Gingerbread Cathedral (Daring Bakers 2009)

December 25, 2009

Gingerbread Cathedral


The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Ok, before you lynch me, rest assured that we were allowed to post our Daring Bakers’ challenge a little earlier than the 27th to coincide with the holidays. So don’t take me off the ‘Good Girl List’ just yet!

Gingerbread Cathedral

Cathedral all dazzled up with christmas lights

December’s challenge was always going to be excitingly festive and this year didn’t disappoint. After the initial, ‘oh, shit’, I think I may have yelled, ‘holy crap, awesome!’. It was always something I’ve wanted to tackle year after year but was always hampered by Xmas mayhem and the fact that I really couldn’t be arsed after days of tackling crazy carpark rage and holiday shoppers. This year, miracle of miracles, I had more time for myself, which is a good thing as I would’ve gone insane if I did the challenge in one hit rather than spreading it out over a period of time.

Gingerbread Cathedral

The back of the church and the closest I’ll ever get to a white Christmas this year

I’ve always been a little gung-ho and I knew that I wanted to do something a little different for my first time. I love classic architecture so when I glanced at a photo of one of my favourite buildings – St Andrews Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland – I knew I found my crazy muse. Of course, the gingerbread version had to be simpler and even though I wanted to, I couldn’t include every single intricate detail of the cathedral.

Gingerbread Cathedral

The inspiration: St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland (image taken from Urban Glasgow)

Sketching the church and drawing all the template pieces to scale were the easy parts. Rolling, cutting and baking 35 different pieces of gingerbread were tedious but relatively drama-free. The scary part was always going to be the assembling and having the gingerbread collapse on itself.

Gingerbread Cathedral

I made Y’s dough for the challenge but found it a bit tough to work with after a small amount of shrinkage and puffage in the baked pieces so I used the rest for cookies (you can find the two challenge recipes on The Daring Kitchen). I chose to finish the challenge with the gingerbread recipe that I usually use, which is similar in some ways but it was one I knew would work for my needs.

The stained glass windows were done with coloured sugar crystals which I melted in a pot and ‘poured’ into the windows. Can I just reiterate that I hate working with caramel (and I’m sure I’ve told you all a million times!). True to form, this messy stained glass window business didn’t help.

Gingerbread Cathedral


The cathedral’s pillars were made with ‘building blocks’ of gingerbread. And in case I wanted to light it up, I added two pigeon holes at the back of the cathedral for string lights. Decorating the whole thing was kept simple with a liberal sprinkling of icing sugar snow (complete with footprints!) – after all, it’s Scottish and this is a white Christmas!

Gingerbread Cathedral


After some minor mishaps (and an odd bout of cursing at the caramel), I’m happy to see that my very first gingerbread ‘creation’ didn’t collapse or look like a primordial blob. The Captain is downcrest at the thought of ravaging my hard work (although he admitted it would be a delicious task). Sad thing is, I think I might’ve created a monster as I’ve already looked to even more wacky landmarks for next year’s project. The boy suggested my beloved Anfield Stadium. *Manic grin*. Watch this space lol.

Gingerbread Cathedral

And finally (yes finally… I will shut up soon!), a huge Merry Christmas and happy new year! So much has happened since my humble blog’s first Christmas last year and it’s all thanks to the myriad of amazing bloggers that I’m lucky to have as good friends and comrades as well as the lovely readers who visit, email and comment. I wish you all a safe and happy holidays and remember, drink responsibly and eat lots.

