Haunted Gingerbread Showdown review: Finale on Elm Street


After hours of work, pounds of sugar and spice, and three preliminary episodes, it comes to this- the Haunted Gingerbread Showdown finale. Who will have sweet dreams to the tune of twenty-five thousand dollars, and who will live the nightmare of going home empty-handed?

Our contestants the Haunted Gingerbread Showdown finale are the winners of the three previous heats- Jorg Amsler, Greir Rubeling, and Meghan Morris. In their previous challenges, they were given time at home to start their pieces. For the finale, they will have to complete their entire design from concept to completion in studio. They will have one week of grueling twelve hour days to create their pieces. They will also have two assistants to help.

Today’s Haunted Gingerbread Showdown theme is “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary, the teams need to create a tribute to the classic horror franchise. Though I enjoy horror, I tend to mostly watch ghost stories, so I admit I’ve never seen Nightmare all the way through. I wonder if they warned the contestants in advance of theme, or at least gave them a selection of possible themes, to be sure they were all familiar with the movie?

As soon as time begins on day one, they immediately set to work sketching their concepts. Grier, who is working with her brother-in-law and her best friend’s husband, decides to play to her strengths. Her previous winning entry featured a farm being attacked by aliens, full of tiny, intricate details. She plans to make something of a horror dollhouse. She will create multiple rooms, each featuring an important scene from the movie. On the outside of the dollhouse, she will have Freddy popping out of the wall at the viewer.

Jorg plans a larger scaled scene with Freddy in the boiler room crafting a new, updated claw hand. He will be assisted by the former executive chef of his bakery as well as a recent graduate of his culinary program. Clearly, this is a formidable and talented team.

Meghan, assisted by her mom and sister, plans to go big as well. She will be crafting a more dream-like scene in keeping with the movie. She wants to create an oversized Freddy, holding the house of his victim who will climb stairs on his back in a futile attempt at escape.

Each artist is capable of amazing detail and possesses a lot of gingerbread skill, but that is where the similarities end. Grier’s style is tiny, intricate, and with touches of whimsy and humor. Her characters tend to be cartoony (in a good way). Grier has started a business and needs the prize money to put into that.

Jorg’s style is very precise and he leans into using molds for speed and precision. Jorg isn’t motivated by the money so much as the challenge and the bragging rights. Meghan’s style is very realistic and sculptural and she uses as much gingerbread as possible. She just graduated with a biochemistry degree and needs the money to put toward her student loans.

As they each have their own style, they also have their own techniques. Each makes a large Freddy Kreuger. Grier is way out of her comfort zone here as her style is more cartoony than realistic and as she is used to tiny details. To make her Freddy, she uses a Styrofoam head covered in aluminum foil to mold her gingerbread dough. She then removes that dough and carefully supports it with more foil to bake.

Once baked, she attempts to sculpt details on top with ginger clay but it hardens and cracks as she works. She scrapes all the clay off and tries again using modeling chocolate. After some time, she feels she has a recognizable Freddy face to present.

Jorg’s giant Freddy has a body of rice cereal covered in chocolate. Jorg then creates a face out of clay, uses that face to create a silicon mold, and then fills the mold with chocolate. Meanwhile, Meghan sticks to her guns and creates Freddy of gingerbread. She bakes lots of flat disks of gingerbread and stacks them. She then carves them into shape and uses multiple tones of ginger clay to sculpt his details.

Both Grier and Meghan create all their details with hand-sculpting. While Grier admires the speed with which Jorg can create a lot of details using molds, she does wonder about his lack of gingerbread use. I do too. In a gingerbread challenge, is there not a minimum amount of gingerbread to be used?

Jorg’s molds typically use chocolate. As we’ve seen, his Freddy is made of rice and chocolate, not gingerbread. Even the judges bring this up when they do a walk-through, but Jorg tells them he has used chocolate as it is easier and better than gingerbread. However, in a gingerbread competition, I don’t think easier (chocolate) is better.

As the teams head into the final day, host Clinton Kelly approaches with the dreaded, but expected, twist. As in their previous heats, the teams must make a tasty treat that will integrate into their final scene. As this is about Nightmare on Elm Street, the treat must be charred. They will have two hours to create their treat, while the main clock continues to run.

Grier has a lot to complete on her piece so she decides to skimp on her treat so she can keep working now. She elects to do a quick take on a s’more. Meghan decides to do something similar but more complex, and Jorg goes in a completely different direction with an elegant and yet gross plated dessert.

Jorg presents his “blister bar” first. The idea is that Freddy is developing some new skin. His bar features a ground gingerbread and toasted black sesame crust. On top of that is a custard with charred corn folded into it, then a raspberry coulis. Finally, he tops that with a bubbled white chocolate layer, painted red to resemble a skin graft.

The judges love the look of his dessert, which is perfectly horrifying. They also praise his charred flavor, coulis, and smooth custard. Judge Jamika Pessoa wishes that the charred corn was pureed or in some other way incorporated to give a more consistent experience. Sometimes she gets some charred corn and sometimes she gets chewy corn, and all of it interrupts his very smooth custard.

Grier is next to present her “Freddy’s Fire Fingers.” She has made a graham cracker cookie cup filled with chocolate, topped with a whole toasted marshmallow. Into the marshmallow, she has stuck claws made of more graham cracker. They judges like her textures but find the cookie lacks flavor. They need more char on her marshmallow and would prefer it to be smaller or cut up. In general, the judges are a little underwhelmed with her offering.

