During Christmas, many people make gingerbread houses, and some will even make large displays featuring multiple buildings made from gingerbread. Such people are amateurs compared to Caroline Eriksson, a Swedish motion designer and “food artist.” She makes massive gingerbread sculptures of various movie characters like the Xenomorph from “Alien” and its sequels.
What inspired Eriksson to do this?
Eriksson got her start as a child making gingerbread houses with her family. She eventually grew bored and wanted to make other things out of gingerbread-like castles or boats. Nobody else in her family had the patience to design or construct such things, but they did look forward to Eriksson’s endeavors.
In 2013, Eriksson moved to Norway, where she entered a gingerbread building contest that offered 40,000 kroner (4,505 US dollars) to the winner. She had been toying with the idea of making a robot, which she thought would be a matter of starting with simple shapes and then adding more elaborate details. After seeing one of the “Transformers” movies, she decided to make Optimus Prime, the leader of the heroic Autobots. The project took her three weeks.
Eriksson won the contest and spent her prize money on a trip to Bali. Pictures of Optimus Prime went viral, and she decided to make gingerbread sculptures every Christmas. She also decided she would challenge herself and experiment with different techniques to get the shapes and textures that she wanted.
What’s involved in making a gingerbread sculpture?
Making a gingerbread sculpture takes a lot of work and planning. Both the Xenomorph and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” character Groot took five weeks to build. The first week was devoted to planning her creation, and the remaining four weeks were dedicated to the actual construction.
During the planning phase, Eriksson researches her chosen character to get ideas on the actual sculpture. She will draw a 1:1 sketch to help her keep the proportions right while constructing an inner form made of metal rods and mesh. She will then line the form with paper.
While Eriksson’s gingerbread is technically edible, it has to be harder, thicker, and have a smoother surface. She thus makes her own dough that uses no baking powder and has more flour and syrup than a gingerbread recipe usually calls for. The extra flour and syrup ensure that the gingerbread will stick to the frame. She uses molten sugar as glue, for it is strong, durable, and hardens quickly. It is also edible.
Eriksson’s creations typically require 11 packets of sugar and 7 kg (15.4 lbs) of flour, which produces about six batches of gingerbread.
Eriksson glues the bigger pieces to the frame first and will glue increasingly small pieces of gingerbread to the sculpture as she adds details to it. When making the Xenomorph, for instance, she started with the larger parts of its exoskeleton while leaving smaller items like its teeth for last. Adding curved pieces to a work requires careful timing, for she has to use gingerbread that has come straight from the oven and is still flexible enough to bend.
Eriksson has an Instagram page and posts pictures of her creations there. When posting pictures of her Xenomorph, she included a possible motive for making it that Christmas. One of her tags read “#alien40thanniversary,” a reminder that the first movie came out in 1978.
What characters has Eriksson made?
Eriksson loves movies, so she typically makes movie characters. So far, her creations have included the following characters:
• 2013 – Optimus Prime
• 2014 – Smaug
• 2015 – Darth Vader
• 2018– Xenomorph
• 2019 — Groot
Eriksson’s gingerbread sculptures are large. Smaug, the dragon from “The Hobbit” movies, was 70 cm by 50 cm (27.6 in by 19.7 in). Darth Vader stood 1.14 meters (3 feet nine inches) tall, which is an impressive size for a gingerbread man, even if it is a good bit shorter than the real Darth Vader.
Could you eat the sculpture?
While it only seems fair to eat something that tries to eat you, it is probably not the best idea. Eriksson has admitted that while her creations are technically edible, they are probably too hard for most people to enjoy.
Even conventional gingerbread houses harden to the point of inedibility about a month after being made. A gingerbread house or sculpture also accumulates dust and can attract pests like ants.