Gingerbread Cathedral

Gingerbread Recipe
(Non Daring Bakers recipe)
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Ingredients
  1. 675g plain flour
  2. 3 tsps (8gm) ground ginger
  3. 2 tsps (4gm) ground cinnamon
  4. 1.5 tsps (2gm) ground cloves
  5. 1 tsp (3gm) ground nutmeg
  6. 185g butter, chopped
  7. 220g dark brown sugar
  8. 180g treacle or molasses
  9. 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  10. 1-2 Tbl water
Royal Icing
  1. 1 egg white
  2. 1.5 C (240g) icing sugar
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, process the flour, spices and butter until it’s crumbly. Depending on the size of your processor, you’d probably have to do this in 2 batches. Alternatively you can rub the butter into the flour and spices with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.
  2. Add brown sugar, treacle and egg mixture and mix to combine. Sometimes weather can affect the dough. In my case, the dough was still a little dry so I added some water, half a tablespoon at a time until the dough just came together.
  3. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Do not overwork the dough. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. I divided the dough into four pieces and moulded them to a flat disc before wrapping them in cling film.
  4. Cut out your house templates from thin cardboard (there are plenty of templates available on the internet). Gingerbread houses can be assembled a few days in advance if you wish. I made my pieces a day or two ahead and stored them in airtight containers and they were still pretty hard.
  5. Preheat oven to 180°C. Remove the dough from the fridge (you might have to thaw them out a bit if they’re hard).
  6. Roll dough between sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick. Remove the top layer of the baking paper and use your templates to cut out your shapes/windows etc. Remove excess dough and slide the baking paper directly onto your baking sheet or tray. Be careful not to warp your shapes.
  7. Bake for around 12 mins or until the gingerbread is just firm. They will harden up as they cool. You can also place the template back onto your gingerbread to trim the edges if the pieces have expanded a little. Re-roll dough scraps to form more shapes, doors or whatever you need. Move all baked shapes to a wire rack to cool.
Royal Icing
  1. Beat egg whites until frothy then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Cover any icing with a damp (not wet) cloth to prevent it from forming a crust.
Notes
  1. Tip #1 – I find that this dough doesn’t really need the baking paper as it’s not very sticky. I like to roll my dough directly onto my greaseproof baking sheet using a lightly floured rolling pin, before cutting the pieces and baking directly after.
  2. Tip #2 – a long, straight cooks knife is invaluable for cutting the dough along long edges. I then use a paring or fillet knife to cut out small pieces and windows and doors. Be sure that after cutting and removing the excess dough, that you neaten up the edges so your pieces don’t bake with ‘ragged’ edges. If the dough gets too soft to work with, chill the dough until firm.
  3. Tip #3 – To make stained glass windows, I used coloured sugar crystals, melted in a small saucepan (each colour separately). Then I quickly poured the melted caramel into the windows of the cooked gingerbread pieces. Be careful not to drip over your pieces or fiddle with it too much so it will set as smooth as possible. Allow toffee windows to set overnight in airtight containers (not in the fridge).
  4. Tip #4 – When assembling it’s always best to let the royal icing or sugar syrup ‘glue’ set overnight or for at least several hours before continuing to ensure it’s completely dry. Start off with the bottom pieces and let it dry using cans to prop the walls etc up. i assembled mine on a rectangular MBF cake board covered in aluminum foil.
  5. Tip #5 – When assembling the ceilings, I added an extra rectangle of gingerbread inside, between the windows, to prop up the ceilings for more stability.
Citrus and Candy http://www.citrusandcandy.com/
Gingerbread Cathedral



{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

designjr March 12, 2010 at 22:57

wow! this is just amazing. I would never have thought I'd find a gingerbread version of Glasgow cathedral but here it is and it's stunning.

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Betty @ The Hungry Girl January 16, 2010 at 12:53

WOW WOW WOW! KAren!!! This is amazing! I especially love the windows! Love it!!

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saylorkel January 5, 2010 at 22:53

I think your gingerbread “house” is my favorite! Great job!

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Leona January 4, 2010 at 23:54

OMFGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG OMFG! KAREN
THIS IS A FRIGGEN MASTERPIECE WOMAN!!! The best gingerbread house IVE SEEN!!!!!!!!!!!

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pierre January 2, 2010 at 20:43

this is beautiful and amazing ! I am Pierre a french foodie in Paris have a nice season holidays !! cheers from Paris Pierre

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fairy_mi January 2, 2010 at 17:05

Wow, Your gingerbread house is just amazing
Very original shape, and I really love the beautiful decoration!
You are truly a talented baker, wtg for the fabulous job!
Inbal
(also a DB)

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Karen | Citrus and Candy January 2, 2010 at 15:13

Oh my gosh! Thank you so much guys for all your lovely comments and wishes!

I'm so sorry if I can't reply to each comment individually (for now) but I really am touched from all the reactions and complements! It has made all the work and frustrations worth it!

(Y – I'll start work on Anfield Stadium in winter ;P)

A big happy new year to you all and cheers to all my fellow daring bakers. You all did amazing on an incredible challenge! Roll on 2010!

Karen xx

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Conor @ HoldtheBeef January 1, 2010 at 10:09

OMG, this is amazing. You are a machine! Wow.

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Valérie December 30, 2009 at 19:52

Holy (pun intended) moley, that is spectacular!

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Lisa December 30, 2009 at 08:34

Is it weird to just say WOW WOW WOW? Probably, but I'm speechless. Have a Happy New Year oh queen of the gingerbread house!

