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Culinary arts class creates in gingerbread

Date: 12/21/2009

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

Click here to link to our Gingerbread Photo Gallery

EAST LONGMEADOW -- The elegant depiction of "Fezziwig's Manor" clinched the top prize for the red team. On the green team's side, it was the fanciful "Christmas on the Cape" complete with a dory and oarsman that got the most votes.

Despite these standouts, picking a winner seemed a delectable dilemma for many of the students who passed through Room 103 at East Longmeadow High School to cast their votes during this reporter's visit to the culinary arts class' annual gingerbread house contest.

There were 10 distinctly different house scenes to choose from, including an icing covered Taj Mahal and a beautifully detailed recreation of the Polar Express.

"Each had to be totally freestanding and totally eatible ,,, no toothpicks, no glue, no boxes," culinary arts teacher Jane McMahon explained. "They started by drawing a picture [of their house], then did a lot of math to figure out the angles."

Each house was crafted by a team of students. McMahon said teams were limited to three batches of gingerbread dough for the construction materials, royal icing for the glue and garnishes, a recipe of marzipan for elements that could be formed such as snowmen and boats, and assorted candies and other materials in the classroom. Teams were also allotted up to $5 each to purchase additional candies and supplies.

Each team had eight one and a half hour classes in which to complete their projects, plus any additional time they wanted to devote to their projects after school.

Johnson and Wales-bound team leader Mike Francoeur, whose cottage-in-the-woods inspired entry "Home Sweet Home," did not place this year, told Reminder Publications he chose a "fresh theme" that included rock walls constructed of coffee beans. Peter Gray, whose team's "Fezziwig's Manor" took a top prize, said his group chose to "keep [the design] simple and focus on the details" including an internal Christmas tree and lacy chocolate gates.

This was the eighth year that the culinary arts class at the high school has hosted this holiday season contest.

To view photos of the red team's second place winning house, "Snowballin'" and the green team's "Polar Express," plus photos of the other entries and some of the student bakers, visit