By Jane Anne Owen
The nation’s Capitol Building was made more festive this holiday season by a 2021 Bloomingdale Senior High School graduate, Molly Donahue, who was on the team that created the sixth annual Gingerbread Capitol.
Donahue grew up baking with her mom. In high school, she joined Bloomingdale High School’s culinary program. She credits chef Jordan Hoeffner at Bloomingdale for encouraging her to pursue culinary school.
“She just really helped and encouraged me to pursue culinary school, and I am so glad she did. I love it,” Donahue explained.
In October, Donahue and her college friend, Faith Weber, received an invitation from Fred Johnson III, Sodexo district manager at the U.S. House of Representatives, to complete the gingerbread-house Capitol replica. They were given creative design and decided to make the design elegant and traditional.
Donahue and Weber spent three days completing the house. Those three days were spent listening to Christmas music in the Rayburn house, which is adjacent to the Capitol Building; baking; piping icing; and putting the house together. They went back at the end of November this year to do the final touches before the 2022 Capitol Gingerbread House was presented.
Pulling the house together in a short amount of time was impressive. Every step of creating the house was intricate. Beneath the house is a wooden frame. The pieces were cut out by hand. To make them fit together, some pieces had to be sanded. Piping of the icing was done when the pieces were flat.
This year’s house is 100 percent plant-based, using chickpea water, instead of egg whites, and plant-based butter. The construction took about 55 hours from start to finish and consisted of 73 pounds of various sugars, 65 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of cinnamon, among other ingredients. The dome was kept separate until the building was moved from the Rayburn house to the Capitol.
“I have never worked on a project of that large scale. Seeing it come together was really incredible,” Donahue said.
Donahue will graduate in May from The Disney School of Culinary Arts at Valencia College in Orlando. She aspires to work at a Disney hotel.
The 2022 Gingerbread Capitol Building was put on display on the first floor of the Capitol building on November 29 and will be there until January 2, 2023. To see a video showing how the house was put together and to view pictures of the Capitol gingerbread houses since 2017, visit @capitolgingerbread on Facebook.
Donahues’ advice to bakers: “Don’t be afraid to try new things with baking. Even if it seems scary, just try it and see how it turns out. You never know. Maybe it will be your new favorite recipe.”