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Latin Club

Gingerbread Construction – Recipes and Tips

On this blog site I have posted multiple projects that teach lessons in ancient architecture via gingerbread. This particular post will offer a “behind the scenes” look at the construction process. Read on for recipes and construction tips.


As any baker or builder knows, having the right tools cuts your labor significantly and increases the joy factor in due proportion. Here are some tools that we have found helpful.

  • cereal boxes (empty box)

    Tools of the Trade

    • Use these to cut your patterns and designs. The colorful outside has a fine wax coating. Place this side down on the gingerbread, but DO NOT PRESS. You will then be able to lift and reuse this pattern repeatedly.
  • pizza cutter or box cutters
    • Pizza cutters are very handy for cutting curves. Box cutters work best on straight lines.
  • long rolling pin (Hobby Lobby and Michael’s Crafts carries these)
    • Use the kind that round off at the ends and do not have handles.
  • two or more ¼ “ square/rectangular dowels (Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Home Depot)
    • Place each dowel on either side of a lump of dough. As you roll out the dough make sure the rolling pin stays on top of the dowels. This ensures a uniform thickness throughout your construction pieces.

      Roll dough on parachment paper using wooden dowels to manage thickness.

  • parchment paper
    • Roll out the dough on the parchment paper. This allows you to easily (yet carefully) slide the construction pieces onto a cookie sheet for baking.
  • large edgeless cookie sheets
    • An edgeless cookie sheet allows bakers to more easily slide the construction pieces on wax paper from counter to baking sheet.
  • plywood board (Home Depot)
    • This will serve as the platform for your project. It is the only inedible portion of the final structure (unless you are a beaver).
  • cheap paintbrushes – like the kind that come in a kid’s watercolor set
    • These will be used for any painting you might want to add at the end.
  • good set of frosting tips and bags
  • tall Pringles cans (empty)

    A Pringles can allows you to fill icing bags with ease.

    • These are used to fill your frosting bags.
    • Place a frosting bag inside the Pringles can and fold the edges over the outside.
    • Spoon generous amounts of frosting into your bag.
  • wet washcloths or rags
    • The royal icing used for this project is essentially edible cement, and it dries pretty quickly.
    • Frosting bags and tips left uncovered will harden fast, clogging your equipment.
    • Keep a wet washrag handy to cover tips whenever they are not in use (even for a few minutes).
  • stand mixer (the more the merrier)


Caveat: These recipes are specifically created for building, not for eating. The gingerbread should come out very hard and stiff. The frosting is sugar intense, designed to imitate cement. So . . .

Tip #1 – Do NOT eat the building materials! That is easier said than done because it all smells so good. Keep some safe edibles on hand for munching while you work, such as a stack of happy gingerbread men or Christmas cookies.

Grandma’s Gingerbread Recipe

(for building)

5 to 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup shortening

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt

1 ¼ cup unsulphured molasses

2 tsp ginger

1 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 375°. Thoroughly mix flour, salt and spices. Melt shortening in large saucepan (or in microwave). Cool slightly. Add sugar, molasses and eggs; mix well. Add four cups dry ingredients and mix well.

Turn mixture onto lightly floured surface. Knead in remaining dry ingredients by hand. Add a little more flour, if necessary, to make a firm dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thickness for cut-out cookies. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet: small and medium-sized for 6 – 10 minutes, large cookies for 10-15 minutes. One recipe of this gingerbread dough will yield 40 average-sized cookies.

If you are not going to use your gingerbread dough right away, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate. Refrigerated dough will keep for a week, but be sure to remove it 3 hours prior to rolling it so it softens and is workable.

*If you plan to eat the cookies, add 1 tsp baking soda to the dry ingredients.

*Roll and cut the cookies on parchment paper, transfer the paper to a cookie sheet and bake on the paper to avoid stretching and distorting the shape.

*Baking times will be longer for larger cookies. If the cookies cool and are not stiff enough, just put them in the oven for a few minutes more. You want stiff pieces for building.

