Life-sized gingerbread house creates a fragrant season’s greeting in lobby

All children – even Hansel and Gretel – are enjoying visits to the giant gingerbread house in the timeline lobby of Akron Children’s Hospital.

House guests can’t help but smile at the sheer size of the 6.5-foot-tall edible structure and comment about its wonderful aroma of spices, which is estimated to be nearly 5 combined pounds of ginger and cinnamon.

It’s the labor of love by a trio from AVI Foodsystems with one goal: to make sick children smile at Christmas. On a day-to-day basis they create meals for the employees at the world headquarters of MTD Products (lawn and garden equipment company) located in Valley City, Ohio.

Doug Cooper, who is AVI’s general manager at MTD, has been using his creative skills to give back to Akron Children’s at the holidays since 2004 when his 7-year-old son received life-saving care.

This year before Thanksgiving, Cooper decided to do more than an edible, small-scale village or train he usually makes for display in Akron Children’s cafeteria. He recruited AVI’s Mike Latarski, executive chef, and Cherri Haeberle, master baker and cook, to construct a jaw-dropping, festive sight for local children.

It is Cooper’s third time creating a gingerbread house this size. A simple sketch was all he needed to get Latarski and Haeberle’s help, as well as the employees in MTD’s woodshop to build the wood frame and base for the house.

By the Numbers:

  • Size: 6.5’ tall by 5’ wide by 7’ long
  • Roofing: 3,600 ginger snaps
  • Walls: 900 bricks of handmade, hand-rolled gingerbread
  • Spices: 1.5 pounds of ginger and 3 pounds of cinnamon
  • Snow and brick mortar (aka “glue”): 90 pounds of powdered sugar and 500 egg whites
  • Trimmings: a trip to the largest candy store in the United States – B.A. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland – for 35 pounds of all shapes, sizes and colors of candies
  • Time: 150 total man hours by 3 chefs working on-and-off for 2 weeks
  • Logistics: 5 moving men and 1 box truck

After a successful build, safe delivery and enjoyable showing, the team is hoping they can carefully dismantle the house and store it for next year. Of course, Cooper is already planning some embellishments to freshen it up and further delight children.

Although, I wonder how they will recreate the spectacular, room-filling ginger fragrance that makes me want to take a small bite!

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