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Whipping up a sweet home

November 29, 2018

La PORTE – Al’s Supermarket created one sweet home on Saturday.

This year, the bakery staff went with a “Grinch” theme, due to the upcoming holiday movie. Themes are different each year, with the gingerbread house tradition spanning the past 30 years. Last year they had a North Pole theme and the year before it was snowmen.

The colorful home, which measures out to be 4-feet high and 5-feet across, isn’t made from what you would expect. What lies underneath the frosting is actually plywood instead of gingerbread. The plywood frame is scraped and washed before being stored and brought out again next year to be designed anew.

Even though the structure is wooden, that doesn’t mean it isn’t sweet. The buttercream frosting that layers the structure weighs 50 pounds. Adorning the icing is about 100 pounds of candies. While red and green make up the majority of frosting color, they also have brown, black, yellow, white and pink icing — all of which is made from scratch in the store.

The gingerbread house will be the center piece of a larger display, including baked goods such as cakes, cookies, home made fudge and home made fruit cake, which debuted in 2017.

Cindy Sullivan, Al’s head decorator, said she chose the Grinch this year because the Grinch movies were her favorite growing up.

“It’s bright, it’s festive and it’s kid friendly,” she said.

The 100 pounds of candy include a variety of treats, including gummy bears from Albanese, M&Ms, chocolate-covered pretzels, gum drops, candy ribbons, Recees cups and Hershey Kisses.

“The biggest issue we have is people picking the candy off and eating it, and scraping the icing with their fingers... this isn’t just the kids, but surprisingly we catch a lot of adults too,” Sullivan said. “By the time New Year’s comes around it’s full of fingerprints.”

Debbie Stantze, a cake decorator for Al’s, was in charge of making the icing. She mixed the ingredients in buckets, one for each color, to be spread on the house with spatulas.

“The Grinch is my idol. This year is my favorite theme Cindy picked — she is a good inspiration to all of us and very talented,” Stantze said. “One of the best parts of making the gingerbread house is all the fun we get to have with it and each other. It breaks up the monotony of work and gets us together for a fun day.”

Eight employees make up the team creating the house, which takes about eight hours, or one shift, to complete. They all agreed the fellowship they have is the best part, along with getting to eat a few pieces of candy along the way.

“This is a taste of what Al’s bakery can do for you,” Sullivan said. “We put our heart into everything we make.”

Sullivan recommended everyone try their fruitcake. She said it was not like the stereotypical joke seen on TV where it’s often depicted like a brick.

The Al’s gingerbread houses will remain up through New Years. The crew will be heading to Al’s in Michigan City to create another on Thursday.

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