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San Diego Uptown News | Dec. 9–Dec. 22, 2011


‘Gingerbread City 2011’ Raises Money for University Heights Organization

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County benefi ts from sweet treat

By Monica Garske SDUN Reporter

For some, a colorful ginger-

bread house might symbolize a simple and sweet holiday tradition, but for an organization in Univer- sity Heights, gingerbread carries much more weight.

On Dec. 1, the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County (EFSDC) held its 18th annual “Gingerbread City” Gala at The Grand Del Mar hotel, an eclectic fundraiser benefi ting the nonprofi t foundation located at 2055 El Cajon Blvd. in University Heights. As it does each year, the Gala –

the largest recognized gingerbread design competition on the West Coast – brought top chefs, pastry designers and artists together in competition for charity.

These chefs spent the last few weeks building elaborate ginger- bread houses for the Gingerbread City contest, and one confectionery creation was crowned the winner. Melody Morse erected this year’s winning structure. Her

intricate “Victorian Christmas” entry boasted a fi ve-foot-tall ed- ible Christmas tree strung with a rice paper garland, gum paste and cranberries.

Morse also won the competi- tion last year with her ginger- bread creation, “The Tale of Despereaux: Mouse World,” made of tea leaves, seaweed, edible clay, gum paste, gourd strips and rice noodles. The 350 attendees at the Gala

were able to bid on the competing candy houses, with proceeds going directly to the EFSDC. “We work all year to put on this event. It’s our biggest by far, raising a large portion of the funds that keep our organization going,” said Gingerbread City coordinator Emma Lawson.

Lawson said they hope to gener- ate $200,000 from the Gala and are still accepting donations and buyers for the remaining structures. These funds help the EFSDC continue its mission to improve the quality of life for those living with the neurologi- cal disorder.

According to their statistics,

more than 50,000 people in San Diego County are affected by epilepsy. The

Foundation provides free services to those affected by epilepsy and seizures, including indi-

vidual and family counseling. They

A close up of very detailed reindeer from Maria Webster’s “Santa Takes a Fall” gingerbread creation. (Photo courtesy of The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County)

also host educational seminars to help raise awareness and elimi- nate the stigma associated with epilepsy.

They have plenty of sup-

port from gingerbread artists, including Morse.

Besides her passion for pastry decorating, the self-taught artist from Tierrasanta feels a deep connection to the charity event because her cousin has epi- lepsy. She said this drives her to participate since she knows her structure will help raise money for a cause close to her heart. Morse said she spent more

than 100 hours completing her winning entry for this year. Her family helped by mixing gin- gerbread, gum paste and Royal Icing. Her strategy for strong gingerbread included “pulling out the gingerbread half-baked, trimming all the edges and re- baking,” she said. Of course, each participating

artist had their own technique. Maria Gonzales, a sixth year

Gingerbread City contestant and four time winner, said she begins her cookie creations with a trip to Home Depot for non-edible reinforcements.

“I use PVC piping to hold my

structure together and then I create gingerbread walls. Ginger- bread is a diffi cult material to work with because it softens and warps easily; it can be very temperamen- tal,” Gonzales explained. Gonzales is a cake design

instructor at San Ysidro Adult School and some of her students entered small-scale structures in the contest. They wanted to help the cause in their own way, too. For more information about

Gingerbread City and the EFSDC, visit or

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