Gingerbread cathedral a work of art
A week to createDANIEL BIRCHFIELD
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A sweet Christmas tradition with an architectural twist is once again taking centre stage at Oamaru's Pen-y-bryn Lodge.
The annual gingerbread creation, this year taking the form of England's Exeter Cathedral, located in the county of Devon, was created by Pen-y-bryn owners James Glucksman and James Boussy.
The duo have been constructing historical landmarks from gingerbread every year since 1997, with some past examples including Russia's Moscow Cathedral, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest and Canterbury's Christ Church Cathedral.
They generally decide on what they are going to create each year by visiting particular sites as part of their annual holiday, but they didn't get the chance to go overseas this year.
However, Mr Glucksman says he and Mr Boussy had visited Exeter Cathedral in the past.
"We have visited it before, it was the first cathedral we visited actually. I've had a lot of fondness for it since that visit ... it's got the largest vaulted ceiling of any cathedral in England."
Because Mr Glucksman hasn't had the chance to view Exeter Cathedral in the flesh in recent times, it meant designing this year's version was quite a mission.
"There was a bit more of a challenge this time as we hadn't been there recently, so we were going on internet-based photography."
Mr Glucksman says the process of designing and constructing the gingerbread buildings has become more efficient.
When they first started it took months but now it takes about a week, generally starting at the conclusion of Oamaru's Victorian Heritage celebrations.
"It's become a lot more streamlined over the course of the 16 years. Mind you, I still think there's no way we're going to do it in a week sometimes, but we always do."
Mr Glucksman says about four batches of gingerbread mix, each weighing about 550 grams are used, as well as two kilograms of flour, 500g of margarine (which lasts longer than butter), a dozen egg whites and "as much sugar as it takes".
The mixture is then shaped in sheet metal moulds before being baked.
Royal icing is used for decoration, while the glass in the windows is made from caramel.
Mr Glucksman says plenty of people want to know in advance what he's planning to make in the lead-up to December. "People are always asking us what it's going to be, but we never reveal it."
News of Oamaru's version of the cathedral is getting around too.
"We had a tweet from Exeter cathedral saying they had heard about it," says Mr Glucksman.