Sunday October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween! a dark day without Rosco

If you’ve read the About page, you’ll know that I don’t take the pictures here on BraveTart. Photography on this site has, until now, remained the domain of Rosco.

Now, though I bake fun stuff every day as part of my work, we only get to take pictures once a week at best. That’s why you rarely see step-by-step type photos here; Rosco doesn’t hang out in the kitchen all day with me taking pix of my goings on, rather we get together on the tail end and take a few pictures of the final product.

So, I’m quite used to making up things that he’ll never shoot. It’s just how it goes. But today, in the spirit of Halloween, I’m going to share some photos that I took on my point and shoot.

Scary, right?

I made a “haunted gingerbread house” in my spare time, and took photos along the way to post of Facebook. Due to various circumstances, I could not co-ordinate with Rosco to get any “real” photos of this project.

One factor had to do with location: I made the gingerbread house at my parents home, which is 30 minutes from my house, but close to an hour from Rosco’s.

I did this because a) I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a restaurant kitchen, but let me assure you, it is no place for a fragile gingerbread house and b)in my own kitchen, I have two cats who would make short work of it should I turn my back on it for a single moment.

And lastly, I didn’t make it for myself, but for a charity auction, so I had to give it away on a deadline and couldn’t wait indefinitely until Rosco had a chance to take its picture.

But, since I had the pictures, and it’s Halloween, I figured “why not” and so I’m posting these for anyone who wants to see ‘em.


Some may need to avert their eyes.

1) Because the house has to first be transported by me to the auction site, and then transported by whoever buys it on to wherever, the house needs to hold up, so I used dowel rods for stability. I know, I’m a big cheater.

2) A batch of gingerbread, thinned with water and black food dye, makes for great wrought iron fencing.

3) A second, thinned down batch of gingerbread piped out with a basket weave tip makes the lumber for my porch, 4) obligatory “keep out!” signs and 5) witches broom; as well as 6) railing and 8) a spooky tree. 7) is a batch of sugar leaves. 9) The rolled out wall and roof pieces.

Gingerbread pieces

The fencing, porch, tombstones and other decorations are my own creation, but I used a template for the house itself. I’ve made my own gingerbread templates in the past, but because this was for charity and I had very little time to work on it, I certainly couldn’t afford to spend what little time I had on working out an architecturally sound template from scratch.

The incredibly talented Ray Keim has a free PDF template for the “Phantom Manor” (from Paris Disney) on his site Haunted Dimensions. I made a PayPal donation for it, though, because the detail and creativity are so extraordinary. It felt like stealing not to pay something.

I also made up some tombstones with grey gingerbread, not using any particular design, just sort of winging it. After they baked, I rubbed them with silver and moss luster dust, and then splattered them with antique green luster dust (liquefied with booze) to simulate the splotches of moss that grow on old stone things. Lastly, I added some names and dates.

gingerbread tombstones

Next, I rolled out the walls and cut them according to Ray’s template (which I enlarged by 20%), but used a ruler and dull knife to make the impression of bricks. As it’s a haunted house, I kept my tidy tendencies at bay and made the bricks a little uneven and irregularly sized for a more spooktastic, dilapidated feel.

I rubbed the baked walls all over with a blend of different green and gray luster dusts to age them. I piped a white-gray royal icing mortar between the bricks. To firmly smudge it into the impression, I put a sheet of plastic wrap over it, pressing and mushing with my fingers, then lifting the sheet and excess icing off in one go. Then I polished it with a paper towel to remove any lingering royal icing, and dusted it again with the luster dusts to likewise age the mortar.

stages of building the wall

To give the gingerbread lumber a more realistic look, I painted the various pieces with a dark brown food dye stain (brown food dye thinned with vodka), added royal icing nails, and attached them over some of the windows. You know, because a house can’t be haunted until someone’s boarded up half the windows.

Finally, I assembled the second story and roof into once piece.

boarding up the windows

Assembling the house was super straight forward and not really worth of documentation.

1) The front porch, roof still shiny from the wet royal icing “pitch.” 2) A huge sprig of thyme from the garden rolled in dark brown royal icing to create a dead tree, attached it to the house with a royal icing cobweb for stability. 3) The assembled house, in a yard of brown sugar and toasted coconut, along with some green coconut for a little remaining “life” and some placeholder tombstones to help me figure out where I wanted to place the real ones. 4) Sprigs of sage from the garden, dried over night, made excellent weeds in the yard and 5) oregano, also from the garden, to come tumbling out from under the porch, so the porch would have that unkempt crazy person sort of porch feel, instead of a “oh, my this is a lovely porch” vibe.

coconut grass and sage weeds

1) This is the mostly finished house, with the fence set up, final tombstones erected, bones and leaves in the yard, and my waaaaay too bright night light inside. 2) Detail of the front porch, with the boarded up window, wood floring on the porch, and railing. 3) Wrought iron fence with the tree in the background.

the final house

I made a last minute royal icing skeleton, dusted with opalescent luster dust, and attached him to some fishing line so I could hang him from the tree.

sugar bones

I’m still mourning the lack of awesome photography for this post, but thought some might like to see what I was up to for Halloween.