Royal Icing

3 level tablespoons Meringue powder (craft stores, Walmart in the cake decorating section)

1 pound confectioner’s sugar (4 cups)

6 tablespoons water

Beat all ingredients at low speed for 7 to 10 minutes (10 to 12 minutes at high speed for portable mixer) until icing forms peaks. (Yield 3 cups)

Keep covered: it dries out quickly.

*You can double this recipe if you have a stand mixer. Do not try to double it if you have a hand mixer: you will burn your motor out.

Additional Construction Tips

Pavers – ginger snaps, broken; graham crackers, broken randomly or on the lines.

Sand – crushed gingersnaps, graham crackers, vanilla wafers; brown sugar

Water – piping gel (Hobby Lobby, Michael’s Walmart – cake decorating section), mixed with blue food coloring

Greek/Roman Columns – peppermint sticks with gum drops – It is very difficult to get the peppermint sticks to stand upright in place. We use gumdrop on both ends. These provide the needed support and are reminiscent of the base or the decorative tops of the columns. (See Pantheon for example)

Edible paint – icing color mixed with a little lemon extract – The lemon extract is generally colorless allowing the selected icing color to come through.

Fondant or Marzipan – We have used these items to create many special feature such as ships, animals, treasure chests, gift boxes, and even a Celtic warrior. (See Hadrian’s Wall and Greek Theatre for examples)

Trees – ice cream cones, star icing tip, green icing, edible decors for ornaments

Cover a sugar cone with icing using the “star” tip.

Hold icing bag between thumb and forefinger. Squeeze gently from the top, never in the middle.

Frosted tree ready for display!













Gingerbread Architecture Projects

Please visit the posts below to see completed gingerbread projects from years past. Each one was created by the students of Grace Academy using the tools and techniques in the above post.

Edible Architecture: Hadrian’s Wall

Among the most creative of our edible construction projects was Hadrian’s Wall. This project was very unique, very different from other projects of its kind. First, instead of recreating a finished structure, we opted to recreate the structure in process. Second, this project did not use any gingerbread. However, like all of our other edible architecture projects we did recreate a structure that was significant to the classical world, and every piece was edible.


As far as recorded history tells us, the Romans first contact with Britain came in 55 B.C. and again in 54 B.C. as an extension of Caesar’s invasion of Gaul. Caesar crossed the English channel, battled the Celts, proved the valor and might of Rome, then left. His interactions with the natives of Britannia is recorded in Book IV of his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentary on the Gallic War). While the Romans did establish some interactions with the ancient Brits in terms of trade and diplomacy and a few smaller invasions, the next full scale invasion did not occur for nearly a century.

In AD 43 the emperor Claudius launched an invasion for the published purpose of reinstating Verica, an exiled king. However, the emperor also ended up making the southern area of Britain into a Roman Province, complete with Roman governor. That first governor would be none other than Claudius’ own general Aulus Plautius. (motives? hmmmm)

Fast forward another half century to Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a later governor of Britain. Agricola began his military career in Britain. He later supported Vespasian in his bid for emperor during the volatile year of AD 69. Vespasian rewarded Agricola with the governorship of Britain in AD 77. During his time as governor, Agricola circumnavigated the British Isle, invaded Scotland, and even ventured into Ireland.  His son-in-law was the historian Tacitus, which proved rather convenient for preserving his legacy. Thanks to Tacitus and his desire to promote his father-in-law (and thus his own family connections) we can read about the geography and ethnography of ancient Britain in De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae. (link provided in resources below)

The Celts, however, did not appreciate Roman rule and their frequent harassment of the settlements necessitated some action. This is where we bring Hadrian into the story. The Emperor Hadrian, known as one of the five good emperors, ruled Rome in AD 117-138. The emperor is well known for consolidating the empire, better defining and defending boundaries, and most of all for building really cool things. Hadrian loved the art and engineering of architecture. He is the mastermind behind the reconstruction of the Pantheon with its impressive dome (See Gingerbread Pantheon). Hadrian visited Britain in AD 122 after a string of rebellions in the previous three years. During his stay he planned the construction of a wall extending from coast to coast that would define Rome’s boundary and keep out the Celtic barbarians. In some places the wall is rather low, in others quite high. A “milecastle” was built at each mile interval with smaller towers and forts in between. The wall still exists today and serves as a window into the past; life on the Roman frontier. One of my dreams is to one day hike the wall, now a National Trail in Britain. Links for other websites on Hadrian’s Wall are provided towards the end of this post.

