a large oven-safe bowl; a pastry piping bag; a small gingerbread man cookie cutter
For the gingerbread: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a large, oven-safe bowl with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, cloves and salt in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Mix in the molasses and egg, and then stir in the flour mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully cover the bowl with the dough, trimming the excess. Roll out the remaining dough and cut out small gingerbread men. Chill the bowl and the gingerbread men in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Place the bowl and gingerbread men on a sheet tray, and bake until just golden at the edges and no longer translucent looking, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.
For the cream: In a medium bowl, whisk 1/2 cup milk into the cornstarch until blended and smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk until blended, set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 3 1/2 cups milk with the granulated sugar. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Pour three-quarters of the hot milk very slowly in a steady stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Then whisk the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk in the saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla until blended and smooth. Divide the pastry cream among 3 mixing bowls. Add the nutmeg to one bowl. In the next bowl, add the cherry puree and some red gel if using. In the last bowl, add the pistachio paste and some green gel if using. Cover the surface of each pastry cream with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cooled.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then gently fold one-third of the whipped cream into each pastry cream.
For the icing: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the confectioners' sugar and egg whites. Mix at a slow speed until the mixture is stiff enough to form peaks; keep beating until the icing is pure white, fluffy and shiny. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the icing to a pastry bag, and hold it at room temperature until ready to decorate.
To assemble, use a knife or small offset spatula to remove the gingerbread from the bowl. Cut the tip of the pastry bag of royal icing and pipe festive designs around the outside of the bowl and the gingerbread men. Decorate with candies as desired, then set aside to dry completely. Once dry, fill the bowl with the three creams. Arrange the gingerbread men around the bowl. Serve and enjoy!
The pastry cream can be made 2 to 3 days before you need to use it. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, shellfish and meat may increase the risk of foodborne illness.