Holly Jolly Secrets of Gingerbread Penguins

First, a holiday lesson from Lelly: “If you put red hots in your nose, it will really hurt! I won’t put a red hot in my nose ever again! I will just put the red hots in my mouth.”

Lelly decorated gingerbread with her friend Sam a few weeks ago. His mom built a train for him, which was really cute. At first we thought we should take on the Adventure Time Dungeon Train as our own gingerbread project for this year, but seeing how many little pieces went into making Sam’s train, I thought something simpler was in order. Lelly suggested penguins, so we settled on that as a fun compromise, picturing a little cluster of Gunters.

Jeff and I built five little foil-covered cardboard forms to drape the gingerbread dough over, which I guess is the actual secret of the penguins. Gluing pieces with royal icing is for chumps. It’s so much easier to just bake the gingerbread into the shape you want. You have to oil it up pretty good, and even then the gingerbread sticks to the foil, but we just decorate with the cardboard still on the inside, and then it’s disposable if people want to take their creation home. (Though that’s another secret of gingerbread. Just eat it right away.)

(Additional note: Royal icing is for chumps. Regular frosting, the kind you’d use on a cake, tastes way better. Since we didn’t have to glue pieces, but rather just cover them for aesthetic purposes, there’s no point in using frosting that dries to a hard, glue-like crust.)

Jeff did all the rolling and forming of the gingerbread while I wrangled kids. When the penguins came out of the oven, we found one of the pieces of gingerbread had split and fallen open while baking. Daniel thought it looked like a mouth and declared, “I’m going to take that and make it into the LOL WUT pear.” I thought he said “bear” and not “pear” so I was a little surprised when Daniel started coloring the frosting green. I had no idea what it was until he showed us a picture. I’m not sure what Jeff made, and I don’t think he really knows either. He just went with something. So we wound up with two penguins, which is pretty okay.

Lelly made what she said was a gingerbread birthday cake with the scraps. She rolled it and re-rolled it many times, until I just decided it was time to bake it and gently encouraged her to put it in the oven. Then when it came time to decorate the penguins, she didn’t want a penguin at all, even though it was her idea, and so she decorated her cake instead. When she was done, she made sure to put a candle on it, light it, and sing “Happy Birthday.” She was pretty insistent that we should be singing to her, even with her birthday a month away, and no, she did not want to sing to baby Jesus, either.

If I’d had any wherewithal, I’d have tried to make the last penguin that Lelly didn’t want into the Ice King, but it was getting pretty late. One day, when the kids are bigger, we’ll attempt something pretty huge again, but until then, modular collections where everyone gets their own thing to decorate is pretty much the way to go, and that’s my final gingerbread secret.


And here are those responsible for all of this, minus Evan, who fell asleep before the decorating got underway.

Those Assembled For This Thing

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