Royal Park Hotel unveils giant gingerbread house

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 20, 2015

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ROCHESTER — The lobby of the Royal Park Hotel was abuzz Nov. 11 as families and children anxiously waited for hotel executive pastry chef Mark Slessor to unveil this year’s giant gingerbread house, which Slessor said is his team’s “biggest and best” candied confection to date.

This was the eighth anniversary of the event. The 8-foot-tall gingerbread structure was once again created for a sweet cause — to support The Salvation Army’s 2015 Red Kettle Campaign.

Slessor said this year’s structure, which will be on display in the lobby of the Royal Park Hotel through early January, was inspired by the Point Betsie Lighthouse, located south of Traverse City.

“This year, the idea started off with me thinking something ‘Pure Michigan.’ The first idea that came to mind was my favorite lighthouse being lit up. Michigan has so many coastlines and lighthouses, and people love lighthouses,” Slessor said. “The tower is a sign of hope and love. The sailors coming in off the sea would look for that light, and it would bring them home.”

Slessor said his crew had been at work cooking up holiday magic since October, when they first began working on the lighthouse-themed gingerbread house.

It was no small task, according to Slessor. They created everything by hand, using 220 cups of sugar, 300 pounds of gingerbread mix, 110 cups of powdered sugar, 90 gallons of water, 240 eggs, 300 pounds of holiday candy, 400 candy canes and 10 gallons of fondant.

This year’s house features a color scheme of rich reds, bright whites, dark greens and various styles of plaid. The roof was given a colorful look with red cocoa butter. Thin layers of white fondant cover the windows to exude the frosty feel of winter, and a giant Snoopy rests on top of the roof.

“It really was a team effort. It was not a one-person project,” Slessor said. “One staff did the doors and the décor, another did the silhouettes in the windows, another one carved out Snoopy, and another one did a lot of the details by hand. All the baking was done as a team effort, and the tower was my big baby that I took care of. Engineering helped with all of the electrical work, as well as the molding and the frame for the whole thing to make sure it was supported, but the whole team put it together.”

To help support The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, visitors can sponsor a pair of adult or children’s “mittens” — paper ornaments in the shape of mittens on the tree next to the gingerbread lighthouse — for a minimum donation of $10. The David W. Elliott Charitable Trust will match every mitten sold — times two — to help support the 2015 Red Kettle Campaign. Funds raised through the mitten tree will provide warm clothing items for families and their children served by The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army’s red kettles will be found throughout the hotel, and proceeds from the new PARK 600 Bar + Kitchen dessert menu — featuring a rich brown butter cake, beignets, sticky-toffee pudding, crème brule, and a gluten-free Michigan cherry and almond cake — will be donated to help those in need throughout northern Oakland County.

Last year, The Salvation Army helped provide more than 3 million meals to the hungry, more than 730,000 nights of shelter to those without a home, and more than 94,000 Christmas gifts to children and seniors who otherwise would not have had a Christmas.

Maj. Russ Sjögren, general secretary and metro Detroit-area commander of The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division, said The Salvation Army appreciates the unwavering generosity and support of the Royal Park Hotel, especially during the holiday season, when the need is great.

“We can’t do what we do without the kindness and the generous support of the Royal Park Hotel and the community at large,” he said. “My sincerest thanks to everyone for their support of The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fundraising campaign.”

The Royal Park Hotel is located at 600 E. University St. in downtown Rochester. For more information, call (248) 652-2600.

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