Gingerbread House Contest Brings Back Sweet Memories

Annual holiday competition features festive creations from MATC culinary students

Mark Feldmann,

December 02, 2022

Gingerbread House

MILWAUKEE – The first gingerbread house MK Drayna ever made was sort of shoddy.

The planning was bad, the design questionable and the walls were cracked.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” laughed Drayna, who graduated from Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Baking and Pastry Arts program in 2019.

It was her first time participating in MATC’s long-time gingerbread house competition. She crafted a winter scene that included an abominable snowman and some elves. Her house might have been a tad wobbly, but it won the People’s Choice Award at the 2017 contest. 

“I think people were drawn to the colors,” Drayna said. “Mine was fun.”

For MATC culinary students, the holiday fun of building gingerbread houses continues. Prospective chefs and bakers made the houses during November. MATC students, faculty and staff viewed the creations before they were delivered to the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 North Water Street. The houses will be displayed during the market's regular operating hours until December 12. 

Read more about the Gingerbread House competition

The houses, which will be numbered, will be sold by silent auction at the market, and the public can vote for their favorite house online for the People’s Choice Award. An awards reception will be held at 6 p.m., Monday, December 12 at the Public Market.

See photos of the gingerbread houses

“The gingerbread competition is a local tradition,” said Cheryl Miranda, educational assistant in MATC’s Consumer/Hospitality Services department. “Visitors from all around the region come to see the student creations.”

In 2018, Drayna’s creation won two awards. In the preceding summer, Drayna and her family visited San Francisco. There, she fell in love with an ornate Victorian house. “I took a million pictures of it and used it as my model for Santa’s house,” she said. “I was so inspired by how it looked.”

She also learned some lessons from the year before. Before baking anything she built a cardboard model of her house. She used the cardboard pieces as guides for the baked gingerbread parts. She also decorated each baked piece before assembling the house.

Her house took third place and once again won the People’s Choice Award.

“Being in that contest was a great learning experience,” said Drayna, who owns and operates WhiskChick, where she bakes and decorates wedding cakes and specialty desserts. “I had enrolled at MATC right out of high school, so I was a little younger than most and perhaps a little more nervous. But I learned quickly.”

Drayna put her gingerbread house skills to good use this month, baking and building six houses to display at various suites at the Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Cameron Settler, a Baking and Pastry Arts graduate who won the President’s Award at the Winter Commencement in 2021, also competed in the 2018 contest with Drayna.

“It was a lot of fun but also a lot of work,” said Settler, who works as a pastry chef at the trendy Milwaukee restaurant Lupi & Iris. “It took about 11 days, from start to finish, to bake, construct and decorate the whole sculpture. It was my first time ever making a gingerbread house, and I absolutely loved the experience. It really helped me grasp time management and how to learn from the mistakes that I made.”

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.