Visiting the Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club Vacation Homes has a special and sweet addition every year, thanks to the bounty of Willow Cakes & Pastries Bakery.
This year was no exception, as the bakery donated another Christmas display. This time it was featured at 282 Nassau St.
The display contained a two foot chocolate Santa Claus, a gingerbread log cabin, cakes and pies and chocolate Christmas bulbs. It was a winter show that showcased some of the bakery’s excellent work, says Willow co-owner Sean O’Donnell.
The entire exhibit required some 140 kilograms of chocolate to produce, with around six employees spending a total of 60 hours for the magic to work.
“When we make our displays, we like to showcase the holiday vibe… primarily in cookies, gingerbread and chocolate,” O’Donnell said.
“When you enter the houses that you decorate, Nassau for example, it’s a lot of chocolate work. hand or with an airbrush. “
Some decorations, like the giant Santa Claus, are annual decorations, while others are new creative ideas from the bakery.
“(Santa Claus) is a hollow chocolate shell, but it’s hand painted and carefully poured so everything is smooth and thick enough to stand up, but not heavy,” O’Donnell said.
One of the new features he was proud of was a unique take on a gingerbread house.
“We had a gingerbread log cabin that was on display this year, which was really fun,” he said.
“Your average gingerbread house is very flat and only has flat sides, a flat roof – that shows texture and technique. And we always make it look wintry, like it’s in the woods. or something like that. “
“So we use icing to create ice cubes and icing sugars to create a snow effect and we bring in inedible products like cotton rolls to create large landscapes of snow on the tables. So it’s a mixture. hundred apart from materials.
Willow also carved a scale gingerbread house of the McArthur Estate on John Street East as part of this house’s exhibit. It was created primarily by pastry chef Ryan Mallin.
The entire exhibit would normally cost “thousands” of dollars, but O’Donnell says the bakery is happy to do so to help the Rotary Club – and to showcase the skills of the bakery to people who visit.
“We are getting exposure,” he said.
Most of the ideas for winter displays come from Catherine O’Donnell, Sean’s mother who is used to designing creative displays, such as the famous Canada Day cakes.
O’Donnell says that while 140 pounds of chocolate might sound like a lot, when you look at the display, a lot of it is because the chocolate needs to be poured and tempered in order for the displays to last.
“It has to have durability and longevity. So it’s not that we pour it thick, but you have to pour it perfectly, and keep it constantly comfortable and on point,” he said. .
For perspective, he noted, Santa Claus alone holds about six pounds of chocolate.
However, the display was not just chocolate. It also included an arrangement of breads and pastries.
“While we try to represent a theme, we always try to represent the cooking culture that we have, and that it’s not just baking and it’s not just chocolate. We asked our head baker making some of his finest breads. And we put these up as a little exhibit because we were trying to create not only a wintry landscape, but also a cozy atmosphere. “
He said the bakery team liked to put things together in their small kitchen for the house tour,
“They keep smiling and having fun and at the same time they are learning because Chef Catherine just has this creative mindset and she is always ready to teach staff new things. So they are learning while performing and perfecting everything at the same time and that’s what’s really cool. “