Check out a slideshow of some of UCLA’s most famous buildings as gingerbread houses, when the pastry chefs had just 24 hours left to add finishing touches. Photos by Christelle Nahas/UCLA.


Students found special treats decking their dining halls this week when the bakery team delivered gingerbread versions of UCLA’s iconic Royce Hall, Powell Library, Kerckhoff Hall and Haines Hall.

Fancy gingerbread houses for the holidays, created by UCLA Dining Services’ trained pastry chefs, are something of an annual tradition on the Hill. This year, the swing shift of the De Neve Bakery Team spent 10-12 hours on each building.

Executive Pastry Chef Richard Ruskell designed and cut all the gingerbread to craft the mini-UCLA buildings. Ruskell decorated Royce, assistant pastry chef James Brannon took Kerckhoff, and the other half-dozen members of the swing shift turned Powell and Haines into sugar-covered visions.

“Gingerbread is really a lot of fun to work with because there’s nothing you can do that’s wrong,” Ruskell said. “If we didn’t have a cut-off date, we might never stop. You can find something new to decorate every day.”

The finished products are much taller than the chefs’ usual work. The bakery turns out all the dining halls’ bread and pastries, from pizza dough and burger buns to pies and cookies. Gingerbread houses are a nice creative outlet, the bakers said, especially Ruskell and Brannon, whose work tends to be more administrative these days. Decorating takes them back to their roots, allowing them to devise handmade icing-wreaths, a melted-sugar rooftop pool, and other meticulous adornments.

“It’s like cake decorating, except the cake’s a house,” Brannon said. “The students really like to see them arrive every year.”

The final gumdrops were attached before Thanksgiving so the confections could harden and set over the holiday break. So who will eat them?

“Oh no, hopefully no one,” said baker Larry Bombach. “They’ll be stale. They’re meant to be decorations.”

“They’ll break a piece off,” said Brannon, shaking his head. “They always do.”