I love all the houses we do but every once in a while you receive an order which really fires your imagination. When this particular client called and said could we make a gingerbread Big Ben I was literally jumping for joy. As one of London’s most iconic structures it is known the world over and is as British as fish and chips! Every unique gingerbread build it starts with a heap of research and gingerbread Big Ben was no different. There are plenty of pictures of Big Ben on the internet and plenty more attempts at making a gingebread Big Ben. But what I wanted to do was create something not only visually stunning but to scale and detail accurate too. I wanted to knock every other creation right out the park. Planning Big Ben This gingerbread Big Ben had to be tall and impressive but in order to achieve that we needed to scale it properly. Lots of the pictures online show the detail but often at odd angles so it’s hard to calculate the scale. Fortunately we found a drawing with it straight on which enabled us to measure and calculate how big we wanted it to be. Originally we were aiming for 4ft but by the time we had finished it was larger. In fact, BIg Ben is our tallest structure to date standing at an impressive 4ft 6″ tall. You can see the drawing below which has a lot of workings out on it. This was our original plan. Although it deviate from this a little, broadly speaking it stayed the same from when it started. As with lots of our bigger builds we make them modular, much like we would do a wedding cake – you may not be able to see the joins eventually but they’re there, just well hidden! By making it modular it enables us to build in sections and to strengthen each section individually to ensure longterm stability. As you can see from the drawing Big Ben is divided into five sections from the base until the clock face section. In real life these sections look to be slightly different depths but for the purposes of building we kep them to the same size. So, five sections measuring 25cm x 11cm, effectively five boxes. This was also partly determined by the size of our ovens – whilst we have several, they are domestic size and there’s a limit to how big a piece we can put it – oh how I miss my big commercial ovens from when I had a unit pre-Covid. For those that are interested I do have a second kitchen at home for the business but it is much smaller than what I had before. We then made a template out of foam core and carefully cut out all the windows to act as a guide – yes this bit is very tme consuming and tedious but it is necessary for accuracy. We actually only cut out four windows on each side, partly due to structural integrity, partly due to time constraints and the fiddliness of doing more and partly because if you look closely at the real Big Ben, not all windows are cut out in real life either. Building the Base of Gingerbread Big Ben Then it was onto baking using our signature gingerbread dough recipe. I think we used maybe four or five double quanities of this. Anyway, here comes the maths: 1 section has four sides with windows 25cm x 11cm and then an internal cross section of gingerbread to strengthen so another three pieces of plain gingerbread, one measuring approx 24cm x 10cm and another two measuring approx 12cm x 10cm. The internal supports are not an exact science because even with measuring they don’t always come out how want and need to be sanded down. So thats 20 main side pieces 25cm x 11cm, five long internal pieces 24cm x 10cm and ten small internal pieces 12cm x 10cm. Before beginning building each piece has to be sanded so the edges are straight as despite the best will in the world they don’t always come out straight from the oven. To do this we use a small wood planer which we get from the local DIY shop. You can use a lemon zester but in my opinion the wood planer is just easier to hold and to brace the gingerbread. Gingerbread is fairly sturdy when baked but it will break if you press too hard when doing this so it’s essential to use a lighter touch. The sections were then iced flat in white royal icing before being assembled with brown royal icing. They were then left to dry individually before being stacked one on top of another and secure with more royal icing. Note the wire running out of the bottom as we had already insterted the lights at this stage to be run up through the entire structure as we built. You can see below how it looks partially constructed: Each section was built around a square of foam core (yes we do use some non-edibles in large builds for additional support) measuring 25cm square. We cut out a small circle in each corner to allow for vertical tall dowels to be inserted once fully constructed – these ran the entire length up to the clock face section and also allowed for us to thread lights through each section and hide wires. Building the Clock Section of Gingerbread Big Ben The clock section was built in much te same way as the base sections only it was slightly large in size. The dimensions for this were 29cm x 15cm for each side piece. There was also a small box placed under it because if you look at the images it comes out slightly, then comes out further again so another box measuring 27cm x 5cm. So pieces-wise that meant 4 x 29cm x 15cm and 4 x 27cm x 5cm, plus the corresponding foam core (29cm square and 27cm square) around which to build them and the internal supports. This also had a 29cm square piece on top as the edges of it would show as the tower which sits on top is smaller and we wanted a base on which to build the final tower and some additional decoration. We also baked some smaller squares for the clock face to sit in slightly recessed. A lot of ones online they tend to have just stuck it on as an afterthought but in the real Big Ben they sit back a little. We wanted to recreate the same effect. We also wanted to use the real Big Ben clock face so found a detailed version online and had it edibly reprinted by Eat Your Photo who we use for all our edible printing because they’re great quality and highly professional. Clock face measured approx 10cm. As before pieces were shaved to straighten, iced flat and then constructed after detail had been added Making the Tower This was probably the most techinally challenging part of the build because it involved curve gingerbread – never an easy thing to do! First off, we constructed another box to rest on. You can see the panels below where the windows were painstakingly cut out with an Xacto knife. Next we built more templates for the lower part of the tower and the upper part. The pieces were cut out and overlayed once baked. This is important!!! The pieces are baked for slightly less time than usual probably 8 minutes as opposed to 11-12 and then immediately overlaid over the foam core templates as they cool so they cool curved. The curves on these pieces are not huge so this works well but you do need to curve the foam core to make the template which you do by scoring lines in the side that don’t go all the way through and then bending it to the druve you want. You can just about see that in the picture on the left. Also, it’s far easier when doing the pieces to make them ever so slightly larger than they need to be and then gently file back, rather than smaller and have to fill in gaps. Also, we were winging it at this point so couldn’t tell you the exact measurements for these pieces!! The lower curve part also had supporting cross pieces internally. Decorating the tower Once the tower was baked, it was assembled with brown royal icing like the lower sections. The very point of the tower was made with a bamboo stick and royal icing smoothed into place. We then marked and drilled tiny holes for all the small windows (yes the power tools in the background are purely for gingerbread building and cake decorating!) Then covered the relevant parts with light greay fondant, strengthened with CMC powder, before marking in the tiles by hand. The rest of it and the final detail was finished off with a combo of smaller gingerbread pieces and fondant. We used edible gold paint to gve the gilded effect to the building which is synonymous with lots of historical London buildings. Delivery and Set up of Gingerbread Big Ben This particular build had to go a private cient in London. Often we’ll use a sameday courier to ship them directly to the client but as this one was so tall we did it ourselves and took it in two parts to be assembled on site. Now we’re in Brighton so aroudn 58 miles away from London but driving even that distance with this bad boy was no mean feat. Fortunately, gingerbread is pretty sturdy once set and it arrived absolutely fine to be installed in the client’s reception rooms. Had a slight panic when we relised the fondant hands of the clock hadn’t been added and had to dash back to put them on but all’s well that ends well and the client was over the moon. Bespoke gingerbread houses or indeed bespoke gingerbread creations are a unique gift which can really put your business on the map.