The Gingerbread Queen
For those who have vivid Holiday memories of making
gingerbread houses, victory is often achieved just by getting the simple
biscuit and icing house to stand upright without looking like a hurricane has
passed thru. Take one look at the ornate gingerbread creations of Shannon
Wallis, and you’d be tempted to call it sorcery. Wallis however, says she’s
just “an amateur with wild success.”
For the last several years, she’s been a staple at the Family Place’s annual Gingerbread House competition. Four times she has been grand champion, and twice the runner up. From Pirate Ships, Circuses, and Santa’s Beach house, her work is far from the cookie cutter houses that look like they belong in gingerbread suburbia.
Wallis revels in the small details and credits that for her accomplishments. The beach house Santa is lounging in candy caned striped shorts while holding a tropical beverage with an umbrella and straw. On her pirate ship, the ginger bread men have little eye patches. The lengths she goes to capture the little things are far beyond that of your average amateur, but as a professional egg artist, a sophisticated level of detail is par for the course. Each year’s creation always includes a hidden message or joke. For example, the year she created the Muffin Man Bakery, she had a sign entitled ‘Now Serving Pizza’ in reference to Dan and Whit’s, which had just begun serving pizza.
Getting ready for the gingerbread competition is time
consuming, but she never spends more than two weeks on assembly. As for getting
the family involved, Wallis says her teenage daughter and husband are primarily
consultants. They’ll bounce ideas, but ultimately, she’s the chief baker,
engineer, and decorator. She’s grateful for the local business in the Norwich
community which she utilizes to make her creations. For baking the gingerbread,
she uses King Arthur White Flower and also uses their royal king icing. Dan and
Whit’s, has also been a huge resource for picking up oddball ingredients like
blue gum that was used for wall siding on Santa’s beach house, and little pink
bunny head sprinkles that were repurposed for cherry blossoms.
While she’s been happy with her winnings, she doesn’t do it for the glory. One year she was surprised to have won, because she told the officials that she did not want to be judged in the competition. Primarily, it’s just a fun and creative way to get in the holiday spirit. As for this year, her theme is ‘Twas the night before Christmas.’ But besides that, she will also lead a ginger bread house making demonstration, and is particularly enthused to assist nursery students decorate a large gingerbread house with candy.