THE HISTORIC WESTIN ST. FRANCIS PROUDLY PRESENTS SAN FRANCISCO’S LARGEST HOLIDAY EDIBLE CASTLE! Created By Executive Pastry Chef Jean Francois Houdré. The castle will be on display from November 28 to January 2, 2009. The Westin St. Francis Executive Pastry Chef, Jean-François Houdré, aka “King of the Castle,” diligently worked day and night perfecting his signature 12-feet rotating holiday Sugar Castle, you can see this amazing castle in the Tower Lobby of The Westin St. Francis, in San Francisco.

Originally created in 2005, this magnificent Sugar Castle continually grows larger and more spectacular each year. Resembling a French Chateau, Chef Houdre was inspired while traveling around the southwestern region of France. The 100% edible castle is made of pastillage (a combination of powdered sugar, egg whites and gelatin dough), gingerbread, sugar, molasses, flour and candy. Weighing over 1200 pounds, this magical castle features more than 20 grand circular towers, approximately 30 rooms, illuminated windows, and is surrounded by a quaint village and a running train.

“The creation of the Sugar Castle is truly a labor of love,” says Chef Houdré. “Each year, I begin working on it two months in advance, adding more special touches and details each time. This year’s version promises to be the best yet!”

The inspiration to create this one-of-a-kind, grandiose Sugar Castle came from Chef Houdré’s trip to Europe with his family in 2005. While traveling around Bordeaux, the Houdré family visited many remarkable châteaux, particularly Mont Saint Michel and La Cité de Carcassonne, which is one of Europe’s most complete examples of a fortified abbey.

As the Houdré family toured these extravagant castles, his son Henri, age ten, and his daughter, Claudia, age eight, were able to experience an earlier time when royalty once occupied these magnificent castles centuries ago. From that experience, the children were able to convince their father that he must build a sugar castle at The Westin St. Francis to rival the royal castles in France and display it for children to visit during the holiday season.

So, after…70 pounds of gingerbread,
130 pounds of pastillage (Powder sugar egg white and gelatin dough),
40 pounds of pulled and bubble sugar,
Royal icing made of 300 pounds of sugar and egg whites,
40 pounds of molasses,
60 pounds of flour,
100 pounds of assorted Christmas Candy,
And, 360 hours of many, many, hard work…

Tah-dah…Here it is…!!!

About… The Westin St. Francis
Opened more than a century ago on March 21, 1904, The Westin St. Francis still today maintains its preeminence as San Francisco’s center of social, theatrical and business life. Renowned for luxury accommodations and excellent service, The Westin St. Francis continues to preserve its rich history and elegance while enhancing the guest experience with fresh, innovative concepts. The only hotel located on San Francisco famous Union Square, The Westin St. Francis is just steps from world class shopping, dining, theatres and art galleries.


The winner of the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest was revealed by Martha Stewart live from Orlando on Hallmark Channel’s “The Martha Stewart Show.” Christina Verrelli of Devon, PA won America’s most prestigious cooking competition, earning her the $1 million prize.

Since 1949, the Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest has recognized the cooking skills of creative home cooks nationwide. The original recipes of these 100 talented home cooks, ranging in age from 25 to 77 (five are men), and hailing from Hawaii to Florida, and everywhere in between including the District of Columbia, were chosen from tens of thousands of entries to compete in the contest finals.

America’s talented home cooks created mouth-watering recipes from savory snacks to sweet treats for the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest. The 100 finalists’ original recipes were chosen from tens of thousands of contest entries. Then, the finalists prepared their original recipes side-by-side in 100 GE mini-kitchens at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Orlando, FL. Martha Stewart joined these home cooks on the contest floor as they chopped, sliced and mixed up their creations in four categories—Breakfast & Brunches, Entertaining Appetizers, Dinner Made Easy™ and Sweet Treats. Their recipes were judged by a panel of food experts behind closed doors to select the million-dollar winner of 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream
by Christina Verrelli of Devon, Pennsylvania

Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Start to Finish: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 12

4 Tablespoons LAND-O-LAKES Butter, melted
2 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 LAND-O-LAKES egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
5 Tablespoons Pillsbury BEST All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/3 cup Fisher Chef’s Naturals Chopped Pecans, finely chopped
2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations refrigerated seamless dough sheet
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons Hersey’s caramel syrup
4 Tablespoons McCormick Cinnamon Sugar

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush 2 large cookie sheets with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and pumpkin with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until smooth, Add egg yolk, vanilla, sugar, 3 tablespoons of the flour and pumpkin pie spice; beat on low speed until blended. Reserve 4 teaspoons of the pecans; set aside. Stir remaining pecans into pumpkin mixture.

2. Lightly sprinkle work surface with 1 tablespoon of the flour. Unroll 1 can of dough on floured surface with one short side facing you. Press dough into 14 by 12 inch rectangle. With pairing knife, lightly score the dough in half horizontally. Lightly score bottom half of dough into 12 squares (3 x 2-1/4 inch each). Spoon heaping tablespoon of pumpkin filling onto center of each square. Gently lift and position un-scored half of dough over filling. Starting at the top folded edge, press handle of wooden spoon firmly between mounds and along edges of pumpkin filling to seal. Using toothpick, poke small hole in top of each ravioli. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut between each ravioli; place one inch apart on cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining one tablespoon flour, dough sheet and filling. Brush ravioli with remaining two tablespoons melted butter.

3. Bake 9-14 minutes or until golden brown.

4. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat whipping cream and salt with electric mixing on high speed until soft peaks form. Beat in 2 tablespoons of caramel syrup until stiff peaks form. Transfer to serving bowl; cover and refrigerate.

5. Remove ravioli from oven. Sprinkle ravioli with two tablespoons cinnamon sugar; turn. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar.

6. To serve, place two ravioli on each of 12 dessert plates. Drizzle each serving with scant teaspoon of the caramel syrup; sprinkle with reserved chopped pecans. With spoon, swirl remaining one tablespoon caramel syrup into bowl of whipped cream. Serve warm ravioli with whipped cream.


Hani, of Haniela’s gathered 21 extraordinary bakers for this year “The Easter Extravaganza Collaboration Project”.

Here are our favorites… Click on the image to view the recipe/tutorial.