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.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coun. Jack McClintock said he would have voted for a proposed statutory holiday recognizing residential school survivors if he had had all of the information. (Black Press Media File)
North Saanich split over statutory holiday recognizing residential school survivors

Legislation would recognize Sept. 30 as National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

(Black Press Media file photo)
Break and enter suspect caught in the act by Saanich police, charged for seven other similar crimes

40-year-old accused of breaking into bank, restaurant, six liquor stores since October 2020

A collage of damaged areas in need of repair in Oak Bay municipal hall, including carpet hazards, missing wall pieces and interior water damage. (District of Oak Bay images)
Oak Bay awards contract for municipal hall renovation

$470,000 will go towards cracked walls, ripped flooring

The Sooke School District raised more than $18,000 for the Goldstream and Sooke food banks from the funds of 10,000 Tonight in December 2020. The funds go two- to 2.5-times further due to the buying power of the food banks. (Black Press Media file photo)
SD62 high school students raise more than $18,000 for food banks

Edward Milne in Sooke rakes in $11,000 alone

There are many options for enjoying a meal out locally during Dine Around and Stay in Town, on now through Feb. 7. (10 Acres Commons)
Dine Around Stay in Town Victoria carries added importance during pandemic

Special menu items for eat in or takeout/delivery, staycation deals available through Feb. 7

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Chemainus public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Most Read