How one student built a gingerbread cathedral

By Constance Lam &

There are few ways you can visualise Durham without imagining the Durham Cathedral: the intricate architecture and sheer wealth of historical artefacts merit the cathedral’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One student, Kitty Hardyman, has brought Durham home with her, constructing a gingerbread replica of the cathedral. Her final product has captured the attention of many members of the Durham University community, garnering over 100 likes on Twitter. We spoke to Kitty to learn more about the process behind her impressive feat.

Kitty is in her third year studying History and English at Hild Bede. According to Kitty, the inspiration behind the gingerbread cathedral stems from conversations with her friends and family about Christmas baking. Kitty’s passion for gingerbread is rooted in her tradition of making gingerbread every December: to her, the comforting aromas “make everything feel so cosy and Christmassy”. When asked about why she chose the cathedral, Kitty spoke of her awe and admiration for the building: “I adore the Cathedral. It dominates the skyline in Durham — you can’t walk anywhere in the city without the cathedral looking down at you.”

I adore the Cathedral. It dominates the skyline in Durham.

Kitty is impressed by the cathedral’s significance within the Durham community as a place of worship: “To think that people have been worshipping here for hundreds of years gives me a sense of the enormity of God but also the specificity of Durham”. She is moved by “the sanctity of the space”, which is evocative of “something greater than simply stone pillars and stained glass”.

Recounting an anecdote from a friend, Kitty emphasises that she isn’t alone in her admiration of the cathedral: her friend’s father cries every time he sees it, as it contains a time capsule of his memories in Durham during his early twenties. In addition to holding religious significance, Kitty reminds us that the cathedral plays a significant role in many people’s lives in Durham: “I think it’s this unspeakable charm that is almost alluring to us all.” She highlights how the cathedral acts as a sanctuary, providing protection and comfort to many in need, amidst historical and social change.

The enormity of God but also the specificity of Durham

Many readers among us are food enthusiasts in the process of attempting culinary projects during lockdown. We asked Kitty whether her gingerbread cathedral was a “spontaneous lockdown project’” as well. An amused Kitty agreed: “I really didn’t know what I was getting myself in for when I started it.”

She revealed that the entire cathedral took three days to build, and the final product was much larger than expected. Impressively, Kitty built the entire cathedral on her own, but she appreciates all of the moral support which she received, especially from her friends’ parents. For Kitty, the hardest part of building the cathedral was making sure that the roof would stay up. She mentions that she didn’t use a ruler to plan the templates. Despite this, the cathedral was able to remain intact — as you can see in the photo.

Kitty thoroughly enjoyed creating the East Side with the beautiful Rose Window: especially the morning light against the intricate stained glass. To recreate this, Kitty used melted boiled sweets — she claims that this intricate detail “makes the gingerbread stand out as Durham”. We asked Kitty what advice she’d give to university students who are aspiring bakers: to that she says, “If you’re thinking about it at all — then why not?”

If you’re thinking about it at all — then why not?

She reminds aspiring bakers to stock up on essential ingredients (“so you can whip something up whenever you feel like it”). Kitty won’t stop at just one gingerbread architectural miracle; there are more plans on the horizon: she and her friend “have big plans to attempt St Paul’s next year”. We’ll end with some words from Kitty: on baking, Kitty enthusiastically comments, “The rewards are endless: de-stress, delicious baked goods and everyone will want to be your friend!”

Photography by Kitty Hardyman via @kh.bakes on Instagram

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