All of Oamaru–and several places beyond–wait with bated breath each year to learn what architectural landmark will be rendered in gingerbread by the owners of Pen-y-bryn, Oamaru’s luxury lodge. Their tradition of making a gingerbread likeness of some great building goes back to 1997, when they recreated their own new house in gingerbread for a Christmas party. In subsequent years they decided that baking a likeness of a landmark that they visited on their international travels that year would be more interesting, and help to set a theme for each year’s party. Some of the buildings that served as models for gingerbread in the past have included Notre Dame in Paris; the Lama Temple in Beijing; the Palacio Pena in Sintra, Portugal; and Pen-y-bryn Lodge itself.
This year James and James, the owners of Pen-y-bryn, did not make an international trip (using the wintertime lull instead to work on some improvements to the lodge), so they were forced with a dilemma–what building should be used as this year’s model? The solution came after realising that 2014 will mark the 125th anniversary of Pen-y-bryn’s construction, and the 140th year since its original owners left England for the wilds of New Zealand. Since the couple who had Pen-y-bryn built were from Devon (Winkleigh, to be precise), Devon’s famed Exeter Cathedral seemed a sensible choice. And on top of that, Exeter Cathedral is known for having the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England, much like how Pen-y-bryn is reputed to be the largest single-storey wooden dwelling in Australasia.
The gingerbread house took approximately a week to make (a bit less than the 100+ years it took to build Exeter Cathedral) and comprises nothing more than gingerbread, royal icing and caramel for the windows. It’s 100% edible, but after sitting around on display for several weeks we prefer not to eat it; instead it is fed to the local birds.
You can see a gallery of images of this year’s, and previous years’, gingerbread houses at this site: www.oamaru.me/gbread.