Mega Gingerbread House Returns To San Francisco Fairmont Hotel

CBS San Francisco
CBS San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It’s billed as California’s largest two-story gingerbread house and you can walk through it; a holiday tradition that’s returned to San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel.

A massive gingerbread house that towers over the hotel’s lobby at 22 feet tall and 23 feet wide can be described as a Victorian house that sugar built.

Up to eight people can even dine inside one of its rooms. The giant gingerbread house has returned to the Fairmont after a COVID break last year.

Children like Eva Rosenberg are delighted.

“I thought it was a regular part of the building and then when I got closer, I realized it was a house,” said the 10-year-old Rosenberg. “It’s really cool. It just must’ve taken so long.”

It took months of work to open in time for Thanksgiving weekend, thanks to folks like baker and “bricklayer” Rudy Gonzalez.

“It’s kind of hard, but I enjoy to do,” Gonzalez smiled. “Why? It’s my passion to do.”

The wooden framework goes up in two days in early November. Fifteen hundred pounds of royal icing glue together about 3,000 gingerbread cookies.

Executive Chef Michael Quigley gave Gonzalez the task of baking all 3,000-plus bricks starting in July.

“I wanted one person baking the bricks so they call looked the same,” Quigley explained. “If I had four to five people doing it, the shade might be a little different, the color might be a little different.”

While Gonzalez is a 12-year veteran of this confectionary construction, it’s Quigley’s first year as the chief builder. He admitted he was a bit nervous at first.

“I’m not losing sleep anymore like I was before,” Quigley said. “For a couple of months, it was the last thing I thought about when I fell asleep, and the first thing I thought about when I woke up.”

Part of the challenge, the chef explained, is making sure he’s ordered enough candy decorations. This year, the house honors See’s Candies’ 100th birthday. Hundreds of pounds of its signature sweets – like wrapped chocolate Santas, candy canes, and hard candy — embellish the tempting treat.

“You can walk up to the gingerbread house and children like to break off pieces of candy, so I have my elf crew come in at night and make all the repairs,” Quigley chuckled.

Thank goodness he’s ordered hundreds of extra bricks. Even the bakers couldn’t resist a bite while they were building.

“I taste it,” Gonzalez smiled. “Sometimes I drink a little coffee with the ginger cookies. It’s really good, you know?”

Six-year-old Aiden Joves didn’t even have to taste it to like it.

“I like the lights,” he beamed, looking up.

It’s a labor of love building a happy home for the holidays, and knowing they are bringing visitors joy makes the baking team smile.

“I’m working for them, to make them happy to see everything in here,” Gonzalez said.

There is a $10 entrance fee to walk under and see the gingerbread house up close. Net proceeds benefit Make-a-Wish Greater Bay Area.

The gingerbread house stays up until New Year’s. After that, the edible components are composted.

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