CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Gingerbread houses with their soft browns cakes, shiny white frostings and multi-colored candies have a way of connecting one to the holidays almost instantly.
To that end and to bring visual delight to its residents, the management of Coburg Village, the Rexford-based retirement community, has been making the elaborate houses for more than a dozen years. Each year’s finished product is revealed at the community’s December Happy Hour.
This year’s reveal took place Wednesday, Dec. 13 when approximately 125 residents were treated to the unveiling of this year’s gingerbread house, Kringle’s Theme Park, an entire old fashioned amusement park built entirely out of edible goodies.
Seeing an elaborate gingerbread house in person, where one is able to walk from side to side and look closely at the detail, is to fully understand how much work goes into something so inviting. That fact that it is all edible strikes a chord of respect for the bakers and one of nostalgia for a long gone past.
Kringle’s Theme Park is a six foot long by three-and-a-half foot wide edible art piece. The amusement park has a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, merry go-round, a log flume ride, bumper cars, a hamburger stand, a French fries stand, an ice cream stand, a carnival midway strength tester, and of course a gingerbread house.
It is made from 55 pounds of frosting, 15 bags of pretzels, five bags of foudant, an edible playdough-like product used for molding small figures, and 40 pounds of candy.
Looking at the amusement park one can see pretzels, root beer barrels, Twizzlers, pieces of licorice, gum drops, chocolate cups, Wheat Chex, after dinner mints, m & m candies for a walkway, and of course gingerbread.
According to Coburg’s Culinary Director Danielle Wagar, it took 160 hours to make.
“It’s a long standing tradition here,” she said. “We start talking about it in October and right after Thanksgiving we start building it.”
Wagar said all of the culinary staff is involved in the project in some way, whether it’s in the design, the baking, covering shifts while the work goes on, or actual construction. Head chef Chad Viall and nine other were directly involved in making Kringle’s Theme Park, she said.
“I always say at the reveal that everyone in the department is involved,” Wagar said. “There are different levels of involvement.”
The idea for an amusement park came from an early desire by Wagar, Viall and several others that a roller coaster would be nice to have as part of the piece.
“It all came from that,” Wagar said. “From the roller coaster we said, well if you have that you need a Ferris wheel and a merry go-round, basically an amusement park. As we thought about it, it seemed that assembling the roller coaster, the rides, and the food stands out of candy would be a lot of fun.”
Past themes for the Coburg’s gingerbread houses have included Disney products like Beauty and the Beast and Winnie the Pooh as well as movies, like The Grinch.
“From the Grinch, we used the sloping roofs and circular windows from Whoville for that year’s gingerbread house,” Wagar said.
By Friday, Dec. 14, the art piece had been moved to the lobby of the main building. Coburg resident Dot Brooks came over to take a look.
“I never saw one of these until I came to Coburg,” she said while taking in every little facet of the theme park. “I think it’s fantastic. It certainly gives you the feeling of Christmas.”
Wagar chuckled as she was recounting the list of sugary items that went into this year’s gingerbread house.
“Reese’s makes chocolate trees and when I saw them in the store I thought they would go perfectly in this year’s scene, but if you look at the amusement park there’s not a tree in there,” she said. “They never made it out of the kitchen. They got eaten.”