Collin College’s 18th Annual Gingerbread House Contest

Collin College Gingerbread Contest // photo courtesy Kirk Dickey

Gingerbread house construction requires a well thought-out plan, a delicate hand and determination. Every holiday season, students put all that to the test during Collin College Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Education’s annual Gingerbread House Competition. Participants are given a theme – this year’s focuses on the best holiday movies of all time – and a limited amount of time to make the best structure possible.

With the competition heading into its 18th year, chef Jill McCord, pastry instructor and division lead for the culinary and pastry arts program, is raising the stakes by literally raising the roof. On top of the traditional icing-and-candy creations seen at this event, this year’s festivities will feature a multi-departmental project: constructing a life-sized gingerbread house.

Building a 6-foot-tall edible structure may seem like the pastry department is biting off more than it can chew, but it isn’t working alone. By teaming up with CAD, engineering, construction and real estate programs, Jill is introducing a cross-curricular opportunity for students to apply real-life skills to a light-hearted assignment. After the 3D model is designed and built, pastry students will adhere their decorative gumdrops, candies and sprinkles onto the structure – just like icing on the cake.

“We may have the easier job out of it,” Jill said.

Gingerbread House Competition photos courtesy Collin College
Gingerbread House Competition photos courtesy Collin College

Jill is the only full-time pastry staff member and brings decades of experience to the position. After moving to Dallas to help open the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, she decided to pursue her first love of teaching. After obtaining a degree in secondary education, she went on to culinary school. But after meeting her husband and having children, she was looking for a more family-friendly position where she could also stay in the world of pastry.

“I’m in an ideal situation. I am using my bachelor’s and my culinary degree. It’s full circle,” she said.

Jill works alongside adjunct professors to teach classes ranging from Intro to Baking to plated desserts. And while the students of the Cake 2 class treat the competition as an end-of-the-year assignment, other pastry students also contribute — like the students of the quantity baking class who prepare the dough every year. Overall, the entire department is comprised by approximately 300 students this fall.

But it’s not just students who take part in the fun. The advanced-level competition is largely made of Collin College pastry students, but the public is invited to be a part of the novice competition. Entry forms are posted online and are due Nov. 18. There is an entry fee of $5.

Both the life-size and smaller, classic gingerbread houses will be on display in the Frisco campus’ Preston Ridge library through mid-December. After they are judged and displayed, the holiday houses can be taken home or donated to a silent auction that benefits the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County. And that is a sweet success.

Collin College Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Education >


Collin College Preston Ridge Library
9700 Wade Blvd.
Frisco, TX 75035

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