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Jenny Tan December 30, 2009 at 07:43

That's a beautiful cathedral! You did an awesome job! Happy 2010 too! :)

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Namratha December 30, 2009 at 01:05

OMG, this is absolutely stunning! You have put in a lot of work and it shows, well done!

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Jane December 29, 2009 at 20:59

Your gingerbread cathedral really takes the cake! Sensational!

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Chele December 29, 2009 at 09:09

Wow! I am seriously impressed!!! I'm a Tassie girl living in Edinburgh for the last 7 years and I can confirm that Scotland (well Edinburgh and Glasgow at least) had its first true White Christmas this year. A childhood ambition now ticked off the list ;0)

Having visited the real St Andrews many times over I am in awe of your master piece. Well done.

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Hannah December 29, 2009 at 03:52

This is beyond stunning. You deserve a standing ovation, methinks!

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Engineer Baker December 29, 2009 at 01:58

Wow, what an awesome model to use for your challenge – it looks amazing! Kudos to you for stepping up to the challenge!

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Cherrie Pie December 28, 2009 at 23:54

OMG! That is absolutley beautiful. Congrats!

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penn December 28, 2009 at 23:53

This is really a masterpiece! How could you bear to eat it after?

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steph- whisk/spoon December 28, 2009 at 23:22

wow–that is pretty incredible!! i wouldn't be able to eat it either! happy new year!!

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MandyM December 28, 2009 at 23:01

Your gingerbread cathedral is absolutely amazing. What a great idea and so beautifully put together. Fantastic baking and lovely photos, as always :)
All the best for 2010!

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minisuperbias December 28, 2009 at 21:19

So cool, what an amazing replica!

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Fahrenheit 350° December 28, 2009 at 19:48

That is incredibly inspiring and fantastic!

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Suzler December 28, 2009 at 19:26

Wow! Absolutely gobsmackingly good and the photographs really capture the elegance of the design. I'm from Glasgow originally, so I love it even more still! Nice job. :D

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kat December 28, 2009 at 16:07

Now that is one amazing gingerbread house! You really showed how its done!

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Laura December 28, 2009 at 16:02

Stunning! Beautiful job :)

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syrupandhoney December 28, 2009 at 15:36

Wow – amazing job…so intricate and beautiful! The windows are really neat.

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Meeta K. Wolff December 28, 2009 at 11:36

wow! this is an architectural masterpiece – simply lovely!

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Kris Ngoei December 28, 2009 at 11:31

One of a kind! The most distinctive construction ever built in DB challenge! Kudos to your creation :-)

Sawadee from Bangkok,
Kris

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madeinthepresenceofnut December 28, 2009 at 10:30

Wow, there was some engineering in that! Congrats on a fantastic job!! Are you going to eat it after all your hard work??

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Jenny December 28, 2009 at 00:57

Stunning. Not just the architecture but the detail. Each time I look I see something new!

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Coconut and Vanilla December 27, 2009 at 22:01

Thanks for your lovely comment on my site! I'm always happy when someone likes my photos, because I'm just a beginner!
Love your cathedral! Funny, I have been in Scotland/Glasgow 3 months ago! And I also have seen St Andrews there (both ;-)).
You are doing a great job with your blog :-)

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction December 27, 2009 at 21:52

Amazing… I love that you recreated one of your favorite buildings. It looks fantastic!

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Hannah December 27, 2009 at 20:17

Wow. Okay, you win this round- this is one of the most unique, creative, and impressive gingerbread houses I've ever seen! Bravo, amazing work!

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Su-yin December 27, 2009 at 19:34

That is one amazing gingerbread cathedral, it's truly a work of art!

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culinography December 27, 2009 at 19:25

This is absolutely amazing! I'm speechless (well… almost)! Fabulous!!

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rashelie December 27, 2009 at 17:08

I live near this place, outstanding effort!

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Nadia December 27, 2009 at 15:14

OMG are you serious? this is amazing

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Rosa's Yummy Yums December 27, 2009 at 14:03

Wow, it looks amazing! Your cathedral is so perfect and beautiful! I'm wordless…

best wishes for 2010!

Cheers,

Rosa

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Iron Chef Shellie December 27, 2009 at 12:51

WOW!!
This is un-freaking-believable!!

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Deeba PAB December 27, 2009 at 12:42

A piece of art…gosh, your gingerbread house is STUNNING!This is award winning stuff. Brilliant pictures too! have a wonderful new year!

