Rockefeller Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Bronx Zoo, the Apollo Theater and more iconic New York City landmarks have been shrunken down and sugar-fied into gingerbread re-creations. Twenty-three gingerbread houses comprise this year's "Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off" at the Museum of the City of New York.
The display will be on view from November 10 through January 15 at the museum on the Upper East Side. The exhibition is included with general admission, which costs $20/person. Local judges awarded honors to the top-placing entries, but everyone can vote on their favorite for the People's Choice award.
Taking home the prize for the best overall is Patty Pops, which created an homage to this year's 50 years of hip-hop celebration. In their display, Santa wears Nike Dunks, while DJ Kool Herc provides a soundtrack for all the gingerbread characters gathered together. The gingerbread house bears the number 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, known as the birthplace of hip-hop.
The team from Patty Pops whipped up the display in just two days, as the bakery was busy juggling orders for Halloween. They finished the display at 3am the night before the deadline and then carefully transported it to the museum.
This award-winning entry marked their first time creating a gingerbread house. Since the traditional gingerbread medium differs from their typical cake pop creations, the bakers decided to rely on what they know: Edible gold leaf, isomalt, fondant, chocolate and royal icing.
"We used a lot of unconventional materials," Petroula Lambou-Kalognomas of Patty Pops tells Time Out New York.
For her materials, baker Arlene Chua leaned on honey gingerbread, isomalt and royal icing to create a picture-perfect rendering of Historic Richmond Town in Staten Island. Her versions of the town's print shop, tin shop and historic church exactly mirror the real-life buildings.
Chua (that’s pronounced like Chew-a-cookie, she jokes) came to baking in 2016 amid the grief of losing her mother to cancer. As she scrolled YouTube videos, she spotted a cookie-decorating video that captivated her. She grabbed a Ziploc bag, filled it with icing, and started decorating—she was hooked. In the years since, Chua has placed in several national cookie competitions and has appeared on the Food Network.
In the Gingerbread NYC competition, She won awards for the most realistic of the bunch and the best representation of Staten Island.
"They say everybody has a hidden talent and who knew cookie decorating would be mine," she says.
While some bakers, like Chua are self-taught, others in the competition work professionally in food. Susanna Caliendo, of Something Sugared, and Mario DiBiase, of SottoVoce restaurant, created a visually stunning rendition of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Brooklyn.
They spent 300 hours researching, making models, baking and building. DiBiase relied on his cooking skills, along with his background in construction and ironwork, to make sure the arch stayed in one piece. The bakers featured the figures of 52 people who hail from Brooklyn, each one made out of fondant, gum paste and edible paper. Featured Brooklynites include Ina Garten, Mae West, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Steve Buscemi.
“If it was in a museum, we wanted it to be educational and something you enjoy looking at,” Caliendo explains.
Judges included Bobbie Lloyd, CEO of Magnolia Bakery; Jonah Nigh of NBC's Baking It; Nadine Orenstein of MoMA; Colette Peters of Colette's Cakes; Amy Scherber of Amy's Bread; Melba Wilson of Melba's Restaurant.
Here's the full list of 2023 Gingerbread NYC winners
- Most realistic: Historic Richmond Town by Arlene Chua
- Most unique: 74th Street, Jackson Heights by Nishat Shahabuddin
- Good enough to eat: New York Hall of Science by Karen Chin
- Best borough spirit of Staten Island: Historic Richmond Town by Arlene Chua
- Best borough spirit of The Bronx: Hip Hop by Petroula Lambou-Kalognomas of Patty Pops
- Best borough spirit of Brooklyn: Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch by Susanna Caliendo, of Something Sugared, and Mario DiBiase, of SottoVoce
- Best borough spirit of Manhattan: American Museum of Natural History by Loretta Lee
- Best borough spirit of Queens: 74th Street, Jackson Heights by Nishat Shahabuddin
- Best overall: Hip Hop by Petroula Lambou-Kalognomas of Patty Pops