BY DUCK PATERSON
Eighty pounds of flour and 20 pounds of sugar is enough to bake a gingerbread masterpiece.
Geoff Cram, owner of the Old Town Bakery, got the idea more than 15 years ago to start with the Christmas tradition of making a gingerbread house and take it to the next level and beyond.
“It takes me about two months of actual mixing, baking and then the construction and decorating to complete one of the projects,” he said. “It’s not a job, though – I enjoy it very much and it gives me a chance to just get back into the dough and use my creativity.”
This year’s creation, for those who have passed by the storefront, is a reproduction of the actual bakery building. The creation even has a gingerbread reproduction of the building in the window on the left side, and that reproduction, in turn, has the building in its window.
As well as gingerbread people in various rooms, the gingerbread building also has more than 400 mini LED lights inside and on the facade as part of the decoration.
The base that the building sits on is also unique.
“I wanted the base to also make a statement, so I did it in three pieces and each one has a story,” Cram said. “The first block has a Cowichan sweater, done in white icing, indicating the lands on which we are now living on. The middle one is kind of my heritage. I’m Canadian so the maple leaf and snowflakes are for that and then the last piece is a Norwegian design sweater and that is because of Kate’s heritage. The whole design, the building and the story in the base are all part of the 20th anniversary of us having the Old Town Bakery.”
Cram, who is joint owner of the bakery along with his wife Kate, builds his creations in his spare time, which this year has been rare with the bakery getting back up to steam after the pandemic. The couple also own the Wild Poppy Bistro, which has also been very busy. Cram has done a gingerbread creation of a train coming through a tunnel at the Wild Poppy, and he’s also got one set up at Coldfront Gelato on Nanaimo’s Commercial Street.
Cram was recently scouted by an American cooking show that was doing a feature on gingerbread and various construction methods used to make creations.
“I was approached and spent five or six days going through the process, but realized that it was going to take quite a bit of time if we were selected,” he said.
What happens to his creations when the season is over? Cram said the gingerbread and the sugar get rock hard after a few weeks, “so we can’t really do much with them.” The houses have been raffled off in the past, and the couple’s son Seth used to be allowed to “blow them up” on his birthday, but now they just get composted.
An unceremonious ending, perhaps, for some very grand creations that attract many onlookers every year.
And here’s a secret: on the roof of the gingerbread bakery, in the corner, there are two gingerbread people and he won’t admit it, but it’s actually Kate and Geoff Cram, owners of the Old Town Bakery.