Teresa Ferguson is no stranger to the gingerbread construction craft. But the 10-year veteran’s first “complex” gingerbread creation also will be her last.
The 23-year-old Longview resident crafted an intricate, candy-covered gingerbread replica of the Longview Library for the second annual Gingerbread Haus Contest at The Merk in Longview on Saturday. It took first place in the “local landmarks” category, but Ferguson said she’s done erecting extravagant cookie structures.
She and her family have been building gingerbread houses for a decade, but this year’s project proved more challenging than she initially expected. She spent 36 hours one weekend working on it, plus a couple hours here and there for a month.
“This was the first time I designed my own house, so it was quite the challenge,” Ferguson said. “It was definitely the most complex house I’ve ever done before.”
It took her a few tries to perfect the white frosting railings that line the roof and steps. She melted down lollipops to make the windows, turned upside-down Hershey candy bars into steps, cut roof shingles from a sheet of melted-down chocolate and used a mold on the gingerbread to make the brick-looking building stand out.
“I didn’t want to just ice it all,” she said. “I didn’t like how it looked.”
And before Ferguson started to design her structure made of sweets, she spent hours researching the design of the 1960s version of the library.
“There’s not much documentation (or photos),” she said. “There’s some on the front, but there wasn’t much on the back (of the building).”
There were 28 entries into this year’s event, sponsored by The Daily News. That's fewer than the 37 houses in the inaugural contest. But competition was still stiff according to contest judge Chef David Diffendorfer, who creates a gingerbread village every year for Portland’s Benson Hotel.
“I love doing this, but it’s always a bummer because it’s so hard to choose,” he said. “It’s always impressive. There’s less this year, and sadly it hasn’t made my job any easier.”
Diffendorfer said he looks for originality, overall execution, attention to detail and level of difficulty when judging each piece.
“The truth is, there’s no sanctioned rules on a gingerbread contest,” he said.
Though Diffendorfer dubbed the Ferguson entry the top house in her category, Ferguson said the contest wasn’t all about winning.
“It’s stressful,” she said about piecing together her entry. “But you accomplish so much even though you go through the stress. And the stress is fun in a way, because you’re pushing yourself to accomplish something you never would have done.”