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Dharm December 27, 2009 at 07:33

Oh My Oh My Oh My! Words fail me!!! This is just incredible and arent you such an inspiration to us all!! Have a Blessed Xmas and New year!

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shaz December 27, 2009 at 06:38

Unreal! Love those stained glass windows, they look absolutely amazing when lighted up. And everything is so precise, mine always ends up slightly wonky. Yours is so perfect, well done!

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Anna December 27, 2009 at 06:08

Eep you made a cathedral!! It's really gorgeous. I'm so glad you enjoyed the challenge!

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Jenna @ Newlyweds December 27, 2009 at 05:35

Oh My, words can not express how amazing your gingerbread cathedral is. WOW, mine looks like preschoolers work compared. Beautifully done.

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Anita December 27, 2009 at 05:22

Absolutely gorgeous!!!! You've done an amazing job! Happy Holidays and New Year!

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YaYa December 27, 2009 at 04:32

Architecturally AND gastronomically splendid!

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Rachel December 27, 2009 at 03:33

Awesome creation!

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Sarah December 27, 2009 at 02:49

You kept it simple? I can't wait to see complex… Your cathedral doesn't sound so simple to me. Love the windows and the creativity!

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s December 27, 2009 at 02:05

what a treat just to LOOK at this one!

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Aparna December 27, 2009 at 02:05

Love your gingerbread cathedral. It truly stands tall in the midst of our gingerbread houses.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a very Happy New Year!

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SK December 26, 2009 at 22:38

Wow . . that's an incredible baking project!!!

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Basht December 26, 2009 at 18:30

Ohh wow! that's incredible!

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Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" December 26, 2009 at 15:10

Fabulous Work! I love your cathedral rendition and the stained glass windows.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

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Jo December 26, 2009 at 15:04

OMG this is absolutely stunning .. more than stunning. I am truly speechless. Hope you have a great hols and happy new year.

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Gala December 26, 2009 at 10:58

Wow great job! Love to see the unusual versions of the gingerbread houses!

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Eyes Bigger Than Belly December 26, 2009 at 07:28

Oh wow – I am completely blown away by how beautiful and perfect your GB house is. Congratulations!! This was my very first Bakers Challenge and I”m really looking forward to the rest :)

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MaryMoh December 26, 2009 at 06:01

That's very beautiful and creative. Well done!

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Helene December 26, 2009 at 04:54

Stunning job! I love it!
Hope you've had a wonderful Christmas and a good holiday season so far.

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All Our Fingers in the Pie December 26, 2009 at 03:07

It is beautiful! Patience pays in gingerbread construction. Well done.

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Sue December 26, 2009 at 02:52

WOW! This is absolutely incredible! Exceptional job!

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Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries December 26, 2009 at 02:23

AMAZING structure!! I love how your cathedral turned out! I also love all the colored windows and the simplicity with the snow dusted on it–so beautiful!!
Merry Christmas!!

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Jenny December 26, 2009 at 01:01

WOW. Your cathedral is gorgeous! I love the multicolored windows and the roof especially. Nicely done!

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Marcellina December 26, 2009 at 00:43

WOW!!! What a terrific gingerbread “house”. “House” is just not the right word for such a grand, stunning creation! Truely magnificent! Merry Christmas.

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Simon December 26, 2009 at 00:34

Excellent work with the challenge post! It's by far one of the best looking ones I've come across.

Though we may have come up with the same initial concept, we had a very different outlook on its end result, especially with the stained glass.

Nice work again, and a Merry Christmas to you and yours :)

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Lisa December 25, 2009 at 23:06

You did it! It looks absolutely incredible Karen! I bet you're going to have a hard time pulling it apart to eat it!!

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Nitsie December 25, 2009 at 22:52

Oh this is phenomenal….looks fantastic:).Loved it.Happy holidays!

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Lesley December 25, 2009 at 22:01

Absolutely beautiful. Such a gorgeous gingerbread creation

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Trissa December 25, 2009 at 20:36

Great job on this challenge Karen – the Cathedral is beautiful – so much detail and care that you put on this. Especially the windows! Merry Christmas!

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Tia December 25, 2009 at 17:55

that's impressive! awesome job. merry christmas!

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teafactory December 25, 2009 at 16:57

wow, i'm so inspired, this is by far the best gingerbread structure i've seen, well done!

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Helen (Grab Your Fork) December 25, 2009 at 15:18

Oh my that looks amazing! What a fantastic effort – I can almost hear the church bels and organ music :) Merry Christmas!

