Today our kitchen was filled with the scents of the holidays. I roasted our second turkey, this time just a half breast, and made a second batch of cranberry sauce. And then I baked this beautiful gingerbread. The richness of all the spices mingled, the aromas wafting throughout the house. Tonight The Artist will go to sleep and have visions of gingerbread cakes dancing in his head!
The aroma of gingerbread baking is something that touches the center of my soul. It evokes memories of baking gingerbread cookies with Mimi and my mom, of battling to keep the walls of a gingerbread house from falling down, of decorating cookies and passing them out to my family. That spicy scent instantly takes me back to the days when I believed in Santa with all my heart.
I still believe in the magic of the season and watch with joy each year when normally grumpy people become generous and kind to one another. When, for a few short weeks, the world becomes a nicer place and the joy of the season melts cold hearts.
Growing up in sunny California, I dream of having a white Christmas and one of these days The Artist and I will head to a snowy destination and celebrate the holidays where the air is clean, we can see our breaths, and the air has the “hush” of snowfall. It might be a trip to Santa Fe where the nights are lit with the beautiful glow of thousands of luminarias/farolitos lining the streets. Wherever we go, I’m sure it will be wonderful!
But back to the gingerbread … If you are looking for the perfect dessert to serve for the holidays, this is it. Everyone will love the deeply spicy flavors that blend into one incredible bite after another. The ingredient list is long but it is worth adding any of the spices you don’t already have because they can be used in so many recipes, both sweet and savory! And even if it looks complicated, this cake comes together very quickly and easily.
Some of you may not have heard of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. It has a delicate butterscotch flavor and it allows the other flavors to shine through. It is a byproduct of refining sugar cane and you can use it in place of corn syrup, maple syrup, or honey. A company that follows fair trade practices and has a low carbon footprint, Lyles has created a product to be proud of.
For this Chocolate Monday the chocolate is very subtle – you won’t even be able to specifically taste it, but just like the black pepper in the recipe, the cocoa adds depth and dimension. Your taste buds will be happy! If you want even more chocolate, you can make a simple white chocolate glaze by melting some white chocolate and butter together and then beating them with powdered sugar and a pinch of salt.
I like the plain cake with just a little powdered sugar on it. It is so satisfying all on its own that I don’t think it needs anything else. But if you have children, they may want a sweeter dessert. The white chocolate glaze or a simple powdered sugar glaze will do the trick for those little sweets lovers!
This year when I am setting out the snack plate for Santa, instead of cookies and milk, I think I will leave a mug of eggnog and a slice of this cake. I think Santa will be very pleased with the change of pace!
This is not a timid gingerbread. It is bold and audacious. If you are thinking that this will be similar to gingerbread cookies from your childhood, hang onto your hat! This is hot and spicy, with flavors that linger on your tongue. This is the kind of dessert that has you dreaming about having another piece, even when you can’t eat another bite.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Happy holiday wishes to all of you and Happy Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Pull out all the ingredients and line them up on the counter. As you add each one to the bowl, move the spice bottle to another area of the kitchen, showing immediately what you have used and what still needs to be added. This helps keep you organized and if there is a lot of activity going on in the kitchen, you won’t forget something or add it twice!
Use a gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour in the recipe. The almond or hazelnut meal is gluten-free. Make sure all of your spices are pure (they should be). My gluten-free version came out perfectly!
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks), cut into small cubes
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root or 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup molasses, preferably unsulphured
- 3/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Cane Syrup or dark corn syrup
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 4 whole large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
- 1 cup hazelnut or almond meal/flour
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2-1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- Powdered sugar, for garnishing
- Bake the Gingerbread Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F with the top rack in the center of the oven. Lightly grease a non-stick bundt pan, making sure to get into all the nooks and indents. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, combine the butter, ginger, molasses, Golden Syrup and brown sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula until the sugar is melted and all the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, extra yolk and sour cream. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, combine the flours, cocoa, salt, baking soda and spices. Blend on low for 30 seconds to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the butter/sugar mixture and mix until the flour is incorporated. When the flour is completely blended in and there are no more white streaks, pour in the egg/sour cream mixture. Beat until smooth; add the vanilla and beat again. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as well as the beater. Beat for another 30 seconds. Batter will be fairly thin.
- Pour into prepared baking pan. Smooth it into an even layer all the way around the center of the pan. Place pan into center of preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and very carefully spin the pan so the side that was in the back is facing the front of the oven. Continue baking until the top springs back when touched lightly with your finger and the sides pull away from the pan, about 20 to 25 more minutes.
- Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack and remove pan. Let cake cool until completely cool before slicing.
- When you are ready to serve put some powdered sugar in a wire sieve and tap it over the top to create a snow-like sprinkling of sugar.
- Yield: 1 bundt cake, 8 to 12 servings
- Make Ahead: Wrapped tightly in plastic, this gingerbread will last about 4 days either at room temperature or refrigerated – unless you eat it all first! If you refrigerate it, it will be denser and slightly chewy. I think it improves with time so bake it a day ahead of when you intend to serve it. The cake is best served at room temperature so remove it from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before slicing.
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