Edible Architecture Project

“Vallum Aelium” Hadrian’s Wall at Saturnalia by Grace Academy. Click on image for a magnified view.

The Grace Academy Classics Club recreated Hadrian’s Wall in AD 2011. Our creation shows a great engineering project in progress. Gingerbread just wouldn’t do this structure justice. We used sugar cubes instead. Sugar cubes better resembled the cut stone used to build the wall in some places (other sections used uncut stone or even turf). One of our men can be seen pushing a sugar stone block up a rampart. Our structure also shows one of the fortified towers. These were not as large as the milecastles, but were still designed to hold a single auxiliary unit.  Although manned by these auxiliary troops, it was the Roman legionaries, trained in building fortifications, that built the wall and its forts. Our replica shows them in their camp enjoying a nice fire. For our holiday purposes, the soldiers are enjoying Saturnalia and the celebration of the Winter Solstice with forest trees decorated for the occasion. Of course, even on holiday the Roman soldiers can’t let their guard completely down. Thus you see a Roman soldier stationed on the wall.

Hadrian’s wall in some places had a maximum height of about 15 feet (4.6 metres) and was 10 Roman feet (3 metres) wide. This made a space wide enough for a walkway along the top, perfect for keeping an eye on the Celtic peoples on the other side. Of course, the Celtic people (like the little blue guy in our scene) kept their eyes on the Romans too.

The wall, as written above, is made of sugar cubes. The tents are graham crackers covered with pieces of fruit roll-ups. Marzipan and fondant both serve as excellent material for creating figurines such as soldiers, Celts, logs, and horses. Dirt can be made from cocoa powder or coffee grounds or maybe a mocha combo of both – choose your scent. The fire is most ingenious. The flames are made from life savers that have been melted into thin sheets, then fractured. The whole scene creates that nice campfire glow and a hankering for s’mores.

For other delectable lessons in gingerbread architecture, visit the posts:

Gingerbread Pantheon

Gingerbread Greek Theater

Gingerbread Circus Maximus

Click on image for a magnified view so as to better see details.



Ancient Vine: Hadrian’s Wall

Following Hadrian: Hiking Hadrian’s Wall

English Heritage: Hadrian’s Wall


Gingerbread Pantheon

Augustus was said to have found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. Our Classics Club at Grace Academy is rebuilding Rome as a city of gingerbread! Each year our students take on the task of rebuilding a significant piece of ancient architecture from gingerbread and other edible materials. This year our group took on the Roman Pantheon. We entered the finished piece in the Georgetown Library's annual Edible Extravaganza contest where it won first place in its division. This post shares some of the secrets behind the triumph. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s All Greek or Latin to Me!

Each year the Grace Academy Classics Club designs a club t-shirt sporting a witty phrase that shows off the joy of the classics. This year we could not choose just one!  Instead all students contributed their favorite Greek or Latin sayings to a classical word cloud in green.  Each saying gives a nod to something special: literature, logic, theatre, theology, and some are just plain ol’ fun.  At the center of them all is our school motto, “Soli Deo Gloria” [Glory to God Alone].  On the reverse the astute will find our clever theme for the year, “It’s all either Greek or Latin to me” written in alternating Greek and Latin script (see caption for picture below).

We wear these shirts on school spirit days, to our club events, Junior Classical League competitions, and just whenever the mood for a cool witty shirt strikes our fashion fancy.  The 2016 shirt has quickly become a favorite.  The shirt design won first place in the club t-shirt competition at the Texas State Junior Classical League with the judges commenting “I want one!”  See below for a list of the featured quotes.


It is all either Greek or Latin to me!

Μοι omne η Ηελλην aut Latinum εστιν!

Read the rest of this entry »

Circus Maximus in Gingerbread!

