Every year around Christmastime, scores of families create and display edible gingerbread houses at home. But for some, a miniature gingerbread structure is not enough. From hotels to malls to amusement parks, these ambitious food architects go above and beyond to create jaw-dropping, palatial creations that put your sad elementary school gingerbread shanties to shame. Here, now, are 2015's most impressive feats of cookie engineering.
1. The White House's Gingerbread Monstrosity
This year's award for longest lead time on a gingerbread dwelling may have to go to the White House. The Obamas are currently shacking up with a 475-pound behemoth of a gingerbread house that executive pastry chef Susan Morrison began conceptualizing way back in January. (She even called in an actual architect for assistance.) A masterpiece to-scale replica of the White House itself, Morrison covered her gingerbread house in 150 pounds of dark chocolate.
2. Disney World's Gingerbread Bake Shop
Not to be outdone by the White House, Disney World also has several over-the-top gingerbread creations up its wizard sleeve. A life-sized carousel occupies the lobby of Disney's Beach Club Resort, a creation that required a plethora of ingredients to make including 96 pounds of honey, 10 pounds of spices, 10 quarts of simple syrup, and 100 pounds of powdered sugar. There's also a Frozen-themed gingerbread ice castle at the Contemporary Resort, and a Jersey Shore-inspired display at the Boardwalk Resort (thankfully inspired by the actual geographical location and not the MTV reality show).
But perhaps Disney World's most impressive gingerbread structure is the gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort, which is so large that it functions as an actual bake shop where guests can buy stollen and peppermint bark. Measuring 16-feet high and 17-feet wide with 80-square-feet of retail space, it required Disney pastry gurus to use 1,050 pounds of honey, 800 pounds of flour, and 700 pounds of chocolate to build.
3. China's Cookie Castle
Meanwhile in China, a luxury shopping mall in the central city of Xi'an has constructed a 700 square-foot gingerbread house tall enough for kids — and some adults — to play in. It reportedly took 10 chefs 10 days to construct using a metric ton of icing and 20,000 gingerbread cookies.
4. San Francisco's Opulent Candy Manor
San Francisco's ritzy Fairmont Hotel is making a valiant Yuletide effort this year with a two-story gingerbread house in the lobby, standing an insane 22-feet high and 23-feet wide. It includes thousand of gingerbread "bricks" and more than a ton of royal icing and candy. Besides filling the hotel with a sweet and spicy aroma, this year's house boasts a functioning railroad track, falling snow, revolving Christmas trees, and a gingerbread dog house (it is a pet-friendly hotel).
5. Toronto's Gingerbread Bungalow
Up in Canada, the Ritz-Carlton Toronto recently erected its own life-size gingerbread house. The biggest in the city, it took the hotel's pastry team 500 hours to build and contains 200 pounds of flour, 75 pounds of sugar, 5 pounds of spices, 60 pounds of shortening, 35 pounds of corn syrup, and 12 pounds of molasses. Standing at nine feet tall, the windows are made of sugar and are trimmed in more than 250 pounds of candy and royal icing.
6. Oregon's Decadent Marzipan Village
Who wants to make just one lonely gingerbread house when you can create an entire village? In Portland, Oregon, that was the thought behind Benson Hotel's unbelievable gingerbread masterpiece. The village was crafted by David Diffendorfer, who has been building gingerbread creations for the past 20 years and is the mastermind behind the hotel's gingerbread houses each year. This year's "miniature world" required 150 pounds of gingerbread, 32 pounds of marzipan, and 10 pounds of chocolate.
7. New York's REcord-Setting Edible Town
One New York man is giving The Benson Hotel a run for its money by creating the world's largest gingerbread village. Jon Lovitch, has beat out the competition for the third year in a row with the erection of his GingerBread Lane in Queens. The Guinness World Record holder used 1.5 tons of edible treats to build his village, which includes 1,120 different structures and occupies 500 square feet. The edible town includes a candy factory, a pumpkin spice latte shoppe, two trains, and a double-decker carousel. What does it take to build something this extravagant? Well, about 775 pounds of candy, 682 pounds of gingerbread dough, and nearly 4,000 pounds of icing.
8. India's Yuletide Gingerbread Mansions
In Mumbai and Gurgaon, India, The Leela Palaces Hotels and Resorts has created "Santa's Goodie Houses" — gingerbread houses filled with Christmas treats. From chocolate Santas to Christmas cookies, all the sweets found inside are homemade and guests are invited to pick their favorite.
9. Arizona's Cozy Gingerbread Dining room
Almost as good as eating a gingerbread house is eating inside one. The Dove Mountain Ritz-Carlton in Tucson boasts a dine-in gingerbread house created by pastry supervisor Amanda Taylor and her team. Guests can make reservations to enjoy dinner right inside the life-size design.
10. Cambodia's Two-Story Frosted Absurdity
The chef's at Cambodia's Thansur Bokor Highland Resort built a two-story gingerbread house that looks like an actual home, complete with a small terrace and white picket fence — they even included a few bushes to represent a front lawn. The hotel promises it is the most unique gingerbread house in the Kampot province.