By Alex Podlogar

Change can be difficult, especially when something might have been done for long enough to be considered, by some, as tradition.

But change is not what gave Head Pastry Chef Shelly Taylor nightmares for six months.

It was engineering.

And gingerbread.

For many years, part of the celebrated holiday décor at The Carolina Hotel has been the Gingerbread Village of Pinehurst. What few people know is that Taylor and her team begin planning the holiday scene almost as soon as they are done removing the structure in early January every year. And this time, with the ongoing renovation of The Carolina, Taylor discovered that they may have to try something different.

Chef Shelly Taylor’s attention to detail makes The Carolina’s Gingerbread Carousel shine.
Chef Shelly Taylor’s attention to detail makes The Carolina’s Gingerbread Carousel shine.

And so she created the Gingerbread Carousel, which has been featured in the center of The Carolina’s lobby for six weeks. The build began in July, and with precise attention to detail, impeccable craft and enlightened engineering, the fully realized structure replete with sleighs and reindeer – not to mention pillars and an intricate roof – is a 500-pound marvel made with more than 120 pounds of chocolate, 95 pounds of sugar and 65 pounds of gingerbread.

It was so consuming and difficult a task that yes, the nightmares were real, Taylor says.

“Literally nightmares. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and realize, ‘Oh wait, we can’t build it that way. That part would fall off and injure a child or something!’ I realized, from these dreams, there were things that would’ve gone wrong. I’d come in the next morning and say, ‘We need to change this.’ And then we’d look at it and go, ‘Yes, yes we do.’ We changed so many different things!”

Pinehurst Head Pastry Chef Shelly Taylor
Pinehurst Head Pastry Chef Shelly Taylor

While Taylor has been working the last week to bring the Carousel back to its original glory from when it first came on display – over time, inquiring onlookers’ curiosities have led to chipped gingerbread flooring, broken sleighs and other needs for touchups – she understands that some may prefer seeing the Village return in the corner of the lobby next season.

But she’s glad to have taken the chance on the Carousel.

“Change can be hard, and certainly we’re already beginning to plan what we will do next year,” she says. “But our team has worked so hard to create something beautiful, and I’m proud of that.”

And, it’s still standing. Sweet dreams.