Local bakers transformed gummy bears, Rice Krispies Treats, Hershey’s Kisses, M&Ms, PEZ, mini croissants, candy canes and pounds of icing into strikingly realistic gingerbread renderings of New York City neighborhoods, and you can admire their work at the Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan this holiday season.
The museum’s first Gingerbread NYC: The Great Five Borough Bake-Off will open on Friday, November 9 and run through January 8, 2023.
NYC’s baking pros, including Magnolia Bakery CEO Bobbie Lloyd, served as judges for the competition, carefully reviewing each of the seven gingerbread houses on categories from creativity to “which one do you want to tear apart and eat?”
“They each have their own character,” Lloyd said about the houses, noting the linear design in some and the realism in others.
Lloyd and Whitney Donhauser, the museum’s director, both praised the bakers for taking on the challenge because building any gingerbread house—especially ornate gingerbread house like these—isn’t easy, but it is rewarding.
“Gingerbread just inherently makes people happy,” Donhauser said.
To spread some seeds of happiness, here’s a look at the seven gingerbread houses—though, you can’t truly appreciate them until you see them in person, so add that to your holiday bucket list! You can even vote for your favorite on-site.
Lower East Side, Manhattan
Amid the pandemic, architect John Kuehn decided to follow his passion for baking. For the bake-off competition, he constructed a view of Madison Square Park near his home, including the Flatiron Building and the Met Life Insurance Tower, all in a wintry setting.
Kuehn’s design showcases his architectural skill. He drafted the 125 pieces in AutoCAD and meticulously piped royal icing in perfectly straight lines on the buildings. He made hills out of Rice Krispies Treats, crushed graham crackers for a pathway and covered it all in a blanket or snow (er, fondant).
Even though he’d never built a gingerbread house before, Kuehn’s 160 hours of work were rewarded with the award for grandest design.
Sherry Kozlowski‘s depiction of Astoria, Queens looks so realistic it’s practically a photograph of the neighborhood. The display features neighborhood favorites like Lockwood, Madame Sou Sou Cafe and Sal, Kris & Charlie’s Deli.
“I thought about all my favorite shops,” she said.
She used isomalt for the windows (each one with a special surprise inside), gum paste for the trees, rock candy for the streetscape and pounds of melted gummy bears to hold it all together.
A hobby baker who’s participated in several cooking shows, Kozlowski took home the grand prize for best overall design.
Long Island City, Queens
Complete with a 7 train and a rendering of Silvercup Studios, Erica Fair of Sans Bakery whipped up an homage to Long Island City that won the category of “good enough to eat.”
Dongan Hills, Staten Island
With 40 years as a family business, Bruno’s Bakery created a gorgeous depiction of the borough, featuring the St. George Theater, the borough’s parks, and, of course, the Staten Island Ferry.
“The ferry won all of our hearts,” Donhauser said.
The Settepani family won awards for most intricate and most representative of the borough.
Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
The classic Brooklyn brownstone got some love in the gingerbread creation by Ida Kreutzer. The professional photographer and designer from Austria recreated the first building where she lived when she arrived in Brooklyn several years ago.
The design won the “only in New York” award.
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
The rowhouse made a repeat in the design by buzzy bakery L’Appartement 4F with candy canes, icing, powdered sugar and mini croissants. But the project suffered some structural issues along the way. Shortly after the team dropped it off at the museum, the entire gingerbread house collapsed, co-owner Gautier Coiffard said.
They knew they could either give up or re-do it, and the bakers rallied to quickly recreate the gingerbread house. Pastry chef Jessica Schrecker didn’t even let a burnt finger she suffered while making the windows stop her.
“Our bakery is in Brooklyn Heights, so we built a brownstone similar to the ones that support us,” co-owner Ashley Coiffard said.
For their “true New York grit,” the team won the award for most resilient, Donhauser said.
A long-time classic in the Bronx with roots in the neighborhood since 1912, Egidio Pastry Shop still uses recipes from its founder Don Pasquale Egidio, a Southern Italian immigrant. The shop’s now run by Maria Carmela Lucciolo, who took the Italian tradition of a classic gingerbread house to the next level with candy canes, M&Ms and sprinkles.
The judges aptly awarded Egidio’s entry with the award for sweetest.
See Gingerbread NYC: The Great Five Borough Bake-Off at the Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan from Friday, November 9 and through Sunday, January 8, 2023. Adult admission to the museum costs $20.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.