Virginia Tech is celebrating the holiday season with a new twist on a beloved tradition--a massive gingerbread replica of Burruss Hall, one of the university's most discernible landmarks.
The gingerbread Burruss stands six feet long by 3 feet high and weighs in at nearly 600 pounds (almost 300 of those in royal icing alone). It took staff members more than 45 hours to construct and is decorated with 15 to 20 pounds of gumdrop roof tiles, candy cane street lights, and gelatin window panes.
The house also features characteristics unique to Virginia Tech. Its gingerbread walls are peppered with old-fashioned rock candy to resemble Hokie Stone, the distinctive limestone adorning most campus buildings, and a HokieBird decked out in holiday attire guards the structure from the roof.
Executive Chef Mark Bratton and the culinary staff of West End Market created the house while Unit Manager John Barrett and the management staff built the support frame; together the confection took more than 45 hours to construct. It is on display through the end of the semester in the popular dining center for students and visitors to enjoy.
“We like to do it for the students, to help them get their minds off the exam weeks and enjoy the season without thinking about school for a while,” said Bratton. “Students have even asked for it at the Table Talk Live sessions [where they are encouraged to voice comments to dining center managers and culinary staff], so we know they look forward to it.”.
The Burruss Hall replica needs constant repair, as the tasty trimmings are often hard for hungry students to resist, but Bratton and his team enjoy building the edible houses so much that they can overlook a little sampling.
“I caught the bug years ago,” Bratton said of his penchant for building gingerbread structures. “I like to take on a bigger challenge every year.”
Next year, Bratton plans to undertake a model of Smithfield Plantation, the historic 1790 estate located on the Virginia Tech campus.
The gingerbread Burruss will be on display until the end of the fall semester. After the students head home for winter break, staff members will donate the structure to the Warm Hearth Village retirement community in Blacksburg to share the spirit of the season with the many Virginia Tech alumni and fans in residence.