Martha never does anything small. This year Martha has accepted the challenge from PBS to create her own version of Downton Abbey in gingerbread. See what it take to create this majestic manor for the holidays.
It took many hours to create, but we’re sure you’ll agree the results are worth it: Gingerbread Abbey is stunning. It’s a sizable construction — 48 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 28 inches high. But believe it or not, Martha says this isn’t the largest gingerbread project she’s made; that honor goes to a Baroque church she made a few years ago.
See More: The Making of Gingerbread Abbey
The abbey, though, has a special place in her heart; Martha is a fan of Downton Abbey and has studied Highclere Castle, the stately home that becomes the Downton Abbey for the series. “It’s in the Anglo-Italianate style,” she explains. While the actual house, Martha says, is made of “Bath stone, lots of lead, and finials,” our version has a gingerbread facade, royal icing in place of lead (much tastier), and gum paste finials.
Here’s how this amazing project came together:
1. The first step, of course, was making the gingerbread dough. Then came rolling it out: Rubber bands on each end of the rolling pin help measure the size each piece of dough should be (an extra 3/4 inch larger than the template so the piece can be trimmed after baking for a crisp edge). Then the dough was chilled.
2. Using a craft knife, the template was traced into the rolled-out dough piece. Then the dough was baked and cooled.
3. While the dough was cooling, the caramel was made, cooled slightly to thicken, and poured onto window shapes marked out on sheets of parchment.
4. There was a lot of piping. Royal icing was tinted two shades of brown: one to match the gingerbread and one a shade darker. Then the icing was piped in the darker shade to delineate floors and other important sections of the abbey, as well as for drainpipes. The lighter shade, which Martha is piping here, was used for detailing — including the rosettes around windows.
5. Once cooled, each caramel window was piped with royal icing “glue”; then the template was lowered onto the windows.
6. The team used a lot more royal icing to glue the sections together.
7. The gingerbread abbey is supported by a foam board armature that design director Anduin Haven created. She installed Christmas lights and wrapped the armature in parchment paper to diffuse the light.
+ Gum Paste Finials for Gingerbread Abbey
To create the three kinds of finials atop our Gingerbread Abbey, we strung beads on wire to create models that were pressed into modeling clay (top).
Then a two-part molding compound was kneaded together and smushed over the beads to create a mold, and cured according to the manufacturer’s instructions (middle).
Gum paste was tinted to match the gingerbread and pressed into the cavities of the molds. After the gum paste finials were removed from the molds, wire was inserted through the middle of each set, and they were left to cure overnight.
The finials were added after the Abbey was assembled.
The Final Product:
Watch the assembling time-lapse on marthastewart.com, and check out the Downton Abbey Season 5 premiere on January 4th!
See More: The Making Of Gingerbread Abbey
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