Twice As Sweet: Baking and Pastry Arts Student Wins MATC Gingerbread House Competition

Recent graduate also selected as People’s Choice for second year in a row

Mark Feldmann.

December 20, 2023

Cueto house
Harwick house
Contreras house
Schenn house

Fans of gingerbread houses sure seem sweet on Elizabeth Cueto.

For the second year in a row, Cueto, a recent graduate of Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Baking and Pastry Arts program, won the People’s Choice Award at MATC’s annual gingerbread house competition.

And this year she pulled off a delicious double play by also winning first prize in the judging. 

“Winning the people’s choice two years in a row is great because you know a lot of people support and like what you’re doing,” Cueto said. “But winning first place after not placing at all last year feels wonderful. You’re being judged and these judges really know their stuff. That means a lot.”

Gabrielle Harwick placed second, Noelia Contreras placed third and Mandy Schenn was honorable mention. In April, Contreras won a gold medal at FreshEx’s Piece of Cake Contest hosted by the Wisconsin Bakers Association, while Schenn won gold in the Creative Cake Decorating Competition. Contreras also placed third in last year’s gingerbread competition.

This year, nine students in MATC’s Baking and Pastry Arts and Culinary Arts programs designed and constructed holiday gingerbread houses that were displayed at the Milwaukee Public Market over the past several weeks.

Each house was for sale via silent auction, with the proceeds going to the MATC Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support student success through scholarships, emergency resources and other types of support. 

Visitors also voted online to pick the winner of  the People’s Choice Award.

Cueto’s creation was a two-story brick house with a spacious yard that had four fully decorated evergreen trees. Also in the yard was a holiday red pickup truck with a fifth tree in the bed.

“Last year I entered the contest, but I kind of winged it. This year I wanted to think it through,” said Cueto, who graduated with an associate degree in December. “I put a lot more time into it.” 

Cueto said she spent five weeks making her house, finding time between classes and her internship at The American Club in Koehler, where she made artisan breads, cookies and pastries. She was determined to make her house as neat and tidy as possible. 

“I wanted this one to be as clean as possible,” she said. “If things got messy, I scraped everything off and started all over. Plus, having a year’s more experience really helped.”

MATC’s gingerbread house competition started in 1995, said Cheryl Miranda, an educational assistant in MATC’s Consumer/Hospitality Services department and cake decorating instructor. In 2011, the college partnered with Milwaukee Public Market to display the entries. 

“This provides such a great experience for our students and helps get MATC’s name out into the community,” Miranda said.

With her degree in hand, Cueto said she’s taking some time off before taking a job. “I’m waiting for a good opportunity,” she said. “With the experience I got at The American Club, I’m pretty sure I can work in a lot of different kinds of kitchens.”

Learn about MATC’s Baking & Pastry Arts program
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 30,000 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 180 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.