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A castle too sweet for Rapunzel?

December 15, 2008 |  3:00 pm


My admittedly voracious sweet tooth is no match for this: A 12-foot sugar castle made from 130 pounds of pastillage (a sugar dough used to make edible decorations) and 300 pounds of royal icing, among other ingredients.

The 100% edible castle sits in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis hotel on Union Square in San Francisco, originally made in 2005 by pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdre. Each year, he makes repairs, adds tiers or towers and otherwise renews it, he said during a telephone interview.

It rotates, and a three-car Christmas train travels around the base. Houdre was inspired by...

... the French chateau in his hometown of Bordeaux. His children, he said, challenged him when they were 5 and 7 to make a castle. "That's how it started, but I didn't want to do the typical gingerbread castle."

The castle even has lighted windows, made from sugar and shaped with the heat of a hotel hair dryer.

According to the St. Francis, the castle contains, in addition to the pastillage and royal icing: 40 pounds of pulled sugar; 40 pounds of molasses; 60 pounds of flour; and 100 pounds of Christmas candy.

"It's very fun, I quite enjoy it," Houdre said. As the holidays approach and the pastry department gets busier, he said, he uses the time he works on the castle to relieve stress.

While the castle is Houdre's creation, many people get into the act, he said. The hotel carpenter made the base, and other workers helped with wiring for the lights and other work.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Carmen Holt