Meghan presents her “Nightmare Stairs” last. They have earned that name as she has displayed them on a little set of gingerbread stairs, as that is where you will find them on her finished piece. They represent the stairs in the movie into which the victim sinks as she attempts to flee. Her dessert is a soft gingerbread molasses bar topped with spiced rum chocolate ganache and toasted marshmallow. Jamika loves the texture of her cake. Jason Smith is impressed that she has made her own fluffy marshmallow cream. Gesine Prado wishes her marshmallow had more char and her ganache had more rum.

Jorg wins the Haunted Gingerbread Showdown advantage with his dessert, which is to force the others to sit down for thirty minutes while he continues to work.

Normally, one twist is all the competitors have to face. However, this is the finale so with two hours left, Clinton announces they have to incorporate real fire into their final pieces. Jorg seems positively excited. Meghan quickly comes up with an idea and hopes it doesn’t burn her work down. Grier is frankly scared of fire and needs to rely on her team to help her come up with something quick and safe to do.

At one point, Jorg notes that Meghan has an unstable part on her scene which is threatening to fall off. He decides this is the perfect time to use his advantage so he makes her and Grier sit out for thirty minutes while she worries about her piece falling apart. It’s cruel but his prerogative. Meghan is angry about the possibility of real damage that she may not be able to fix in time. Grier is starting to feel defeated and says she doesn’t think she can recover from the lost time.

Once their time out is over, there are just thirty minutes left on the clock to finish their pieces. Meghan tackles her unstable piece, using isomalt to glue a heavy phone to the back of her work. Grier laments that she simply won’t have time for people, so her dollhouse will not really be lived in. With just one minute left, Meghan’s mom accidentally breaks off some of Freddy’s claws so Meghan must frantically glue them back on at the last second.

All too soon for the competitors, their week is up and they must present their scenes to the Haunted Gingerbread Showdown judges. First, Clinton appears, dressed as a vampire. He introduces Gesine, also a vampire, as well as Jason and Jamika, who are pirates.

Grier is first with her “Face the Nightmare.” On one side, she presents her horror dollhouse. She has a boiler room with tiny tools and furnace. She also has a bathroom with a miniature toilet with cotton candy fluffy toilet seat cover and bathtub scene of Freddy attacking the bather. She also has the bedroom scene with little lamps, an eighties-style computer, and a horrific but edible column of blood. Above the house is an outdoor scene with little bench and kids jumping rope. On the outside of the dollhouse is Freddy, emerging from the brick.

Gesine loves all the tiny details but she wishes there was more to it. Grier spent so long sculpting tiny wrenches and things that her rooms are fairly bare and also lack people and movement. Jason admires her Freddy but he isn’t quite realistic or quite terrifying. Jamika feels like the whole thing is more cute and funny than scary and she doesn’t like that the tasting treat is just laid around Freddy. However, everyone is impressed with her fire element. She has placed copper coils on either side of Freddy through which propane burns, surrounding him in fire.

Jorg is next with “Freddy’s Workshop.” His piece is huge and features a boiler that appears lit up and is decorated with the skeletons of Freddy’s victims. Freddy’s workbench is covered in very realistic wood made of tubes of colored gingerbread- red, black, yellow, and natural brown- all folded together to create the woodgrain.

His furnace is made of real metal pipes, covered in baked gingerbread. He also spots a toy rat on set, used as Halloween decoration. He grabs it, makes a mold, and fills his piece with chocolate rats, one of which is being grilled for dinner. Freddy himself is working on his new, upgraded glove.

Jamika loves the modern take on Freddy and she thinks he has integrated his tasting treat perfectly. Gesine thinks his woodgrain is amazing but she wants more grunge. The whole piece is too clean, too pristine. Jason loves the details but is disappointed in some of Jorg’s techniques.

Jason does not love his heavy reliance on molds. His molded rats all look identical and lack character and movement. Jason is also frustrated by his use of non-gingerbread materials, especially for Freddy. He feels Freddy would actually look better with the texture and roughness of gingerbread.

For his pyrotechnic element, Jorg has set up an aerosol that literally shoots what must be a two foot stream of fire. It is very impressive, and the scariest part of his display.


Meghan presents her “Sleep Kills” piece last. To me, this is the most frightening display. Not only is she capable of very realistic sculpture, but her work has a surreal, nightmarish feel that the others lack. Her scene features an oversized, very realistic Freddy made entirely of sculpted gingerbread. She has used multiple colors and a glaze on his eyes, giving them a highly realistic, wet look. The victim’s house sits in his arms, held at a topsy-turvy angle. The victim herself runs up stairs along Freddy’s back, trying to escape. Also on his back is a giant, possessed phone that she tried to use to call for help.

Gesine loves her Freddy from his face to his scary, sharp looking claws. Jason is amazed she has done almost the entire thing in gingerbread. Jamika loves the placement of her treat (on the stairs) and loves the many gingerbread techniques on display. However, she doesn’t love the gaps in the piece where the stiff gingerbread simply doesn’t lay smoothly.

Meghan has incorporated fire by laying copper tubing into one of his arms with holes to allow burning propane to escape. In a split second, his entire outstretched arm is on fire and again, I find this to be the most realistic and scariest application of the three scenes.

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I must not have been alone because, after some deliberation, the judges conclude that Meghan wins Haunted Gingerbread Showdown! Her work is realistic, detailed, artistic, genuinely scary, and almost entirely gingerbread. Congratulations to Meghan and to all the contestants who worked for so many hours to produce some real edible works of art. Happy Halloween!