For the past 15 years, James Glucksman and James Boussy have made a gingerbread house as part of their annual Christmas decorations. Inspired by a gingerbread house made by Martha Stewart, their first effort, in 1997, was based on the house that they bought that year in Fairfax, Virginia. The following year, after a holiday in Russia, the pair came up with the idea of modelling Moscow’s Church of Christ the Saviour in gingerbread, and having a Russian theme for that year’s Christmas celebrations. Thus a tradition was born, with subsequent years seeing the pair create gingerbread versions of Paris’s Notre Dame, Lisbon’s Palacio Pena, and Beijing’s Lama Temple, among others.
In 2010, after moving to New Zealand to take over Oamaru’s historic Pen-y-bryn Lodge, the pair commemorated the occasion by constructing a gingerbread likeness of the lodge itself, and in 2011, after the devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes, that year saw a gingerbread likeness of that city’s iconic cathedral (which they used to collect donations for the reconstruction of the ruined original).
This year, having spent the month of July travelling around Europe to promote Oamaru as a tourist destination among travel agencies, the Jameses visited several of Bavaria’s famed castles, and immediately saw the potential of Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, as a gingerbread creation. Construction of this, their largest gingerbread house to date, took about a week, with decoration taking a further three days. The castle is built of nothing more than slabs of well-cooked gingerbread held together with royal icing, so it is fully edible, though of course tasting is strongly discouraged. However the smell of the gingerbread is so enticing, and so many visitors yearn for a taste, so to forestall sampling of the fruits of such a monumental effort, gingerbread cookies, made from the same recipe, are always available.
In keeping with their tradition, the holiday menu for guests staying at Pen-y-bryn and taking advantage of their gourmet cuisine, will include European Christmas favourites, including German Stollen, French Bûche de Noël, and Italian Pannetone. The gingerbread castle will be on display throughout the holiday season until early January.
For those curious, here is a gallery of the Jameses’ earlier gingerbread creations: