Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie’s Gingerbread Champion 2015

Kirstie’s Gingerbread Champion 2015 – Kirstie Allsopps words, not mine.  You night have seen a little flurry of well wishes and congratulations recently on Facebook & Twitter.  I was blessed enough to go to Devon and live a waking baking dream…

“How did you get asked?” I get asked, quite frequently… I had a speculating Tweet from Raise The Roof Productions which is Kirstie & Phil’s production company..

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I replied in the positive, after all I didn’t expect it to come to much ‘spray & pray’ we call it in the Recruitment industry (in a previous life before children & gingerbread).

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Imagine my joyous horror when on dropping them a casual line to express interest but not believing it would transpire into hard graft, when I received a phone call from Paul McGinness on the team asking if I could be available to film. In Devon. At Kirstie’s house!  Eeep! I think I might have squeaked a bit too loudly down the phone…

“Send us your design”, said Paul… Ah, during a period of head scratching and pondering I got rather stuck on a Dickensian Christmas themed house or maybe a Hobbit type house – because they’re obviously so similar, naturally….

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It came as no real surprise to me that I diverted from either fantastical creations (in my head..) and came up with a Lighthouse (“it has the word ‘house’ in it”, see?) They were looking for magnificent, original and surprising.  That’s the look I was going for anyway..  So I sent my doodle in at that was that.  Arrangements were made to go to Devon.

To Kirstie’s house.

Eeep! All over again.

It’s so teeny tiny my little picture here, so small the Christmas elves could have drawn it although it’s on A4.  I’ll post on FB and you can have a gander if you like.  I made a run-list of everything that had to be pre-made. The competition rules stipulated that gingerbread needed to be baked and decoration materials prepared then assembled during filming. So I made copious notes of scribbles which when straightened out resembled thus:

Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 2015 – Gingerbread House Competition

Everything listed below is hand made by me using techniques I would use in baking and sugar craft. I had help from Papa to make a bespoke wire baking cage to get the shape I need and cutting templates for the other elements.

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Now I can’t reveal how I finally gor the bake shape I needed but this was one of the abortive 8’s….

BASE & BODY:

Bottom / flat base of Gingerbread (Light)House circular baked and textured on one of our ceramic pizza stones

Body of GBLH banded in red and white. I made a handmade a cage to bake a specific shape in. The key was the bake shape so with the supervision of my crafty Pa we made a tapered tubular creation to make in / on… So it took 8 test runs to create the right shape – gingerbread gifts were duly bestowed upon classes and teachers at school, nursery, the folks, and friends and generally anyone who was in close enough contact to share the gingerbread love with.

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The lighthouse colours were typical red & white as seen in Happisburgh so the red was represented by the bake, textured with cake techniques and the white was what I piped in light sea green and pale blue wave’s swirled piping and white wave crests, a sugar craft tapestry technique finished with a damp brush.

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In the wave swirls were small hand crafted sea creatures crabs to represent Cromer, Small craft, Mikado Oars and spun sugar lobster pots with fondant lobsters to represent Sheringham as well as tiny starfish, shells, etc

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There were Porthole windows with ‘stained glass’ (melted crushed hard boiled sweets) with buttercream piped poinsettia in red & green and white royal icing piped octopus sucker marks

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Ultimately the Lighthouse was cited on a gingerbread cake with cream cheese and mini raffia cobblestones – super yummy and bequeathed to the crew on the designs demise….

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The Lamp room had a walk way around at top of lighthouse, with a base of GB with a Mikado walkway, topped with sugar pearl finials, stained glass uprights surrounding the lamp (rice paper, white jelly bean & edible glitter) one door/window left open to peek in and see the lamp.

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To top it off I used 2 small battery packs of mini fairy lights illuminating under the walk way, lamp room and under eaves of cottage

In the keepers cottage there were sweeties on the roof and porthole windows with fondant candles inside, poinsettia at the window frames and little fondant shutters and an RNLI motif over the door of the keepers cottage. There was a ‘Flake’ log pile by the side of the cottage & GB cookie Christmas tree decorated with pearls, glitter and sweeties – a nod to Holkham Hall each year.

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Sugar ‘sand’ and snow, fondant/sweetie pebbles and ‘ice’ for to represent our beautiful coast in winter and all elements were edible and handmade (excepting the 2 x mini fairy light packs and flower wire).

The Actual Making:

Little round gingerbread porthole windows were crafted with melted Glacier Mints; the ones for the Light room had flower wire struts to strengthen the design. In filming they were adhered with caramel (which Kirstie helped stir – if it went wrong I had my beady eye on Allsopp!).

The filming on the day was stop / start for the production crew but it was straight onto the moon for us beavering away with sugar, biscuit and more sugar.

Until lunchtime I didn’t hold out much hope for it looking like the image I had in my head – one of the things I love about my work is that I feel like a 3D printer sometimes, I think of a thing and transpose it on cake. This is how I felt about this structure once I knew how it was going it HAD to be built. So prior to midday break it was ok but not wildly enveloping me – there was a long way to go. When we got back to filming it was all about the piping for me –THEN it started to come to life and it got Very Exciting on my table. I think I drove them nuts with ‘Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?’ and ‘My Lighthouse’

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When Kirstie and Richard Hunt came to judge we tootled off to tea and met some of the other contestants in other competitions going on around the grounds and house. There were puppies, school children from a local school, table centre piece builders (Lego man didn’t even tell his wife he was filming he kept it so secret!!).

Once we got back in there was a decent air of anticipation as Kirstie held the trophy and Richard of the Devon Scone Empire looked stern and bemused all at once?

And the Winner is …

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Eeep!!

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Kirstie had made some Appletinis then we all went home.

The other gingerbread houses were by some lil’ crackers, Rhian Mewis who came 2nd (by 4 points) and I have become lovely Facebook friends (hers is the fairy House)

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Rhian’s Fairy House from The Splendid Bakery

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Johns gingerbread house

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Annes Santa’s Workshop

Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas was televised on Tuesday 8th December on Channel 4 – the link is the episode although there is a lovely upwards sweep of the camera on the first episode a few minutes in.

Happy days – all the contestants were amazing and it was a pure pleasure to meet some like minded bakers who are bonkers about gingerbread. Can’t wait until next year!