Give Kay Momchilov an oven to bake in or a table to craft items on and she’s in maker’s heaven. “I have always loved baking and making crafts,” she says. “Gingerbread houses bring the two together.”
Momchilov’s abilities to combine these two loves is impressive to say the least. “It started with a simple design of a generic house,” she recalls. That simple design evolved over the years into something quite spectacular.
Momchilov is a happy person. You meet her and her jovial personality shines through in every conversation. To walk into her house at Christmas time is to enter a winter wonderland of sorts.
“I have always loved the holidays!” she says. “For many years we would have big family get-togethers with our brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and our own children and later grandchildren. We always had a visit from Santa during the party and I loved to watch the kid’s reaction.”
As to gingerbread houses, blogger Tori Avey (www.toriavey.com) explores the history of food and creating in the kitchen. According to her, gingerbread houses actually originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or the other way around but to experience Momchilov’s creations is to feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook.
Her creations are not your run of the mill gingerbread houses. They do not resemble the boxed versions you might pick up at Walgreens or Kroger during the holiday season. No, her houses are made from scratch, from the ground up and with magnificent detail and style. She creates them over the course of time, slab by gingerbread slab, wall by wall.
“I have always loved baking and making crafts. The kids would help bake and after letting the gingerbread dry out, we would put the house together and decorate it with different candies and icing,” she remembers. “After the holidays, the kids enjoyed smashing in the house and having a taste. One year, we did a carousel complete with miniature horses made with cookies and icing. I also made a church for a fundraiser once years ago.”
While Kay does these houses for her own enjoyment, the level of detail and beauty she gives to each piece is professional looking.
To listen to her humble description of her houses is almost humorous because one look at her work will cause you to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute! That’s not a simple creation.’
And you would be so right.
In 2017, she created a replica of her Westhaven home that she and husband Tom have lived in since 2009. The house is spot on precise in its details, down to the green colored siding and the rose-colored flowers in the bushes.
Truly, it’s quite remarkable. The backyard features a grill, stonework, stone walkway made from rock candy, barren wintery tree branches made from grape stems that are dipped in chocolate to look authentic. You’ll also find bright healthy-looking garland hanging from the windows with plush greenery and red pops of floral color jumping out, a lounge chair, metal porch table and wreaths hanging from all windows.
Signs of “Love” and “Joy” made from icing adorn the back porch, spreading holiday cheer. For locals who long for a winter wonderland during the holidays, the artist has doused the roof with a generous supply of “snow” and dusted the bushes and front yard with white dust for full wintery effect.
The project begins via a pattern made from poster board. “I work from pictures I take from all angles and create a scale model with windows, doors, shutters and landscaping. Next, I cut and bake the pieces and let them harden. The fun part is assembling the parts and seeing it become a real home,” she says.
“Everything I use is edible except the board to support the house. Since that first house, I’ve completed one for my sister, my brother, my son, and just last year I finally did my own house (pictured on page 42),” she recalls. “They take a lot of planning, some trial and error with different materials and many, many hours…but I love the joy they create,” she says with a smile.
The house she made for her brother has lasted for eight years and is kept in a glass case they made to preserve it. “It still looks great!” she says. “Otherwise, they are fragile and after a few years, being moved around they will break. However, you can always smell the gingerbread!”
As a lover of the Christmas holiday, this baker/artist gets great joy in presenting the finished product to her family. It is a very personal gift and easy to see how much effort it takes to make one. “I truly enjoy the interest that others take in the process and the attention to detail that goes into each house.”
And she loves spreading holiday cheer!
Shari Lacy has happily called Franklin home for over 10 years. Owner of Moonstring Arts, she is a sought-after painter in galleries and shops locally and regionally. She has also owned GoodStuff PR Co. since 2006 and has been a freelance writer for years, having written articles for Reader’s Digest, Southern Exposure, Nashville Parent Magazine, Razor Magazine and more. She’s managed campaigns for numerous music artists through the years.