Oak Bay gingerbread entry brings literary tales to life

National gingerbread showcase opens Saturday in Victoria

Melanie Lonsdale

Melanie Lonsdale




Tales real and imagined come alive in a stack of books nearing three feet tall – mostly made of gingerbread.

Ocean creatures seep from a title by Jacques Cousteau. A Chris Hadfield perches precariously on a book of astronomy. Out of Africa sports a lioness in long grass. Stingrays, a passport, Easter Island heads and 30 monarch butterflies sprout from the stack.

“I wanted to make it so the books were coming to life,” said pastry chef Melanie Lonsdale of Ottavio Italian Bakery and Deli.

Titled Wanderlust, this will be her fifth entry to the National Gingerbread Showcase that opens at Laurel Point Inn this Saturday (Nov. 19). The all-in-good-fun competition pits baker against baker to see who creates the most dazzling work of art from completely edible materials. Participants compete for a top-three finish as either a professional or home baker.

Lonsdale took a break the last two years, serving as a judge for the Habitat for Humanity fundraiser last year. When the Around the World theme came out, Lonsdale had a concept sketched in five minutes and Ottavio’s Andrew Moyer promptly agreed to the entry.

The planned height of the structure meant she needed some form of edible dowelling. Fettuccine noodles and royal icing proved a solid answer to getting structurally sound, a least favourite part of the process.

“I just wanted to ice the cake,” she said. “You have your sketch but as you progress it’s continually evolving as you go. The problem is stopping.”

The building and decorating process includes about 30 pounds of gingerbread, a 27-pound box of rice crisps and 22 pounds of rolled fondant.

Lonsdale kept her co-workers at Ottavio in suspense until the creation was complete, just ahead of the judging. They watched as she did some pieces at work (they had some fun with the largest box of rice crisps any had ever seen), but the bulk of completion was at home.

“(It took) 147.5 hours (to build), but who’s counting,” Lonsdale said with a laugh. “Every time I do it, it takes incrementally more time.”

That could be due to a consistent increase in detail and her competitive nature. Lonsdale won a title every year she entered.

“It’s always satisfying to win. It’s a great fundraiser,” she said. “It’s a lot of work but it’s fun. It gives the chefs a chance to be creative and show what we’re capable of.”

Victoria’s Inn at Laurel Point hosts Canada’s National Gingerbread Showcase, benefiting Habitat for Humanity Victoria, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily Nov. 19 to Jan. 2. The event brings together professional and amateur bakers from across Canada and highlights their creativity, while supporting the work of Habitat for Humanity Victoria. The 2015 showcase raised $44,120.47 for Habitat’s efforts to make affordable homeownership possible for lower-income families in the Victoria region.

During the showcase, the public is invited to view the sweet creations and, in exchange for a donation, vote for their favourite.

The showcase opens to the public Nov. 19. The People’s Choice Award, voted by visitors to the display, is announced Jan. 11.

 

Just Posted

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Victoria police continue to look for missing man Tyrone Goertzen and are once again asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police put out another call for help finding missing man

Tyrone Goertzen, 33, was first reported missing June 4

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

Kathy and Doug LaFortune stand next to the new welcome pole now gracing the front entrance of KELSET Elementary School in North Saanich. LaFortune completed the piece after suffering a stroke with the help of his wife and son Bear. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
KELSET school in North Saanich unveils welcome pole on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Carver Doug LaFortune completed pole with the help of his son, wife after suffering a stroke

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read