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Land of Oz comes to the Northwest in gingerbread house contest | 20 creations on display to benefit KIDSQuest Museum
Working well into the night in a catering warehouse tucked away in Bellevue’s Bell-Red neighborhood, a team of four women pastry professionals put the final touches on a gingerbread house. But not just any gingerbread house.
It, and 19 others, are vying for honors in the annual KIDSQuest Museum Gingerbread Lane, which is part of Bellevue's Magic Season. The competing house will on display through Dec. 16 in the Bellevue Hilton lobby. Winners will be announced on Dec. 8. The houses will be auctioned off to the highest sweet-tooth bidders.
Jill Borgida, an instructor for Wilton Industries, worked side by side with Kelli Morse of Kelli’s Cake Creations, Gian Edmondson and Becky Bihary, consultants who have worked with Kelli. All are local pastry experts with steady hands, plenty of patience and an eye for the whimsical.
The house, sponsored by Republic Services, embraces a theme of the Wizard of Oz situated in the Pacific Northwest with multiple references to a “green” holiday. Jill Borgida is the wife of Republic Services’ general manager, Jeff Borgida.
“When we brainstormed we kept the KIDSQuest audience in mind,” said Jill. “We thought kids and parents would enjoy our interpretation of the Land of Oz here in the Northwest. And a green theme wouldn’t be complete without a reference to environmental stewardship.”
The entry is a traditional Northwest Tudor home equipped with stained-glass windows made of melted Lifesaver candies lit by the warm glow of a battery-powered candle stands surrounded by evergreen trees created from ice cream cones with frosting and an “Emerald City” skyline in the background. Wizard of Oz characters crafted in fondant demonstrate the team’s careful attention to detail and the lengths to which they will go to create the Northwest flavor.
Dorothy wears a red scarf and goulashes with a latte in hand. A blue Republic Services’ curbside recycling cart also crafted of fondant awaits pick-up beside the Yellow Brick Road, laden with gumdrop “recyclables.”
“We’ve done our best to make everything look as realistic as possible,” added Becky as she rolled fondant rainbows for an umbrella. “There is a lot of attention to detail.”
Each artist glanced at props and photos from the Wizard of Oz as they crafted figurines. There are literally hundreds of miniature edible pieces attached to the house to transform it into a winter wonderland, Northwest-style.
Surrounded by cupcake tins, cake stands, bins of cookie cutters and stacks of baking sheets on speed racks, the team spent more than 40 hours together, pasting and placing rows of coffee bean cobblestones, cookie shingles and snowflakes of sugar dough throughout the gingerbread property which measures four square feet and nearly two feet tall outlined in pretzel fencing.
For any interested bidders, the taste experience will range from vanilla and red cherry to chocolate and green apple flavored fondant, not to mention the gingerbread architecture and its royal icing glaze.
Despite the long hours, team members agreed the project has been a stress-reliever, satisfying their creative appetite while taking part in a delightful community tradition this holiday season.
When asked if the team would reconvene next year to do another gingerbread house the answer was a resounding, “yes!”
The Republic Services team (from left) Becky Bihary, Jill Borgida, Gian Edmondson, and Kelli Morse.
The finished product: Northwest Land of Oz (front view)