NJ Artist’s Jaw-Dropping Gingerbread Houses Range from ‘Bridgerton’ Mansion to Your Own Home

Molli Dowd's Basking Ridge-based company, Edible Estates, sells custom, luxury gingerbread houses and DIY kits that would wow Willy Wonka.

Molli Dowd with a gingerbread house modeled after a mansion from Netflix's "Bridgerton," from her business, Edible Estates

Molli Dowd’s fanciful gingerbread houses include this mansion modeled on the one from Netflix’s Bridgerton. Photo: John Bessler

Growing up in Tucson, Arizona, Molli Dowd’s favorite holiday tradition was making a gingerbread house. But hers were no ordinary gingerbread houses. 

A lover of architecture even as a young girl, she would search for a different home to replicate every year. Her mother, an accomplished baker, and her dad, a builder, provided guidance and inspiration. 

Naturally, she continued the family tradition when raising her own two girls, Samantha and Patricia, in Verona, and began giving neighbors replicas of their houses. Her annual holiday cocktail party, where each guest decorates their own gingerbread house, became such a hot ticket that she started catering gin-and-gingerbread parties. 

With increasing demand for her creations, Dowd launched Edible Estates in 2019. Among the New Jersey replicas she’s created in jaw-dropping detail are Montclair’s Van Vleck House, Sunday Motor Co. Café in Madison, Hillcrest Farms in Verona, Back to Nature in Basking Ridge and Montclair Film headquarters. She’s also created the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Manhattan’s Benjamin N. Duke House, the MassMutual Building in Springfield, Massachusetts, the mansion from the Netflix show Bridgerton and the Barbie movie Dream House.  

A gingerbread brownstone from Edible Estates

Edible Estates customers can order a pre-decorated brownstone. Photo: John Bessler

Recreating a structure in gingerbread is a painstaking process. First, Dowd takes photos of the home or building, creates architectural-type plans from the photos using CAD (computer-aided design), and then makes molds from the plans using a 3-D printer. She fills the molds, bakes the gingerbread, assembles the house and decorates it with icing and candy.

While individuals, corporate clients and nonprofits can commission Dowd to replicate their homes or buildings, the true heart of the Edible Estates business is its high-end decorate-your-own gingerbread-house kits. They inspired the business’ motto, printed on the box: “Spreading happiness one gingerbread house at a time.” The kit arrives in a huge box tied with a big red ribbon that opens to reveal a pre-assembled house, in a different architectural style each year, with lighting inside and an array of colorful candies, sprinkles and edible paints that would wow Willy Wonka.

Despite the $265 price tag, the classic kit sells out so quickly that this year, Dowd has introduced a system of alerting customers every week when a new batch of handmade houses is available.

A decorate-your-own gingerbread home, and gingerbread ornaments, from Edible Estate

Edible Estates offers decorate-your-own house and ornaments. Photo: John Bessler

There are also less expensive options, including a cottage for $150 and an ornament-decorating kit for $135; on the higher end, there’s a house called the Luxe for $500. Another option is a predecorated house modeled on a typical New York City brownstone, for $1,300. There are also decorate-your-own options for spring, including an Easter-cookie decorating kit, a bunny hutch and a garden shed ($95-$175).

The secret sauce of the gingerbread-decorating business, Dowd says, is that it is “experiential and delightful.”

“From the moment customers open the box, it’s a beautiful experience,” she says. “Decorating a gingerbread house is joyful; we truly are in the business of delivering happiness.”

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Environmental sustainability dovetails with Dowd’s mission. The houses are handmade and packed in cornstarch peanuts that dissolve in water and recyclable cardboard boxes; they are completely edible and can be wrapped in plastic for use the next year. “It feels good to me that our product is organic matter and not taking up space in a landfill,” she says. “We are delivering an experience; you have to appreciate it and then let it go, which is just a beautiful thing.” 

This spring, Dowd’s vision of a brick-and-mortar location for Edible Estates will become a reality. She recently bought the 1850s farmhouse in Basking Ridge formerly occupied by Liberty Cycle. When renovations are finished, the building will include a commercial kitchen and workshop to bake gingerbread and host baking and decorating classes; the front retail space, including a large wraparound porch, will become a coffee shop called the Porch. 

Dowd says she’s excited to be able to bring in people of all ages to “learn, bake and decorate.” In addition to classes and birthday parties, she’ll host gatherings where people can bring wine, pick out their project, and decorate together, similar to paint-and-sip venues. 

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These days, with so much of our world online, people want experiences. “I consistently get inquiries about workshops or hosting parties at someone’s house,” she says. Gen Zers are a good example: “They make experiences out of everything.”

“Creative experiences are what people want and desire, and I feel the energy around it,” Dowd says. “And it’s wonderful for me and my staff to see people actually experiencing the creative process. I’m super excited.”

Place an order or learn more at edibleestates.com.

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