The mom-of-two has been making gingerbread houses for 11 years now and each year they have only increased in complexity.
Imagine a snow-covered cozy little cottage with hardwood flooring, a charming fireplace, and the sweet warm aroma of a pie baking away in the kitchen. A decked up Christmas tree stands tall in the living room with neatly wrapped presents piled up under it while the TV by the corner of the room plays The Grinch and a train set in the kids' room upstairs awaits its tiny owners. Now imagine all that in gingerbread. Sounds incredible, doesn't it? Would you believe me if I told you that someone actually spent days creating this edible masterpiece and that it is even more spectacular than it sounds? Well, see for yourself:
34-year-old Chloe Oehler from Utah is the incredibly patient baker extraordinaire behind this festive creation. The mom-of-two has been making gingerbread houses for 11 years now and each year they have gotten more and more complex. Born and raised in San Diego, Chloe now lives way up in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and children where their rustic cabin home in Hobble Creek Canyon has a clear influence on her baked creations.
"The house is old and quirky and it makes me feel like I live in one of my gingerbread houses," she told Upworthy. "I actually did make a replica of our house out of gingerbread one year and it's still one of my favorites. I love staying home to cook and bake or work in my garden."
"Three years ago I made my first house with a dollhouse-like interior. When I first had the idea I couldn't believe that I hadn't thought of it before! I mean, I love dollhouses and miniatures and I love making gingerbread houses so combining the two seemed very natural," Chloe explained.
"I always start my gingerbread houses the same way. I start sketching houses until I've got one just the way I want it. Then I draw it from every side (front, back, left side, right side). Then I build a 3D version of it out of cardboard. Building it out of cardboard first is important because it lets you make sure all your pieces will fit together just how you want them, plus I use each cardboard piece as a template to cut out my gingerbread."
"The house I made this year had almost 40 pieces that had to be cut out and baked. My largest house ever had 55 pieces! After everything is baked I make the sugar glass windows. basically just sugar and a little water that is boiled until very hot and then poured into the window cutouts. after the windows are done I start putting up the walls and floor using royal icing. The icing I make is very stiff and holds everything together easily. Then I can start decorating the house," she said of the process.
"My house this year took about three weeks to complete. Things usually go pretty smoothly when building. Sometimes a piece will break but I can usually just 'glue' it back together with icing," Chloe revealed. "I've always had a fear that my dog will jump up and eat it in the night but fortunately that hasn't ever happened! It was so much fun to make! Working on all the tiny details is always my favorite part. I love thinking of things to add to make it feel cozy."
"I had a lot of fun this year using sugar glass for things other than the windows. I used it for the TV screen, the clock face, the oven door, cupboard doors, the fire in the fireplace, candle flames, and the kitchen and porch lights. I really love how the oven turned out because you can see the pie baking inside," she said.
"I also really like how the 'wood' floors turned out. To make them I carved the gingerbread pieces to look like wood before I baked them. I wasn't sure how it would turn out because I had never tried that before, but it worked! Some of the things that seem the most tedious are actually the most fun for me. I really enjoy making the wood trim which is made from fondant. I carve each piece freehand and then paint it with icing coloring," Chloe continued.
"My kids love to watch and see it come together and often give me ideas. In fact, putting a pie in the oven was my son's idea and my daughter suggested the little cupboard under the stairs. My son also wanted me to make even tinier furniture to put in the tiny gingerbread house (yes, the gingerbread house that is INSIDE the gingerbread house) but that is where I draw the line," the gingerbread maestro admitted.
"A lot of people ask me if we eat the gingerbread houses, we don't! A cookie that has been sitting out for three weeks is not appetizing to me but mostly I like to keep it around for decoration. Usually, my gingerbread houses get thrown away sometime after Christmas, but the last few years I have been saving them and they hold up surprisingly well in our dry climate. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this newest one for a while too."
"I love making all the little tiny details but I also just really enjoy seeing my original sketch come to life. Something about that just feels very magical," Chloe added. When asked about her plans for next year's gingerbread marvel, she admitted that she's been toying with a few ideas in her head. "I have a few ideas for next year. The one I'm liking the most is some sort of home inside a tree or maybe a mushroom," she revealed. "Something like Peter Rabbit's home in the fur tree would be really fun to make. I'm just drawn to all things cozy, and I can think of nothing cozier than that."