Latin is sweet to the Max(imus)!

It has become an annual tradition at Grace Academy to recreate a piece of ancient architecture in gingerbread and other edible materials. The first rule is everything must be edible (with the sole exception of a plywood foundation). The second rule is that it must represent an architectural feat of the ancient world. Thus far we have created the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Hadrian’s Wall (complete with Roman soldiers and Celtic spies), the Trojan Horse, and a Greek Theater. Now we bring you the Circus Maximus!


The stadium and the spina (center wall in the middle of the elliptical track) are made of gingerbread. Inside, the stadium is filled with an audience of gummy bears watching an intense race with peppermint-walnut chariots pulled by gingerbread horses and licorice reins. One of the competitors has met with an unfortunate accident and quite literally lost his head. Oh the perils of working with edible subjects!
This is not an exact representation, but does use some artistic license in order to make the great circus fit on the dimensions for the plywood board. Even so, the students learn a great deal about the Circus Maximus as they consider how best to form their creation. After we enjoy creating this culinary artwork it sets on display at the Georgetown Public Library as a part of their annual Edible Extravaganza. This is a great way to promote the study of classics in our local community.
In fact, the library’s Edible Extravaganza used to be called the Gingerbread House contest until we entered the first Roman Colosseum. In following years other local citizens followed our lead and began to depart from the traditional house format to create structures such as the Alamo or an Elizabethan Tudor Theatre.  Just as in real life, the design of ancient architecture inspired later builders. The result is a wonderful and engaging display each year from the traditional to the classical to the imaginative. All creations tickle your fancy while tantalizing your tastebuds.

For more lessons in gingerbread architecture, please visit the following:

Gingerbread Greek Theater

Gingerbread Pantheon

Hadrian’s Wall

Latin Conventions!

This weekend, Feb. 25 – 26, Grace Academy will host the annual Area F Latin Convention at Pflugerville H.S. The convention will include more than 550 Latin students from all over the Greater Austin Area. The students assemble each year at this convention to share their enjoyment in the study of Classics. What I love most about these conventions is that they present an opportunity for every student to find something they enjoy and can excel in. Academic contests include tests in categories related to the language, history, and civilization of the Greco-Roman world. Classical Civilization contests include art, vocals, drama, and costume. My favorite category is the creative art competitions, which include dramatic interpretation and Latin oratory. And of course, we cannot forget the Olympika events. As Grace Academy hosts this year’s convention we are pleased to announce the arrival of Legion VIII Augusta. This troupe of Roman reenactors will set up camp on the practice field. In addition to giving two presentations on the Roman army, the soldiers welcome all peaceful civilians to inspect their camp and ask questions. Visitors can try on pieces of armor and try their hand at writing notes on the cerae (or wax tablets). Yes, Latin will certainly be alive and kickin’ this weekend in Austin.

For more information about the Junior Classical League and Latin conventions in your area visit
or Texas residents may visit

For more information about the Latin program at Grace Academy visit and look under “academics”

Congratulations to Heritage School!

Heritage School is celebrating BIG this week!  Their Latin Club attended the Area B Latin Convention in San Antonio, TX last weekend, and brought home the third place trophy!  An excellent showing for their very first Latin Convention!  Below is the article on their recent performance from The Herald, a local paper.

Early Saturday morning, February 5th,  a team of Heritage School Latin Club students trekked off to San Antonio to compete in a Junior Classical League Contest for Area B that was held at Alamo Heights High School. Over 1,000 Latin students from San Antonio and surrounding areas participated in this event.  The National Junior Classical League is an organization of middle school and high school students sponsored by the American Classical League. It is composed of local and state chapters and is the largest Classical organization in the world today. Its purpose is to encourage an interest in and an appreciation of the language, literature, and culture of ancient Greece and Rome and to impart an understanding of the debt of our own culture to that of Classical antiquity.

