Sheila Comer’s idea of a gingerbread house is possibly just a teeny-tiny bit more elaborate than your average holiday creation.
Make that a gigantic amount more elaborate. Because whatever jumps into your mind when you hear the words “gingerbread house,” it probably isn’t anything like what she creates.
Comer, the owner-operator of Pink Ribbon Bakery in uptown New West, once again has an elaborate creation on display as part of Grouse Mountain’s annual Gingerbread Challenge in support of B.C. Children’s Hospital.
It’s her fourth consecutive year entering the contest. Last year’s entry was on a Frozen theme, and the year before was the Grinch.
“This year I really wanted to take it to a more dark place,” she said with a laugh. “I mean, I can never quite let go of Halloween, so somehow, some way, I always try to incorporate a little bit of that kind of vibe into my gingerbread creation.”
This year’s theme? The Nightmare Before Christmas.
As it happens, her four-year-old daughter is obsessed with the movie, so Comer knows it well, and she was able pull in many small, obscure details for her creation. (Look for such tidbits as Santa Jack giving Sally back her arm.)
“It’s got its darkness, but it’s fun and uplifting in the end,” Comer said – she’s describing the movie but says it applies equally to her fantasy creation.
Entering the contest is a giant undertaking - one that begins about two months ahead, when teams are asked if they want to take part. This year Comer almost said no, due to a planned trip to Maui right before competition time, but in the end, she and her team opted to go ahead.
It takes about a month of solid work to pull an entire creation together, from brainstorming the design and planning materials, to baking and building the structure and adding all the details.
Comer herself does the bulk of the work on the big, structural pieces. This year, she had her team work on many of the small pieces that are part of it – every Christmas gift, every decoration on the tree, every light on the house is hand-rolled and individually decorated.
“I wanted it to be busy, I wanted people to spend their time looking at it, so I wanted it to be full of detail,” Comer said. “None of it is slap on a candy and go; it’s all very meticulous stuff.”
Because the creations have to be able to survive for several weeks for the competition, there are no perishable cake elements. Styrofoam and wood provide some structural support, but there’s also lots of gingerbread, lots of royal icing and lots of fondant involved. (Yes, parts of it will be eaten after the contest is over. But don’t get your hopes up. Comer’s daughter is first in line for the spoils.)
Comer has high hopes for herself in this year’s contest, since last year’s Frozen entry won first place and the Grinch concoction from the year before placed second.
“People are definitely now aware that Pink Ribbon Bakery is involved in this competition, and they’re keeping an eye out,” Comer said. “I’ve got people excited about it. All my followers are pretty on board.”
Anyone interested can vote – every day, if you’re so inclined – online at www.grousemountain.com/gingerbread-village-2018. Voting is open until Jan. 6, 2019 at noon.
Or, better yet, you can take the family up Grouse Mountain to see all the creations in person; they’re all on display in the gift shop, so you can examine them all and vote while you visit the mountain’s Peak of Christmas festivities.
“It’s such an awesome time,” Comer said. “They set it up really beautifully and have Christmas music playing in the background."
She noted that the entries aren’t just from professionals like herself but also involve categories for amateurs and schools.
“It’s just a thing where everybody can get involved,” she said. “It’s a great chance to bring families up to Grouse Mountain.”
Find all the details at www.grousemountain.com.