Kids decorate gingerbread houses at The Cake Boutique in Mullica Hill

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Kids decorate gingerbread houses at The Cake Boutique in Mullica Hill

Gingerbread house class for kids JHW_7646.jpgStep inside The Cake Boutique in Mullica Hill on a Sunday afternoon and the aroma of Christmas fills the air. Walk farther in, and you’ll find the culprit. Small gingerbread houses dot the front counter and cover the huge kitchen island inside the bakery. And 13 children — ranging in ages from 3 to 14 — eagerly wait to get their hands on those sweet edible houses to decorate them for the season.

“This is our first gingerbread-decorating class for kids,” said Alexandra Benas, pastry chef and owner of The Cake Boutique. “Our kids’ classes are very popular, so we will definitely continue them throughout the year.”

For this particular class, Benas and her staff have already baked the gingerbread. And the four sides of the little houses are “glued” together with royal icing. An adult gingerbread class, held earlier in the month, had the class participants making the gingerbread first, then decorating their houses.

“It’s a really simple gingerbread recipe,” Benas said. “And I make sure the pieces are really firm. You don’t want it to be soft. You need them to be really hard because the roof has to support itself.”

Benas hasn’t placed the roofs atop the gingerbread houses yet.

That’s a job for her young students.

Up front, at the bakery’s counter, Victoria O’Brien, 3, Alyssa Cosgrove, 4, and Ariana Frangias, 4, work with staff member Lori Edwards, the girls’ very own helper “elf.” In the kitchen the older children — veteran gingerbread decorators, really — get to work. “What’s the first thing we need on these gingerbread houses?” said Edwards. “Roofs!” said the youngest class members. Edwards helps the girls raise their roofs — with a little icing “glue” — so the decorating can begin.

“I saw this class on Facebook,” said Missy Cosgrove, Alyssa’s mom. “I thought it was such a great idea.”

Ana Frangias came all the way from Northfield with her daughter to take part in this sweet treat for the kids.

“There’s nothing like this where we live,” she said. “I wish Alexandra (Benas) would open a bakery in Northfield.”

Benas guides the older children in the bakery’s kitchen. But she doesn’t do anything for them. They embellish their miniature houses with candy all on their own.

Mason Gill, 12, uses shredded wheat cereal to cover his roof. His cousin, Sophia Gill, 11, makes a walkway that leads up to her little house’s front door out of sticks of cinnamon gum. She cleverly cuts them into little pieces to make them look just like paving stones.

12025392-large_8855047f3374e3e46092bb26c23af6a7A snowman is two marshmallows — iced together — with pretzel sticks for arms and an orange M&M cut in half for its carrot nose. Some children line the edge of their homes with peppermint sticks and others use Sno-caps. Graham crackers serve as front doors and a gumdrop, its doorknob.

Benas said these classes have become very popular. They are usually tied to seasonal events, but not always. Although she does plan on having one — for adults and children — for Valentine’s Day, she said.

“We always post our upcoming events on Facebook,” she said. “So be sure to check there.”

Back inside the kitchen, Sophia Considine, 9, coats her entire roof with the royal icing — a hard white icing made from egg whites and powdered sugar, usually used for wedding cakes, Christmas cakes and gingerbread houses — to make it look like snow.

Her mom, Mary, is impressed by her daughter’s creation.

But the real question is, will Sophia eat her little house when she gets it home?

“I don’t want to eat it,” she said.

“I don’t know,” her mom said. “If you leave that sitting in our house, your dad might get into it. We may come home and the roof will be gone.”

Article Written By: Kristie Rearick at 856-845-3300

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