Gingerbread art launches the holiday season at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum

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Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation

A professional pastry artist is taking holiday gingerbread to new heights at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Commissioned by the museum, Catherine Beddall created the James Webb Space Telescope and the Ariane 5 launch rocket — entirely out of gingerbread and sugar. As an astronomy enthusiast, Beddall says she simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

“I was absolutely over the moon to be asked to create these pieces. I've always had an interest in astronomy and outer space, and a chance to combine that with my love of gingerbread is a dream come true for me. I've built gingerbread rockets before, but never anything on this scale — and a telescope is a new one for me! I love a gingerbread challenge, and this is my most exciting one yet.”

~ Pastry artist Catherine Beddall

A gingerbread and sugar model of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle is pictured against a dark backdrop.

A gingerbread and sugar model of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

The two gingerbread masterpieces will be on public display at the museum from Dec. 1, 2021 to Jan. 7, 2022. These edible works of art are designed to celebrate the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope aboard an Ariane 5 rocket vehicle. Scheduled to launch on Dec. 18, 2021, Ariane 5 will carry the telescope to space from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Beddall says she took great care to research the telescope and the rocket vehicle, in order to make her gingerbread models as realistic as possible.

“It's important to me that I replicate these amazing machines as closely as possible, while still incorporating the fun, festive gingerbread element,” she explains. “I spent a lot of time reading about their history, their importance, and their impact on the future of astronomy. 

“I've also looked at photographs and 3D simulations extensively to get a better idea of how best to represent them in gingerbread and sugar. I even ordered a small model kit of the James Webb telescope to help me visualize it better!”

A close-up view of a gingerbread and sugar model of the James Webb Space Telescope, set against a dark backdrop.

She anticipates it will take at least 50 hours to create the two piece of edible art, assuming all goes according to plan. 

“I'm pretty comfortable now with what works and what doesn't in gingerbread construction, but these pieces are so intricate that I'm anticipating at least a few minor repairs!” says Beddall.

Beddall is no stranger to complex gingerbread projects. She is a two-time winner of the Canadian National Gingerbread Championships, and placed second in the American National Gingerbread Competition in Asheville, North Carolina. She also competed on Holiday Gingerbread Showdown on The Food Network. Beddall has worked extensively behind the scenes on other television baking shows, and has provided gingerbread homes as props for many Hallmark holiday movies. 

In 2017, Beddall published her first book, The Magic of Gingerbread. The book includes gingerbread projects from beginner to advanced, along with tips and recipes to bake a build a gingerbread creation. It is available for purchase from Amazon.

An antique-looking clock made entirely of gingerbread, with sugar decorations.

In 2019, Catherine Beddall's award-winning entry in the National Gingerbread House Competition was called "Hickory Dickory Dock." Her vision was to create an antique clock to look like it was elaborately carved out of wood, and beautifully decorated for Christmas. 

Gingerbread House Demonstration

On Dec. 13, 2021, Beddall will host a Gingerbread House Demonstration at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum in Ottawa. Attendees can expect to glean tips on how to bake and build a successful gingerbread project. To learn more and reserve your spot, visit the registration page.

At this time of year — when many amateur bakers are inspired to try making their first gingerbread house — Beddall says her best advice is don’t rush it.

“My absolute, number one top tip for beginners would be to take at least two days to build your project,” emphasizes Beddall. “Use royal icing to ‘glue’ your house together — it’s a special type of icing that dries hard, but it needs a few hours to set.

“I’d suggest building your walls on day one, letting them dry overnight, and then adding your roof on day two. Have fun, don’t get frustrated — and make sure to eat lots of candy while you’re building!”

Ariane 5 Edible Holiday Rocket

Feeling inspired to try making your own gingerbread creation? Beddall created a set of simple instructions for a kid-friendly project: Make your own Ariane 5 Edible Holiday Rocket! Check out this fun activity — using cookies and candy — to create your very own edible masterpiece. 

Looking for more space-themed fun? Check out crafts, videos, and more by visiting the James Webb Space Telescope: Activities and Fun Facts.

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.