Introduction: Fractal Gingerbread House

For all the math geeks who want to celebrate the holidays in their own way, try out the Fractal Gingerbread House. There may not be infinite surface area, but why not make your inedible masterpiece an ode to a beautiful pattern instead of some dumpy looking house?

So let's get our geek on and make a gingerbread Menger sponge.

Step 1: Menger Sponge

A Menger sponge is a 3D fractal that starts with a cube. In each iteration the surface of each cube is divided into 9 sections and the middle section is pushed out.

In the next iteration, you look at the smaller subcubes of the original cube and repeat the same process.

in the picture below you can see the same process. With this gingerbread fractal we'll be making a level 2 Menger sponge and using decoration to make it look like a level 3.

Don't worry if that doesn't make sense, we'll move out of math geek territory now.

Step 2: Make Some Gingerbread Dough

Here's my totally untasty recipe for gingerbread.

7 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups molasses

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

Beat the shortening or butter at medium speed until it's light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and beat to blend. Beat in the eggs one by one, and then beat in the molasses. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually stir in the flour mixture.

Divide the dough in thirds, wrap in plastic and chill for 3 hours.

Adapted from this recipe.

Step 3: Roll It!

Take out a chunk of gingerbread dough and roll it between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper. Roll it so it's 1/4 of an inch thick.

Step 4: Transfer and Cover

Transfer the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and put a piece of plastic wrap on top of it.

Step 5: Use the Template

Drop the template onto the plastic wrap and use it as a guide to cut out the pieces. The small squares here were going to be used as a guide for the last step, but that never happened. For this you need to cut out the edges, the 8 medium squares, and the large square.

Also cut out 24 squares the same size as the large square in the middle of the template.

Cook these for 20-25 minutes at 350F. Let cool on a wire rack.

Step 6: Start With a Small Cube

On your work surface, assemble a 4-sided box with the square pieces.

Step 7: Start the First Side

Set up one side of the final shape and use another square piece to bridge it with the interior cube.

By the way, this is all being done with a glue gun. It's cheating, but I was never going to eat it anyway.

Step 8: Finish the Four Sides

Repeat this process until you have all four sides up.

Step 9: Make a Tunnel

On one of the sides, use three more square pieces to finish one tunnel "entrance" into the cube.

Repeat for the three other sides.

Step 10: Going Up

Use four more square pieces to go up to where the top will be.

Check the height. You will probably have to make some cuts on the square to get everything to fit.

Step 11: Success!

OK, sort of a success. Gingerbread being what it is, these aren't the most precise squares and the edges have a bit of a gap, but it's there.

Step 12: Add Frosting

The frosting recipe is easy.

- Take 2 egg whites.
- Keep adding powdered sugar and whisking it until it resembles caulk
- Be happy knowing you'll never be eating this

Add it and decorate it the way you want and ta-dah! Enjoy the holiday spirit and revel in your inner geekiness at the same time.

Comments

author
askjerry (author)2008-12-25

Neat... now we need to invent edible LEDs....

author
mettaurlover (author)askjerry2009-01-06

and edible metal... and edible batteries... and edible components... and edible duct tape... ok, duct tape actually IS edible; it just isn't a good idea to eat it...

author

the guinea pig in my picture has eaten so much ductape (that was used to hold her house together) she loves it and she is living to a very old age for a guinea pig! must not be too bad for ya!

author

Technically, a lot of things are edible but it's not a good idea to do so. :)

author

exactly.

author

Because is one eats something, one could consider it edible. :)

author

yep :D
i learned the hard way that 9-volts are NOT fun to eat.

author

You actually swallowed one? That must have created an interesting sensation.

author

i *almost* swallowed one. thankfully i realized that it would hurt a lot if i swallowed it. i spat it up.

author

Ha ha. Good thinking.

author

I meant if. Sorry.

author
thoward3 (author)2011-05-22

i did it you should try it.

author
dyly (author)2011-04-16

epic win!

author
sarahfish (author)2009-12-21

 so many delicious pieces to eat!

author
ashleybmeyer (author)2008-12-25

protip: put the icing in a ziplock bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner (just cut off enough of the corner to make a hole), and it will be super easy to squeeze the icing into dots and lines. (also, it's totally safe to eat the eggwhite-and-powdered-sugar icing you described.)

author

That's what I did at first, but with so many dots on vertical sides I found it faster to put a dab on my finger and do it that way. I know it's edible, I just don't want to mainline sugar is all :)

author
oskay (author)2008-12-25

This is simply fantastic! Bonus points for *not* using the laser to cut out the gingerbread directly!

author
fungus amungus (author)oskay2008-12-25

Oh, the thought crossed my mind, but I wanted to make something that anyone else could copy.

author
Plasmana (author)2008-12-25

Wow! That looks really cool!

author
Johnfiat (author)2008-12-24

Where did you get the template or did you make it and if you did what did you use for the material? Great project. Keep the math is Christmas!

author
fungus amungus (author)Johnfiat2008-12-24

The template is a laser-cut piece of acrylic. You can easily make one from a piece of paper that will work just as well.

author
rachel (author)2008-12-23

Hee hee! Food & math :)

author
fungus amungus (author)rachel2008-12-24

It doesn't get much better

author
astrozombies138 (author)2008-12-24

Haha, i just watched a movie called "Silk" which is based around capturing a ghost's energy in a menger sponge.

author
=SMART= (author)2008-12-24

Awesome ! Its so geeky :D

author
falcotheimpaler (author)2008-12-24

very meticulous. very nice.

author
LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-12-23

Very nice!

author
Dorkfish92 (author)2008-12-23

...That, is an awesome gingerbread house. Nice work!

author
Doveman (author)2008-12-23

I got an idea! A steampunk gingerbread house!

author
Painkilla05 (author)2008-12-23

My mind exploded with sugarey goodness.

author
Sunbanks (author)2008-12-23

That's really cool :D

author
gmjhowe (author)2008-12-23

wow, you have taken it to a whole new infinite level. Great work, i love how you actually made the middle tunnel section.

author
whatsisface (author)2008-12-23

Gingerbread mobius strip plz?

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Bio: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at supamoto.co. You'll like it.
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