerbread decorating kit. It was fun and tasty – and harder than it looks. Royal icing can make a royal mess. The folks at Biltmore have it down to an art.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Biltmore House, it’s American’s largest private home but you can visit. Biltmore House is a Châteauesque-style mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. Still owned by George Vanderbilt’s descendants, it remains one of the most prominent examples of the Gilded Age architecture. Here’s a beautiful picture of the Biltmore House in the summer:
It’s huge! How in the world do you make a replica out of gingerbread?! Well, you start with a team of ten bakers!
The Asheville Citizen Times newspaper reports that it took six weeks for that team of bakers to make the gingerbread replica. When we made the gingerbread house in that teambuilding event, the roof was the hardest part. The Biltmore bakers said that was the hardest part.
The article describes how they had to get creative to recreate the famous lions that guard the front door of the Biltmore House:
Schiebel hand-sculpted the lions from modeling chocolate. “It’s just chocolate and corn syrup,” she says. “You melt down your chocolate and add corn syrup and it makes it like modeling clay” when it cools. “And then it dries hard.” Once hardened, the lions were painted with gold — the real stuff. “It’s gold dust mixed with vodka,” she notes.
This summer I read all about the Biltmore House in this great book: The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home. Even though I knew a lot about the Biltmore House already, I learned much more – lots of interesting stories around the history of the building.
If you want to see the gingerbread replica up close, take a trip to Asheville and buy tickets to the Biltmore House. It’s a beautiful to see at Christmas time!