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With four weeks of baking, decorating and assembling the project behind her, and nearly 200 hours invested overall, baker Lizzy Wisehart recently put the finishing touches on an elaborate gingerbread house that will call the inn's lobby home for the holidays.
The gingerbread house and the Inn at DePauw will be part of the 30th annual Delta Theta Tau Holiday Home Tour this Saturday from 4-8 p.m.
And while the gingerbread house is a sweet treat, it's probably not something that will satisfy the sweet tooth in anyone.
"You could eat everything on here," Wisehart said recently, emphasizing the word "could" as she continued to add decorations to her creation, "although the gingerbread doesn't have any flavor to it. It doesn't taste like gingerbread or anything else."
The gingerbread house became a staple of the holiday season at the Walden Inn while Matt O'Neill was the innkeeper/chef. After he left for Bloomington, the inn went about five years without a gingerbread creation before reviving the idea a couple of years ago.
"It's 100 percent gingerbread," Wisehart said, pointing out that the roof alone is composed of 160 tiles of 6-by-9 inch gingerbread.
Fellow baker Caroline James helped make all that gingerbread, which Wisehart said took a full week all its own.
"We had gingerbread everywhere," she said, admitting that while there "were a few bumps in the road along the way, it's been a lot of fun."
The DePauw Physical Plant this year created the basic structure for the house, which stands six-foot square and seven-feet high at its peak.
It's the extras that Wisehart has put into the creation that have turned it into something special.
Above the door, there's even a stained-glass window Wisehart created from colorful sugar. She broke the original stained-glass window creation while trying to install it and had to hastily cook up a new one.
There's a candy wreath, a mailbox made of gingerbread with sheet icing, complete with letters addressed in colored icing. The roof features snow made of coconut atop white icing.
Creating the gingerbread masterpiece has required about 100 pounds of powdered sugar, just for the royal icing that tends to cement everything together.
There is even gingerbread accent trim.
"You got to have gingerbread trim on a gingerbread house," Wieshart smiled.
Chef Susan Ash agreed.
"She's really put a lot of detail into this," Ash noted.
And that detail has also required 50 pounds of brown sugar and eight gallons of molasses.
"We bought 150 pounds of confectioner's sugar," Ash said, adding that she already had 150 pounds on hand.
In keeping with tradition, the creation is big enough for children to crawl inside, where the house will have its own little Christmas tree.
"We might have candy canes or something (inside) that the kids can eat," Inn at DePauw director of sales Lauren Robertson Smoot said, hoping that will keep kids from trying to pick other pieces off the house.
Smoot said several inn patrons, spotting the gingerbread house in progress, have asked if they have just skipped Thanksgiving and gone straight to Christmas this year.
"I'm excited to recreate something that people in the community loved to come and see," she added. "I remember coming to see it as a kid."