Heritage School provides a distinctive classical Christ-centered education that prepares students for servant leadership and lives that glorify God. The graduates of Heritage School strive to exemplify Christ, think critically, speak articulately, write effectively, pursue learning and persevere.  All of these critical attributes come into play for the serious Latin student.  Thirty nine students from sixth, seventh, eighth, and eleventh grades prepared for this regional event in Latin oratory, dramatic interpretation, grammar, reading comprehension, advanced prose, art, mythology, and a broad-based classical exam called Pentathlon.  Latin teachers, Sharon Beall and Suzanne McComack were pleased with the dedicated enthusiasm of their students who studied diligently this year to hone their Latin skills.

Competing against much larger schools from San Antonio, including prestigious prep schools such as Texas Military Institute, St. Mary’s Hall, St. Luke’s Episcopal, and Alamo Heights Junior School, the small team of young scholars accomplished the feat of an overall score that won Third Place, Silver Sweepstakes for Area B.  “We brought the smallest group as well as the youngest students to the event and they astounded us with their individual scores;  not bad for their first foray into JCL,” stated Suzanne McComack, Latin teacher for seventh and eighth grades.

When the scores were reported, Karen Moore, author of the Latin Alive text series used by Heritage school replied, “I think this accomplishment shows the success of a classical education.  Our kids tend to dominate oratory and dramatic interpretation, too.  I really do credit classical ed for that.  They learn early on how to memorize, speak well, and present themselves well.”

Even though the Latin educators were delighted with the results of their students’ hard work, they were even more moved by the banner that the students created of their own volition to present to the 1,000 Latin Club students at the spirit rally which opened the contest in the Alamo Heights Auditorium.  The banner read: “Date gloriam Deo!” which translated means: “Give the glory to God!”  Shining trophies and satin ribbons are pleasant to win, but testimony and praise to God will last forever!

Learn more about the Heritage School on their website:

Latin Christmas Carols

As Buddy the Elf once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”  What better way then to spread the joy of the season than by singing Christmas carols in Latin!  Some of your Christmas favorites were originally composed in Latin, many others have been translated into this timeless language.  There are a number of ways to incorporate Latin carols into your lesson plans during the holiday season.  Whatever you choose, I am sure it will become a favorite tradition.  Here are a few I use.

  • Give students a carol to translate in class.  There are a wide variety from simple to complex.  You are sure to find a carol that is just right for students of any level.
  • Pass out the carols and practice singing them in class as a warm up each day.  Sure to get them in the right spirit for their daily lesson!
  • Do you have a class Christmas party?  The last day of classes before Christmas break we will carol up and down the halls of the school singing Latin songs and passing out candy.
  • Caroling Party.  Caroling is an old tradition that is sadly not as popular as it once used to be.  Revive this classic tradition with a classic language.  We have a party in our neighborhood around Christmas for the Latin Club.  I make hot chocolate and wassail.  The students bring cookies.  We will often make Christmas cards in Latin during class the day before.  Then we carol in Latin through the neighborhood (usually one verse in Latin and then one in English). We pass out Christmas cards as we go wishing all a joyful season.  Afterwards, we enjoy our hot holiday beverages and yummy snacks.
  • If the neighbors don’t appreciate your singing, try visiting a local nursing home or children’s hospital.  Bring goodies and sing Latin songs.  There is no shortage of people who need a healthy dose of peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

How do you find these delightful Latin carols?  You can surf the net and find them in several places, but to give you a short cut there is a fantastic site by Laura Gibbs titled,

Gaudium Mundo: Latin Christmas Carols

Laura has compiled here a fantastic collection of carols in Latin.  The blog site features a song of the day.   For those who would like to hear the songs, the site also provides MP3 downloads and links for available Latin Christmas CD’s.

Dominus Anulorum (The Lord of the Rings)

Yes! The Lord of the Rings, now in Latin! Pull up a comfy chair, get the popcorn ready and enjoy this new rendition of Tolkein's classic thanks to the Read the rest of this entry »

Cowboy Latin!

What better way can we celebrate Latin in Texas than with some Latin Cowboy songs?! Here is my students' rendition of Home on the Range. The pronunciation is neither classical nor ecclesiastical . . . it's Texan! Read the rest of this entry »