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Anula December 25, 2009 at 12:48

OMG! YOu went further than usual gingerbread house! Fantastic! Love it :)
Merry Christmas from rainy Ireland!
Lots of presents from Santa, yummy Christmas feast and have a great time with your family and friends :)
Cheers! Anula.

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Ellie (Almost Bourdain) December 25, 2009 at 12:01

This is really a masterpiece! Merry Christmas :)

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OohLookBel December 25, 2009 at 11:21

So appropriate that you posted your gingerbread cathedral on Christmas day – it's an absolute masterpiece! You should do one of each of the major landmarks of the world (just joking, sort of!).
Have a happy Christmas.

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zorra December 25, 2009 at 09:03

Wow, gorgeous! I'm speechless and a bit envy. I would like to have your talent. ;-)

Happy Holidays!

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Kate December 25, 2009 at 08:31

Karen what a masterpiece! Wishing you and hubby a truly wonderful Christmas. Thankyou for all your hard work and for giving me so much joy from reading your blog each day. I look forward to hearing more from you. All my love Kate xx

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Forager December 25, 2009 at 07:24

Holy freaking cow Karen. I think that says it all.

Merry Christmas to you and the Captain!

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Claire December 25, 2009 at 04:51

Beautiful…I love the windows! Hope you have a very merry Christmas!

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Memória December 25, 2009 at 04:48

Wow. Wow. Wow. What a beautiful cathedral. I backed out of the December challenge because I'm not as creative as you and the other DBers. I wished I could make such a beautiful creation.

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dollydoesdesserts December 25, 2009 at 04:03

Omg. Gorgeous :D Beautiful photographs here! I love your Gingerbread Cathedral!

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chocolatesuze December 25, 2009 at 02:59

dude! that gingerbread cathedral is freaking beautiful! love the stained glass windows!

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Swee San December 25, 2009 at 02:32

wow that is so preeettty !!! Merry Christmas !

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella December 25, 2009 at 01:21

Absolutely phenomenal job Karen! I love the idea of the cathedral and it looks very accurate! I hope you and your family have a very Jolly Christmas and a Happy New Year! :) xxx

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Jacq December 25, 2009 at 01:14

Oh wow that is amazing Karen! Congrats on getting through it and Merry Christmas! Hope you have fun eating your cathedral (or maybe it's too much hard work to demolish in one go?)

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Y December 25, 2009 at 00:48

Merry Christmas Karen! Love the cathedral. I'm counting on you to do the Anfield stadium in gingerbread next year! It's a definite must :)

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The Ninja December 24, 2009 at 22:20

Brings back memories of that time in Paris…I still have nightmares about that helicopter.

Lovely cathedral, lovely photos, lovely lights (and bokeh :P). Merry christmas.

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linda December 24, 2009 at 22:19

Geesh!!! This is one absolutely stunning creation. You have really set the bar for Gingerbread buildings. I love the multi coloured stain glass windows, beautiful.

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billy@atablefortwo December 24, 2009 at 22:04

Hallehlujah indeed!!!! Oh my word, Karen, you have outdone yourself!!! I love those leadlight candy windows! Merry Christmas to you and hope to read more from you in the new year!

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mademoiselle délicieuse December 24, 2009 at 21:48

My goodness, an absolute masterpiece to wake to on Christmas morning! Have fun eating it and an even better Christmas =)

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Stephcookie December 24, 2009 at 21:41

AMAAAZZZZINNG!!! I knew it would be and it is! A masterpiece, you should be so so proud Karen :) I love that you kept the decorations subtle rather than going crazy with the candy decorations. I love it!

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A cupcake or two December 24, 2009 at 21:08

What an amazing job Karen. It's so beautiful and original. I hope you and your family have a wonderful christmas. I looke forward to seeing more post from you in 2010.

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Zita December 24, 2009 at 18:21

My… o… my, that's one amazing “project”, Happy Holiday!

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chef_d December 24, 2009 at 17:38

COngratulations! I admire your patience in making the gingerbread cathedral :)

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Lauren December 24, 2009 at 17:31

Such a great job! I love what you did with this challenge – the Cathedral is flawless =D.

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Curried Cupcakes December 24, 2009 at 17:29

Beautiful Cathedral. I love the architecture you did. Happy Holidays!

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tonic December 24, 2009 at 16:43

Absolutely stunning! Really beautiful job, and wonderful photographs!

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