This year’s Architectural Dessert Masterpiece was inspired by a trip to Vermont where I explored 14 covered bridges within an hour’s drive of Rutland. I was surprised by the amount of variety in these bridges. Most were only wide enough for one car lane, but one was definitely made for two-way traffic and a couple had sidewalks incorporated. The colors and shapes varied from bridge to bridge. Some appeared to be based on a truss-type structure while at least one looked like it had an arch infrastructure. Ages also ranged from the 1830s (Taftsville Bridge) to 1970s (Quechee Bridge). You can view all 14 bridges in the slideshow below.
Sadly, shortly after construction, my covered bridge experienced a collapse. While the incident is still under investigation, an anonymous authority stated that the collapse is believed to have been trigged by a motorist exceeding the posted 5 mph speed limit.
I’m surprised that this is my first total collapse over the eight Architectural Dessert Masterpieces that I’ve created. My first, the Parthenon, experienced a partial collapse that actually made it look even more like the original. The next closest to disaster was the Marina Tower that merged into the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The collapse highlighted several tips for future constructions. First, I confirmed that pretzels really do make excellent piers as I originally demonstrated in my Pittsburgh suspension bridge. Second, I learned that wheatless gingerbread still has the same (or similar) strength as traditional gingerbread as the roadbed remained secure throughout the disaster. Third, I found that wheatless gingerbread is more pliable than traditional gingerbread, which resulted in more warping when transferring the pieces to the baking sheet and during baking. However, the other side of the pliability is that it is easier to trim after baking than traditional gingerbread. If I use this recipe again, I will plan to make adjustments to the dimensions of the pieces post baking. I believe that will resolve the structural issues by creating straight edges that can support each other.
Pittsburgh’s Annual Gingerbread House Competition moved this year from the PPG Winter Garden to the City-County Building. For several years, I’ve enjoyed making the time to go down to the Winter Garden for the gingerbread houses, santas from around the world, music, and ambiance. This year, I am finding it harder to identify a time to browse the entries. I changed my mind multiple times as I remembered the new location requires passing through the metal detectors and it just didn’t seem the right time to go through that annoying and unreliable process. In my travels through other downtown buildings, I am finding other gingerbread house displays to enjoy. Perhaps, I will get to the big competition at some point this season, but if not, I will at least have enjoyed some hassle-free displays.
Figuring out how to design an accurate representation of the Parthenon out of cake and cookies (see post) was an intriguing task that set me on a new hobby of designing models of existing buildings out of deserts. Beginning with my second Architectural Dessert Masterpiece, all my creations are based on buildings/structures that I have personally encountered in my urban explorations.
I created my second desert building in December 2011. While eating the Parthenon the previous year, suggestions were put out about how to create other shapes and buildings such as using jello and creating round shapes. I was particularly engaged by the idea of how to create a dome. I had not figured out how to create a dome such as those on capital buildings in the US, but I thought I could create one that would be close to those on the mosques I visited in Istanbul. I chose the Blue Mosque as a visually interesting structure that would require a diversity of desserts to create.
Gingerbread cookies seemed to be the best way to design the frame of the building given the variety of heights and shapes of the building. I used sugar cookies for the larger domes and half domes. I knew someone growing up who was able to create perfectly rounded sugar cookies, no matter how I try I have never been able to create the same effect. My sugar cookies worked well for the medium-sized domes, but I had to put two cookies together for the larger domes. M&Ms made great small domes–they were also the base unit that determined the scale of my model. I think another reason why I chose to create a mosque was so I’d have an excuse to use the Pirouette cookies again, this time as minarets. I love these cookies, but hardly ever get them. Using my piping set, I was able to create pointed tops on the minarets and add balconies.
This was by far the most time-consuming Architectural Dessert Masterpiece to create (at least of the four I’ve made so far) because of having to design the required sizes and shapes for the gingerbread cookies and cutting them out and then also baking sugar cookies, which somehow always takes forever. I also played with “whitewashing” the gingerbread walls, but the method I tried didn’t create the desired effect so I gave up on it.
Eating Architectural Dessert Masterpieces is also an interesting experience, as they often require creative thinking to destruct them. With the Parthenon, I employed a karate-chop method for cutting through the wafers. On the other hand, with the Blue Mosque a free-for-all of pulling it apart with your fingers seemed most appropriate.