Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local news

December 19, 2012

Students create gingerbread Windsor

Cordele — South Georgia Technical College Crisp County Center culinary arts students created a gingerbread replica of the Best Western plus Windsor Hotel in Americus. 

The replica of the historic hotel was displayed prominently at the SGTC Christmas cocktail buffet recently and then presented to Windsor Hotel owner Sharad Patel, who incorporated the piece into the hotel’s Christmas decorations.

Crisp County Center culinary arts instructors Dr. Brenda Carpenter, Chef Johnny Davis and eight of their students spent over 100 hours creating the design which was placed on a 36” X 42” board, stands about two feet tall and weighs approximately 60 lbs. 

They used seven dozen eggs, 30 lbs. of flour, 21 lbs. of granulated sugar, two cups of meringue powder, 10 cups of honey, 10 lbs. of confectioners’ sugar, and one and a half cups each of cinnamon, ginger, and ground cloves.

Students who worked on the project were Lisa Drake, Christine Bell, Eula Boatwright, and Brenda Stretchen of Cordele, Cody Spires and Alicia Smith of Rochelle, Sherry Handley of Arabi,  and Jasmine Davenport of Pitts.

“We were not attempting to copy the Windsor in every detail, but rather to use it as our inspiration,” explained Dr. Carpenter.  “We actually constructed a ‘practice’ castle for Halloween and won first place in the competition on the Crisp County campus. 

“This gave the students a chance to see what it was like to construct a building from gingerbread and work out some of the construction issues.”

Dr. Carpenter drew patterns from pictures of the Windsor that she downloaded on Google map. Then she and Chef Davis created foam core patterns for the students to use. They dissected the parts of the hotel into individual “buildings” which the students selected as their project.

“We provided some detail, but the students were expected to work out the fine details of constructing their individual ‘buildings,’” said Dr. Carpenter. “Some of the pieces were so large that we did not have pans to bake them on, but SGTC Crisp County Center welding instructor Brenda Gilliam helped us out with metal to use as makeshift pans, a stainless steel pipe for a large rolling pin, and wire mesh to press the pattern onto the building exterior to provide texture.”

Dr. Carpenter revealed that the most difficult part of the project was the roof on the main hotel building mainly because of the size and weight of the gingerbread, and the round tower. “We went to Home Depot to find a ‘pan’ to bake the tower in.  They were so helpful there, but not quite prepared for our answer to the question, ‘What can I help you find?’” laughed Carpenter.

SGTC culinary arts students eventually selected a heavy paper concrete column form to bake the tower on. “We shortened it and then cut it in half,” explained Carpenter. 

“We laid the dough on the halves, added additional detail and baked it. The resulting halves were put together to form the tall round tower. The cone shaped roof is a very thin piece of gingerbread formed over a poster board pattern covered with foil.”

A lot of the detail in the hotel was cut into the dough before it was baked; but a lot was added after baking using a Dremel tool.  “The students made a significant amount of gingerbread dust,” laughed Carpenter. “At the end of one particularly ‘dusty day’, one student commented, ‘If I die tonight, I believe I would come back as a Gingerbread Man.’”

Windows in the gingerbread replica are “sugar glass.”  They were made by pouring hard ball syrup onto a pan and then breaking it into pieces.  Those pieces were placed into the window openings in the baked gingerbread on sheet pans and then put into the oven long enough to remelt the candy into the window openings.  Miniature Christmas lights provided a warm glow through many of the windows.

The hotel pieces were glued together with Royal Icing.  A variety of materials was used to decorate the house including lots of icing, Golden Graham cereal, cookies, graham crackers, peppermint candies and canes, pretzels, and tootsie roll pops. 

Students also used different cake decorating sugars and candies.  The sidewalks are Wasa crackers and the small Christmas trees are formed from waffle ice cream cones.

“This was an exciting project,” said Dr. Carpenter. “Our students learned a great deal and had a lot of fun.  They were able to put some of the information that they had been learning in class into a practical application that they could be very proud of.  They also learned how to improvise to make something extraordinary out of the ordinary.”

Once the Windsor Hotel replica was presented to the Patels, they placed a photo of the creation on their FaceBook page. In less than three hours it had almost 100 “likes” and 20 “shares.”

SGTC Culinary Arts class has entered the Windsor Hotel replica into a contest at: Individuals can vote once a day!

In addition to being a talented culinary arts instructor, Dr. Carpenter has an undergraduate degree in interior design and took several drafting classes. 

All of that valuable experience was utilized in this awesome project that brought joy to so many individuals during the holiday season.


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