AFCEA DC & The Story of the Gingerbread


This time of year, gingerbread houses are prevalent. You can purchase kits at local craft stores. Many venues showcase their pastry chef’s creative, architectural wonders. The delightful scent of cinnamon and nutmeg combines with seasonal fir trees to create the classic smell of winter.

The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Washington, DC joined this tradition in 2009 when it first began including massive, elaborate gingerbread houses at our annual Winter Gala. The AFCEA DC Chapter largely focuses on the Department of Defense, intelligence community, national security and military health related agencies. “I am repeatedly drawn to the amazing tradition of the Gingerbread Houses, not only as beautiful pieces of art but for their ability to bring people together as a common talking point. It is a great start to connect with people,” Anthony Robbins, Winter Gala chairman noted.

Planning for the gingerbread houses begins during the summer when design discussions with the caterer begin. When the designs are finalized, plans are sent to the caterer’s architect, who constructs sound structures completely made of gingerbread, about 20 baker sheets per house. When the structure is built, the gingerbread house travels to Windows Catering for the baker to complete the design with lots of royal icing and candies.

Windows Catering shared “the AFCEA gingerbread houses take about 3 months to design, bake, build and decorate. This year’s structures measure about 2.5’ wide and nearly 5’ long, with the exception on one that will be nearly 30” round. We have a very talented artist/architect/partner that creates to-scale models of each structure. Then, our team of bakers bake sheets and sheets of gingerbread. Each house may use 10-30 24” x 36” gingerbread cookie sheets to create the structure. Once the structure is in place, all cemented by more than 15 gallons of royal icing, the Windows team goes to work to add the whimsical candy magic to bring the houses to life. Each structure weighs between 100 – 200 pounds, including the base, gingerbread, icing, and candy. Every year AFCEA DC has challenged the team and their abilities. This year will be no different in highlighting some of Washington’s famous landmarks.”

Since 2013, in coordination with USO of Metropolitan Washington, the gingerbread houses are delivered to Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Fisher House and the Children’s Hospital so patients and their families can continue to admire their splendor after the event. “The giant gingerbread houses add so much to the festive atmosphere of our USO Warrior and Family Centers at Fort Belvoir and Bethesda,” said Elaine Rogers CEO and President of the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore. “Military families throughout the region come to admire them and take photos.  It’s a real treat to watch the children marvel the size and beauty of these magnificent works of art.”

Past gingerbread house designs have included the four military academy chapels, various Washington, DC landmarks, and military hospitals.

In 2016, we look forward to showcasing the gingerbread houses highlighting hidden treasures in Washington, DC. We can’t wait for attendees to look through our shop windows and spy these gingerbread masterpieces. Confused? You’ll have to come to the Winter Gala on Thursday, December 15 to make sense of it!





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