A Q&A with Shelley Clark, RN and skilled gingerbread hobbyist, about her 2022 3D gingerbread model of the Floyd Country Store.
Where are you from and what is your career background?
From: Salem, Virginia
Career: RN in Dialysis and Nephrology (kidney diseases)
When did you start baking/decorating? How/why did you get into it?
My husband and I made graham cracker houses with our two kids when they were growing up, and now with our two grandkids, ages 12 and 2 ½. I’ve never had a baking or decorating class: it’s more about creative stacking of cookies/candies/crackers and using the right color icing to cover up mistakes. Food shows and internet recipes for “construction” gingerbread are very motivating.
What is your relationship to the Floyd Country Store?
Our family has always played and enjoyed music, especially country and bluegrass.
Our son/musician Adam performed with Dylan Locke [co-owner of the Floyd Country Store] in Blacksburg at the Cellar in early 2000’s. He moved back to the area with his family in 2021 and joined the Floyd Country Store production staff. We all have a great appreciation of the quality of music and community spirit in Floyd.
What was your process for making your Floyd Country Store gingerbread house?
An idea is first tested with a cardboard pattern. Construction gingerbread dough is rolled out and windows and doorways are cut before baking. This year, I decorated the windowpanes and awning while the pieces were flat. Once dried, the process is like “barn raising,” using icing as mortar with cinnamon stick and pretzel beams, plus a candy cane column.
How long did your Floyd Country Store gingerbread house take to make?
Structures like this take a couple months. Baking the walls started in early October. Each weekend, a new part was added. Time is needed for drying, plus correction of mistakes.
What was the hardest part about making it?
Height and roof weight were a challenge, since the humidity this fall caused gingerbread to take on moisture & become soft. I was able to avoid the feared collapse (so far) using tall graham-cracker shelves, installed as soon as the walls were raised. One wall broke, so a fireplace for Santa was added.
Where did you find your candies & supplies, and how do you decide which candies to use for what?
Save candy for Christmas gingerbread fun, and look for shapes and colors that can be re-purposed into something new. Chips become bowls, seaweed becomes an awning, rice paper is glass, etc. Of course, tiny little accents are purchased, usually at after-Christmas sales for next year’s scene. The signs are printed on sugar paper at grocery bakeries. Visit world food stores and bake supply shops (where I found brown fondant to form the candy barrels).
What’s your favorite thing about your Floyd Country Store gingerbread house?
I love to see kids of all ages enjoy my unique scenes that tell a story. My goal was a snowy exterior with outdoor music and once inside, a warm store with something for everyone.
I was delighted that Dylan, Heather, and staff members gathered around during the delivery: Everyone was laughing, finding little surprises… I hope all the visitors enjoy it as well.
What’s your advice for aspiring dessert decorators?
Start with graham crackers (or a kit) and add anything you want. Kids as young as Pre-school enjoy making marshmallow snowmen with pretzels and icing. Get the family involved:
my husband kindly cuts the board to spec and helps level the base legs. After that, he and our grown kids run the other direction after offering critiques. We are blessed when they leave the grandkids who LOVE working as my little helpers.