So, this Christmas I thought of creating my own gingerbread house. It is not something done in my family, but it combines my love of architecture and model making with baking, what could be more perfect! I was travelling home for Christmas and both my mother and I love Downton Abbey. I especially love Highclere Castle, the real life Downton Abbey home. It is an awe inspiring architectural masterpiece designed by Sir Charles Barry after he finished the Houses of Parliament and it is truly a character in the series. I had seen a previous gingerbread castle of Downton, here, and was inspired to try my own. Maybe it was a bit ambitious for my first ever attempt at a gingerbread house, but I followed the recipes and advice from this site, where she created a lovely gingerbread Brownstone, and a fellow designer! I wanted to create an homage to the Downton Christmas special from 2011, where Matthew proposes to Mary on New Year's Eve. It was a lovely scene and the only Christmas special actually set during Christmas. So I started from the photo below, the view of Highclere from the back where the final shot of the episode shows a very happy couple.
Then, looking at the photo, I planned out how many individual walls had to be made, turned out to be 16. The pieces where then drawn on paper to make a pattern and then they were laid out and cut out of dough.
I wanted the gingerbread house to be true to the original design, not the traditional candy covered gingerbread house. The real breakthrough was in finding gold edible spray! So looking at the original design below and what was available in store I designed the detail. I used almonds for the spires, split yellow peas and lemon peel for the stonework, and thyme and raspberry fruit pieces for the greenery. Don't forget lots of icing!
I used broken butterscotch candy for the windows, but I really wanted the gingerbread castle not to just be about the building itself but about the characters. So I printed out stills from the series on acetate and mounted them on the windows with icing. I also wanted to illustrate the interior design, so the red library, the dining room, Mary's bedroom, the Grand Saloon, Upper Saloon, and the Green Drawing Room are all represented roughly where they are in the real building. Added to this I especially wanted to illustrate the story line of both Mary and Matthew's romance as well as Sybil and Branson's. So below you'll find Mary and Matthew dancing and sharing gifts, the tree in the Saloon, Matthew punching Carlisle as Mary looks on, Sybil wearing her split dress (trousers! gasp!) and later in the same room nursing the wounded. I also tried to show a wide variety of characters so you'll find Rose, Cora, the Dowager Countess, and Edith in the windows. It was a lot of fun planning the insides, almost more fun than creating the outside!
Right small tower
Left small tower
Left tower and side piece
Right tower and side piece
The side wall before it is put in the oven, with engraving under the windows and butterscotch ready to melt into golden windows.
Split peas and icing create the detailed stonework, and the lively dinner party is in place.
Decorating finished! Flat pieces are ready to ship..
Testing the lighting on the central piece.
Now since I had to take a plane to get home, and was arriving the day before Christmas Eve I had to bake the whole thing here before leaving, so the only option? Flat pack it all. It was my carry on and luckily no bomb sniffing dogs stopped me!
So early in the morning I set about building. The pieces were all backed in Styrofoam for support and pinned into place with icing as glue, and on some pieces real glue was used.
Finished, and of course a video was made..
So Happy Holidays and have a Happy New Year! Just watched this years Downton Christmas Special as a New Years Day treat. Hmmm, I wonder what I will bake next year, and ideas?
all photos taken by Chloe Cornell unless otherwise stated
scenes from Downton Abbey property of ITV