What about everyone else? Any knock out costume ideas out there? I have totally bailed out on having a Halloween party, so not much going on here. I’m such a snooze.

posted byStellaand filed under:  Cookies

16 comments and counting

Oct 31, 2010 ·  4:22 PM

Wow Stella what a job ! How many days did you spend on it? Can you share your royal icing recipe please ? Thanks!

 · olessya  · 

Oct 31, 2010 ·  8:07 PM

My whole family is amazed by this. You are a food wizard. straight up.


 · Darth Cider ·

Oct 31, 2010 ·  9:11 PM

This makes me wish, more than ever, that we lived in the same city. It has also solidified my “last possibile weekend to travel as a single woman” destination. Kentucky or burst! Er, bust.

 · Mallowsota · 

Oct 31, 2010 · 11:05 PM

Olessya, I will add the recipe soon and let you know!

@Darth Cider: what an epic pseudonym! Thanks for stopping by young Wes. Say hi to your mustache for me!! xoxoxoxoxo

@Mallowsota: OMG YES! !!!!!!!!


Oct 31, 2010 · 11:38 PM

That’s amazing! I’ve always wanted to make an elaborate gingerbread house. Your tips about thinning the dough with water are awesome and I really can’t wait to give it a shot! The work you did with the luster dust is jaw-dropping. It looks so real!

I was a “bad ass” this year for Halloween. I was nice and warm in my costume (and had fun wearing an ammo belt over my shoulder with weapons strapped to my thighs) while I laughed at all the silly girls in short skirts. Haha. But my boyfriend’s costume was awesome – he wore a black chef’s coat with Iron Man’s arc reactor on his chest and went as an “Iron Chef.”

Anyway, since Halloween festivities on campus took place Thursday-Saturday, my friends and I spent the evening making pizza and watching “Evil Dead” (soooooooooooooo bad). Even though the night’s been super tame for me too, I really enjoyed it!

 · Kaitlin ·

Nov 01, 2010 · 12:36 AM

Kaitlin, I just think you’re plain awesome anyway but the fact that you’ve bucked the grand American Halloween tradition of going as a “sexy whatever” really endears you to me all the more. I hope you got some good pix!

I think a Halloween house is always safe bet, because if you (read: one) make a slightly off kilter Christmas gingerbread house, you look incompetent. But if your house is slightly off kilter on Halloween, it’s just spooky. Safe!

If you plan out your steps, making a gingerbread house is actually not very stressful or complicated at all. I did everything for this in about 8 hours spread out over a week, which is next to nothing in terms of ginger-commitment. Go for it!!


Nov 01, 2010 ·  9:09 PM

My fiance was the Dread Pirate Roberts and I was…
no, not Buttercup.
I was a Rodent Of Unusual Size.
It was awesome- and warm.

And, PS- I have always thought that Ginger Bread House is pretty much the epitome of The Bomb.

 · mlb · 

Nov 01, 2010 · 10:10 PM

A personal message from the MLB?! Wow! The Dread Pirate Roberts is the hotness. And I appreciate your willingness to give up a shot at a trashy Halloween costume in favor of being a ROUS. These comments are giving me more faith in the ladies of America.


Nov 03, 2010 ·  1:07 AM

Ha! You’re much too modest! As a person that throws Gingerbread House parties every year, I know how much work goes into making a house like the one you built. It’s a HUGE job for us common folk! Great ideas and techniques that I will steal from you and try to find the time to experiment with. And the pictures are awesome.

 · Linda ·

Nov 03, 2010 ·  9:46 AM

Linda, I can not imagine how much work goes into a gingerbread house party! It’s tough enough putting one house together and keeping your kitchen clean, much less with guests armed with piping bags of icing milling about! I’m glad a GB-veteran such as yourself could still find some inspiration though.

Ray’s template would make a phenomenal Christmas house too, it’s so mathematically precise, everything fits together beautifully and it virtually assembles itself. Maybe not for a party, but you should definitely download it and give it a try sometime. Cheers!


Nov 05, 2010 ·  3:50 PM

I love this house and the details are mind boggling

 · deadly · 

Nov 08, 2010 ·  2:19 AM

That is incredible. Really! There’s no way I’ll ever have the patience to accomplish something so grand! Great job

 · Cathy ·

Jun 28, 2011 · 10:10 PM

Hey, I’ve just been peeking through your archives and oh my gosh this is amazing. We don’t do Halloween so much over here in Oz(at least my family never have) but this is making me want to. And your photos give me hope as a blogger who doesn’t have a professional photographer at her fingertips! thanks!

 · erin ·

Jun 29, 2011 · 10:35 AM

@Erin, oh man, I was in a panic without Rosco! But felt like I had to document it anyway… It was really fun to make a non-Christmas gingerbread house. You should do something spooktacular this year!


Nov 22, 2012 ·  2:00 PM

Amazing house, could you please post how much water you should add to the gingerbread dough for the fences. I would really appreciate it, thanks!

 · Nim · 

Nov 24, 2012 · 12:57 PM

Hi Nim! I haven’t really measured it, I just add water a tablespoon at a time (while mixing) until the dough thins down into a pipeable consistency. You want it to have a texture almost like a frosting; not watery at all. Sorry to not be more helpful, it was always one of those things I made up as I went along.



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