ROCKPORT — While children erect their gingerbread houses for the holiday season, taking an hour or two to stick gumdrops to frosting to cookie roofs, Trisha Moroz of Rockport has perfected the gingerbread house process. In 10 months, Moroz made 140 gingerbread houses. All the homes were sold to benefit the Rockport Garden Club and given to local nonprofits.
The process begins in February when Moroz starts baking sheets and sheets of hard cookie. Then, after letting the sheets harden, she pulls them out in September and begins to glue them together with white blobs of royal frosting. She adds colored fondant roofs, gumdrop tiles, green frosting trees, fondant snow flakes and cookie children playing in the frosting yard.
This year, Moroz kept the designs simple, but she has made replicas of homes, gingerbread trains with seals in them and a cookie carousel for the Farnsworth Art Museum.
The culinary hobby started about five years ago when Moroz and her husband moved to Maine after retiring from jobs with a defense contractor in California. She joined the garden club and was asked to participate in the holiday fair.
She thought, “I can’t knit. I can’t crochet. I can’t anything,” she said.
So she thought back to her childhood of making gingerbread houses with her family and decided to pick up the frosting tubes again. She didn’t think anyone would want her cookie homes, but she made 40 houses and trucked them to the fair.
“They were gone in 30 or 40 minutes,” she said.
Some of the first buyers of Moroz’s work tell her they have kept the edible structures. The baker said they will last for four to five years, as long as they are kept dry and away from mice, but she tries to keep them affordable so people can buy one each year. The designs, which were sold at the Holly Berry Fair at the Rockport Opera House on Dec. 4, range in price from $10 to $44 for the larger, more intricate ones.
Moroz’s workshop has candy canes, candies of all sorts, little gingerbread people, molds for the fondant and stacks of books — from architectural to gingerbread house-specific references. She has taken cake decorating classes across the nation, including Tennessee and Georgia, which help her hone her craft. When hours of “gingerwork” wear on her, she switches to her other passion, cake-making.
At her home recently, Moroz was constructing a cake sculpture of Santa.
“It’s a Christmas thing,” Moroz said as carols played in her kitchen. “It’s fun. It’s a hobby for me — I’m probably crazy,” she laughed.
Moroz has a reputation in town, and people often call her, even people she doesn’t know. She has become the local gingerbread house hot line in many ways.
“I don’t care. I’ll help anyone,” she said.
But after years of piecing together gingery sheet rock, Moroz said she can’t even smell her work anymore, and she certainly doesn’t sneak snacks as she works.
“I don’t even like the icing or the gingerbread,” she said.