Gingerbread builder goes to town

Kim Wheeler, who just started making gingerbread houses this year, built a village to decorate the Country Club.

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Gingerbread artist Kim Wheeler works to replace batteries in lights for one of her three elaborately detailed gingerbread houses on display at the Walla Walla Country Club.

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Lit gumdrops line a rice-krispy stone wall around one of Kim Wheeler's handmade gingerbread houses on display at the Walla Walla Country Club. Wheeler, who works at the Country Club and bakes cakes on the side, said these are the first gingerbread houses but they will likely become an annual tradition.

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Kim Wheeler rotates a very elaborate gingerbread house to turn on working interior and exterior lights in the foyer of the Walla Walla Country Club Monday morning.

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Intricate edible details of all kinds adorn a large gingerbread house built by Kim Wheeler and on display at the Walla Walla Country Club.

It's hard to believe that this is the first year Kim Wheeler has made gingerbread houses. With melted lifesaver stained-glass windows, royal-icing piped evergreens, pretzel fences and a sour belt roof, they seem the work of a veritable gingerbread master.

Wheeler picked up decorative cake-making when she was looking for a hobby a year and a half ago.

Since she started, she has baked all kinds of cakes for her friends and family, including one resembling a freshly caught fish with chocolate hook accents, a baby shower cake complete with tiny shoes and diapers, and a cake decorated with wine bottles that have customized fondant labels.

This year, Wheeler decided to try her hand at the classic holiday tradition of baking gingerbread houses and made sweet structures that sit in the foyer of Walla Walla Country Club's office, where she works.

While one gingerbread house is more or less traditional, the other could be described as a quaint gingerbread town that Wheeler designed herself, complete with ice skating figurines.

"I wanted to do a village, something that people could kind of interact with and turn and look at," Wheeler said of the gingerbread town, which sits on a lazy Susan.

The most rewarding part of the process for Wheeler has been seeing people enjoy her work.

"The members here love it. It was kind of about that. It's fun making people happy," Wheeler said.

If you, too, are looking to start elaborate cake and gingerbread house making, Wheeler has some advice for you: "Just be patient and use your imagination. You don't have to put a time limit on yourself."

Iris Alden can be reached at irisalden@wwub.com.

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