It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and San Diego Mesa College’s culinary students
spent one of their final weeks of classes for the semester busily finishing their
gingerbread houses for an annual competition on Dec. 6.
The gingerbread competition, which counts for 25 percent of the students’ final grade
for the basic and advanced baking classes, has been a tradition in Chef Tom Adams’
syllabus for 16 years.
“This competition covers every part of the baking field – the proper mixing of doughs,
the proper rolling out of doughs, proper baking of doughs and assembly,” Adams said.
While in the past students could create any gingerbread structure that they could
think of, this semester Adams decided to make one of the primary guidelines be that
it has to be a house or building design.
Baking student Frida Valenzuela chose to use her grandfather’s house in Tijuana as
the inspiration for her green and blue “Casa de los Abuelos” gingerbread competition
Some students in this year’s class chose to think outside the four-walled home style,
including two students who made igloos using metal bowls as their baking molds. One
student from the basic baking class – Joan Freeman – decided to build a church as
her gingerbread house using an ice cream cone as the steeple and skinny pretzels as
“I figured the church would be the best one to do for inspiration, and I don’t think
that anyone has ever done a church before,” Freeman said.
Regardless of what style of house the student chose to design, the other guidelines
included that it must fit on a half sheet cake board and everything must be edible.
It also can’t be taller than 18 inches; must at least have red, yellow, green and
blue elements; everything – except for candy – must be made on site; and it must be
completed by 6 p.m. on the fourth day of the competition.
“Everything has to tie together, that’s what makes them special to me,” Adams said.
Finding unique, edible construction materials is one of the elements that make these
sweet homes delightful to gaze upon. This year’s first and third place winners both
used shredded wheat for their roof tops, students used rosemary to construct wreaths
and several “log cabins” were built with the use of pretzels.
All of this year’s gingerbread structures were on display as centerpieces during the
Mesa College Holiday Lunch on Dec. 7.
Chef Tom Adams’ Swedish Gingermen Cookies
This recipe produces gingerbread cookies that are “good for eating,” according to
Chef Tom. It is one of the many recipes that he shares with his baking students to
help them get a jump start in their culinary careers, and is perfect for holiday season
1 lb. All Purpose Shortening
1 lb. 8 oz. Brown Sugar
1 lb. 8 oz. Granulated Sugar
¾ oz. Baking Soda
½ oz. Salt
4 oz. Molasses
1 lb. Eggs
3 lb. Pastry or AP Flour
¼ oz. Ginger
¼ oz. Cinnamon
- Cream together shortening, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, salt and molasses
– scraping the bowl until all ingredients are well combined.
- Gradually add eggs while mixing at a low speed. Scrape bowl and mix until well blended.
- Sift together flour, ginger and cinnamon, then add to wet mixture until smooth.
- Refrigerate dough for one hour before baking.
- Heat oven to 350° F, then roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick, then cut desired shapes.
Line baking pans with parchment paper, place cut out cookies on paper and bake for
8 to 10 minutes.
Tags: Culinary Arts, Gingerbread Competition, CACM, Recipes