Food Network is serving up all the feels this week on Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown! One of the best parts of the holidays has to be all the beautiful decorations that can be found all around us this time of year. Many of us have beautiful memories of seeing bright and shiny window displays as we walk or drive around our towns during the holiday season. Well, we challenged three teams of gingerbread enthusiasts to create a window display with an animated element. What happened next? Well you’ll have to keep reading for my take on it!

Baking is a Balancing Act

If you have been watching the Gingerbread Showdown on Food Network, you know that each team’s creation must be at least 24 inches tall at one point. When you’re talking about something as potentially fragile as gingerbread, that’s quite a feat! Each of the contestants found out first-hand that balance can make or break the experience (literally) if it isn’t taken very seriously. 

Matt and Chelle’s “Gazing Through the Window Pond” theme included an RV that Santa used to visit the window pond and gaze down at the earth. Balance quickly became the priority as Matt remarked about each gingerbread piece acting as a support to one another. It was imperative that the royal icing be capable of holding the RV structure together. So you can imagine the shock and awe that accompanied Matt’s discovery that he had been mistakenly using buttercream to secure the gingerbread instead of royal icing! 

Judges Breegan Jane, Nacho Aguirre and Kardea Brown, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, Season 1.

We “decked the halls” with Sarah and Alexis with their family living room theme, and weight distribution again played a major role. The back wall of their gingerbread house was shaping up to be the essence of heart and the holidays. It was slated to display picture frames with photos of Sarah’s and Alexis’s family members. Unfortunately, when assembly time arrived, concern grew over worries that the royal icing wouldn’t be strong enough. Sarah and Alexis ultimately decided to nix the wall altogether in favor of a “safer-better-than-sorry” approach.

From Baking to Building, Balance is Best

It won’t shock any of my loyal readers when I mention that I’m not a cook. But, while I lack culinary skills, I do know my way around a kitchen—at least, the design of them. One of things I always consider when I’m designing is weight and scale. The two concepts apply to a plethora of design elements. A well-balanced space is achieved by mixing the right combination of pieces, textures and colors. Tuxedo kitchens are an excellent example of this. I use light colors on the upper surfaces and balance them out with darker hues on the lower ones. The effect is a light and airy space that still feels grounded and significant. 

Weight isn’t only figurative. As an interior designer, I also often deal with the literal weight of a home. It isn’t unusual for a client to inquire about ways to enlarge their rooms by knocking down walls or removing unwanted beams. While I’ve successfully spearheaded construction on several properties, I can tell you that those beams are often there for the support of the house. That means, eliminating them for the sake of the desired aesthetic isn’t always wise. Much like the gingerbread bakers, beginning with the end in mind and mindfulness regarding weight distribution are both essential.

Judge Breegan Jane, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, Season 1.

Rain or Shine, the Baking Must Go On!

Food Network shows and contestants are no stranger to challenges. However, I’m not sure if these bakers expected the weather to be an obstacle they would need to overcome! This week as each team worked to construct their window displays, it poured outside. The humidity from the rain impacted the gingerbread and potentially changed the fate of some of the teams’ creations. 

MJ and Beth’s window display was adorable! They decided to go with an antique toy shop theme with a little boy and his dog peeking in through the window with excitement. It was an incredibly elaborate display that relied on isomalt for many of the “glass-like” elements. We all quickly learned isomalt gets less and less transparent as the humidity rises in the space. That’s disastrous since MJ’s theme took the idea of “window” display pretty literally!

I watched as MJ and Beth diligently worked away to complete their edible build. The gingerbread, absorbing more and more of the moisture in the room, began to bend. The items held on with isomalt slid off. Still, the ladies kept a positive attitude. They stated that the isomalt looked like frosted glass, and the gingerbread took on an even more antiqued appearance. It was, as they described it, a “happy accident.” I loved watching the two of them persevere through those difficulties without complaining. They found innovative ways to fix mishaps (hello, blowtorch!), and they achieved an amazing result in the end.

Host Jesse Palmer and Judges Kardea Brown, Nacho Aguirre and Breegan Jane, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, Season 1.

Positivity Under Pressure

I’ve had my fair share of weather-related surprises while working on design projects. These occurrences have impacted everything from delayed deadlines to shipment changes. I don’t think I have to tell you that clients aren’t usually thrilled when that happens. Through it all, I’ve learned to breathe through the rough moments, prepare the client for the probable “what-ifs”, and maintain a positive purview. It might sound cliché, but when your back is up against the wall (or gingerbread, lol), panicking never helps. I appreciated seeing the resilience in these bakers.

Risky Baking Business

The twist this week was right up my alley! The teams had to incorporate champagne, and boy did they! It was a bubbly Food Network time as each of them added the sparkly beverage to their gingerbread designs. While every take on the twist was different, they all shared one thing. The teams were all willing to take a risk to win the $10,000 prize. Matt and Chelle marinated apples in an attempt to sustain more of the champagne flavor in their cheesecake. Sarah and Alexis appeared to go slightly overboard with their champagne addition to ensure we truly tasted it. And MJ and Beth added champagne pearls when they feared the chocolate would steal the show. 

Did their risks pay off? Well, you’d have to ask their opinions. I can tell you that, even in design, I have to be willing to take the less traveled path to get the result I want. I take risks with my design, I go against the grain, and I trust my own instincts, even when they’re less popular. Taking risks isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can be the thing that gets you the win!

I continue to be impressed with how these talented cooks, bakers and builders use their medium to create things of beauty each week on the Food Network Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown. This episode kept both the judges and contestants on our toes! What about you? What were your favorite moments? Let’s chat in the comments!


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