The first thing to decide is how to create the curves for the oval shape of the Colosseum's walls. Last year, we developed a technique to mold sections of gingerbread as soon as they come out of the oven a bit under-done... we formed the curved walls of the Pisa tower like this. But in this case, the Colosseum is oval with each section of wall at a different radius. I would have had to build large multi-sectioned forms to create the curved parts. Instead, considering the scale we were working in (on a 24" square base) we thought we would make the walls in sections and then cut them apart and mortar them back together with colored royal icing. OK, so we had a basic plan to approach the overall shape, but how about the details?
It took some doing, scaling things up and down, taking lots of measurements and Photoshop work, then porting the resulting plans over to MS Publisher so I could print the plans out life size as tiled prints, which I taped back together. There were sets of prints that I used to make templates for walls and other elements, and other prints that I used to assemble a three dimensional paper model so I could figure out where specific elements needed to go or where I might have to tweak the scale a bit more (for instance, we shortened the inner wall a bit so our audience could more easily look into the arena to see the "Battle of the Colossus" we were planning to install.
Both my son Lucas and I worked on making the elements... cutting out arches, hand cutting special shapes, texturing the walls to look like brick and stone, and sawing apart wall sections to make the appearance of curved walls. As you can see in the photos above, we even developed a technique to pipe the gingerbread dough. We took balls of dough and wet them briefly under the faucet, then worked water into the dough until it got very slushy without being too wet--just slippery enough to be pumped out of a piping bag and pastry tip. It worked fantastically.
One detailed wall section (photo above) where the (real) Colosseum was reinforced with a thick support wall. The columns are "Stix" brand snacks dusted with pearl dust to tone down their yellowish color. This section was two walls thick and nearly bubbled up during baking.
We created Roman "Lollipop" pine trees using large pretzel rods and cookie/chocolate crumble.
I wanted these to look animated, so I used foil to prop up parts of the arms, legs and heads during baking. A long bamboo skewer for support was baked into each gingerbread gladiator and would be hot glued into the plywood base of the arena.
Many might not realize that there was a huge, 100 foot tall bronze statue of Nero at the site of the Colosseum before it was built. After Nero spent Rome into disaster, Flavian built the amphitheater for the people of Rome and in doing so, moved the statue of Nero to one side of the arena, changed the head to the Sun God with a crown of rays. The statue was known as the Colossus and eventually the people started calling the Flavian Amphitheater (its original name) simply the "Colosseum".
No matter, we're still proud of our effort this year!
What do you think?