Inside the Benson Hotel’s Gingerbread Masterpiece

Northwest Grown

The Gingerbread Masterpiece has been an annual Benson tradition for 50 years

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When you step inside the Benson Hotel, you’ll see a lot of timeless touches in the design of this hotel that’s been around since 1913.

“The Benson’s a tradition to many people in the city,” said Managing Director George Schweitzer. “And so it’s exciting that we’re able to share and be able to bring the joy of Christmas to the community.”

Part of the tradition at the Benson Hotel is the annual Gingerbread Masterpiece, now in its 50th year.

Baker Robert Bragdon created the scene with inspiration from the movie The Polar Express as he tied in the theme of bringing a community together.

“First thing came to mind was a giant Christmas tree. So because, I mean, what’s the easiest way to get a bunch of people together and have fun, you know?” Bragdon told KOIN 6 News.

His giant and heavy tree is, by itself, “30, 35 pounds, 40 pounds of solid gingerbread with royal icing topped with piped icing,” he said. “Every single one of those was me doing this for hours. I think it took me probably 4 hours of nonstop piping,”

It’s also chock-full of chocolate, an ingredient Bragdone loves to work with.

“All of these buildings are covered in a thinly or rolled chocolate. Probably about 40 pounds of block chocolate are on here,” he said. “The buildings are solid gingerbread. Different plates and panels put together like a Lego set and then royal icing to cover everything and make it nice and smooth.”

Bragdon has a knack for creating edible art.

“I have a sculpture and painting background, so, yeah, I’ll use different shades of chocolate to paint with brushes. It works just the same.”

The deciduous trees are baby’s breath dipped in chocolate, and the snowball fight has a lot of mini marshmallows.

Visitors can view the Gingerbread Masterpiece free of charge, and it will be on display through Dec. 26.

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