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VIDEO: Oak Bay baker spurs conversation with cookie theatre

Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s Gingerbread Showcase runs now through Jan. 2
A pair of raccoons make a third appearance in the Gingerbread Showcase, the premier fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity Victoria. (Gord More photo)

A pair of raccoons make a third appearance in the Gingerbread Showcase, the premier fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity Victoria. The sugar critters first appeared on Jude Somers’ cookie-based rendition of her Oak Bay home, and the creatures that visit the yard, during her inaugural foray in the gingerbread competition in 2018. The judges named her best amateur baker that year.

Somers’ mom was so enamoured with the masked bandits, she kept them after the showcase.

Although already reality TV famous as a CBC Great Canadian Baker in 2017, in the first year of the showcase Somers wanted more information on how to go about building such sizeable creation. She walked down the Oak Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library and got a book. Now she owns her own copy of Christina Banner’s How to Build a Gingerbread House and still finds it a useful resource.

Her main moulding tools include a turkey skewer, pen cap, toothpicks, cannoli tubes and a paring knife. While the showcase pieces must be entirely edible, they go well beyond gingerbread. She’s used rice cakes, pasta, moulding wafers, fondant, oak cakes and beetroot powder – all held together with loads of royal icing.

READ ALSO: Sweet creations build housing for Victoria non-profit

When Somers decided to take another crack at the competition in 2020 – the significant time commitment keeps her from competing every year – she was surprised to learn the raccoons were still lounging in her mom’s fridge, and in great shape.

So they joined the wildlife hanging out near the tunnel of her Island Christmas Train creation that was named people’s choice award.

Her process is fairly well-honed at this point. The first task is architect mode, ensuring the main structure can stand solidly for both the move to the venue and the duration of the showcase with the potential prodding from judges and inquisitive fingers of guests. She leans heavily on her husband, Gord More, for feedback at the start, and gentle criticisms or concerns along the way. Plus he’s one of the guys who get to heft the 60-pound creation to the venue.

“Getting it to the hotel is the scariest challenge. Once it’s set up, I show up with a repair kit every couple of days to do maintenance in case there’s an incident,” Somers said.

Her old-style theatre with an audience enjoying a magic show by the Great Habitinis suits this year’s theme – magical – to a T.

When she builds her creations, Somers is looking to create a collection of stories for the viewers.

This year’s Music Hall Magic, features a magician family on stage. Stage left, a child conjures rabbits from a top hat, and the number of bunnies bounding inside the theatre and out, suggests the kid’s been at it a while. White rabbits dot the theatre and its alley where the raccoons hang out this year – near the garbage bins naturally.

Open to home chefs and professionals, the showcase runs until Jan. 2, 2023, at the Parkside Hotel and Spa, 810 Humboldt St. Visitors can vote for people’s choice by donating to Habitat for Humanity Victoria.


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Jude Sommers’ gingerbread theatre is among those on display to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity Victoria. (Gord More photo)

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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