Tag Archives: gingerbread

Gingerbread Cake with Poached Pears and Mascarpone Cream

14 Feb


When you’re married to a lady who likes to make cakes as much as I do, your choice of birthday cake can sometimes require a bit more intense concentration and debate than ever thought logical or necessary. It goes without saying that I have no problem at all making someone a birthday cake as simple as a classic chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, but if anyone so much as mentions that they might want a cake made of something a bit more adventurous, it’s all systems go in my mental cake Rolodex.



How about fruit? Chocolate and fruit? Citrus and chocolate? Citrus and cream? Fruit and cream? How about all of those ideas, because maybe I’ll just make two cakes? (Which, incidentally, I have totally done before. And then I stacked the cakes on top of one another, sandwiched some mocha cream in between them, and made my husband remember why he puts up with slightly obsessive cake talk at all hours—because cake talk turns into cake eating and, oh, yes, it all makes sense now.)


This year, after, once more, talking myself in and out of making more than one cake for my husband’s birthday, we settled on a single cake with a few show-stopping qualities. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my husband’s 2013 birthday cake: spicy dark gingerbread, layered with smooth mascarpone cream, and studded with juicy poached pears. Just fancy enough to satisfy my desire to make a spectacular cake for a special birthday, but also bursting with classic, humble flavors that provide the cake with a bit of comfortable familiarity. This cake may look like a big burst of song and dance, but it tastes like a giant, loving hug. Which makes for a very happy birthday for anyone.


Last Year: Crisp and Hearty Homemade Granola Bars

Gingerbread Cake with Poached Pears and Mascarpone Cream

Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Epicurious

1 cup Guinness extra stout or dark beer

1 cup mild-colored (light) molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Bring stout and molasses to boil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up, so be prepared to move pan to the sink if the foam threatens to escape over the sides of the pan). Let stand 1 hour to cool completely.

Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. In a separate medium bowl, whisk eggs and both sugars to blend. Whisk in oil, then stout mixture. Gradually whisk stout-egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in fresh ginger.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into centers of cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks; cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake separately in plastic and keep at room temperature.)

Poached Pears

4 cups water

¼ cup sugar

juice from 1 lemon

3 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, sliced in half, core and stems removed

Bring water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are very tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup. You can poach the pears up to a day ahead if you like, then store the pears, still in their poaching liquid, covered in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to use the pears, drain them thoroughly in a colander or strainer, discarding the liquid. Slice the pears lengthwise into thin strips that can be fanned out in a circle on top of the cake layers.

Mascarpone Cream

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine mascarpone, cream cheese, and butter. Beat on high speed until light and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add in powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla and salt and beat on high speed for about 3 minutes, until everything is smooth, creamy, and fully combined.

To assemble cake, Place one cake layer on a large platter. Spread on 1/3 of the mascarpone cream, leaving clear about a ½-inch edge. Cover the cream with a concentric circle of pear slices. Place another layer of cake on top, cover with half of remaining cream, then cover with another circle of pear slices. Repeat for final cake layer.

Because the mascarpone cream and poached pears do not provide the most stable structure, it is a good idea to stabilize the cake with a few wooden dowels (or trimmed wooden chopsticks, or trimmed wooden skewers). Simply clip 3 dowels or skewers to the proper height, then place them in a circle in roughly the middle 2/3 of the cake. This will keep your cake layers from sliding off of one another. When you are cutting and serving the cake, simply remove each skewer as you get to it.

Gingerbread Apple Pancakes

23 Dec


In a somewhat circuitous turn of events, I seem to have created pancakes out of a cake. It started off innocently enough, with an apple sitting on the counter and the arrival of cold weather igniting a fierce craving for gingerbread. A gingerbread apple cake sounded lovely, and I started off with every intention to make just that.




The problem was, it took me a few minutes of prep time to realize that while I was standing around in the kitchen preparing to make gingerbread, it was barely 9 o’clock in the morning. Even I have limits when it comes to gauging the appropriate time to make and eat cake, so there had to be some quick thinking involved if I was going to salvage the potential gingerbread project. Though I admit that there is but a fine line that separates a full-fledged cake from a plate of tiny little pan-cooked cakes, it still seemed like making pancakes at 9AM was a more acceptable practice than churning out a cake as such an hour.




It’s interesting to see what turns a project can take, and these pancakes are no exception. With the pleasant bite of molasses paired with cinnamon and ginger, these are definitely a treat of a breakfast, perfect for a special morning or a holiday brunch with family. But these are also a somewhat virtuous breakfast offering, boasting the heartiness of whole wheat flour combined with the rather demure additions of applesauce and shredded fresh apple. If you are one to drench your pancakes in maple syrup, these can no doubt make for a breakfast of supreme indulgence. If you are like me, however, and can no longer tolerate the joys of unadulterated maple syrup consumption, a dollop of plain or lemon yogurt will make these pancakes shine in a slightly more responsible manner. Either way, they are a joy to eat, and a wonderful treat on a cold winter morning.


Last Year: No-Knead Apple Bread

Gingerbread Apple Pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of allspice

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ cups milk

1/3 cup molasses

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small apple, peeled (if the skin is tough—my apple had a very thin skin, so I left it on) and grated, then squeezed in your hands a bit to remove any excess moisture (I ended up with about ½ heaping cup of shredded apple)

¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, the baking powder, spices, and salt. In a medium bowl, or in a very large measuring cup, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir or whisk to combine. Use a gentle hand when mixing, since over-mixing the batter will result in some very tough pancakes.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over low heat. Spoon batter onto hot griddle and cook until the pancakes appear a bit dry along the edges and bubbles begin to form and barely pop on the surface of the pancake (this can take anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes). Gently flip the pancakes over and cook for an additional 2 to 5 minutes (again, depending on the heat of your griddle), until the pancakes are brown and somewhat firm.

Keep cooked pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the remaining batter. Serve pancakes with maple syrup, applesauce, or yogurt. Serves 4 to 6 people.

Gingerbread Waffles

2 Feb

Last Christmas I was gifted a wonderfully dog-eared and loved copy of The Joy of Cooking from 1936.  The pages, delicate as pressed flowers, are filled with treasures from the previous owner—cooking notes written in delicate cursive script, tiny strips of newspaper recipes taped onto the margins, enormous fold-out newspaper articles on roasting a whole turkey or making the best sugar cookies, and, my favorite, specific care instructions for what were obviously very special cooking tools purchased by the cookbook’s owner (egg poacher, Household Institute sauce pans).

As an avid appreciator of old cookbooks, I am always eager to see what long-forgotten dishes I might be able to ogle and puzzle over while flipping through a collection of aging recipes.  You can imagine my delight upon receiving this cookbook, I am sure, but then imagine my shock at discovering how surprisingly tame its recipes happened to be.  There are no instructions on how to make roasted raccoon or squirrel stew, no vague recollections of having once made some biscuits that are then passed off as an actual recipe.  Sure, this book boasts some truly horrifying recipes for things like a dip made out of mayonnaise, chopped pecans, olives, and hard boiled eggs, but that’s not so much culturally interesting as it is just plain revolting.  For the most part, the recipes in this edition (the fourth edition of the legendary tome) are actually quite charming, and often times even tantalizing.  When idling flipping through the book after I had first opened it, the pages, as if by magic, opened straight away to the breakfast section and, front and center, there before me sat a recipe for gingerbread waffles that seemed to be calling out my name.  Sensing danger, I quickly closed the book, abruptly silencing the siren song of the waffles.

Why so hasty to retreat from the waffles?  Because, not so long ago, I stopped eating maple syrup (or, as spelled in the 1936 edition of The Joy of Cooking, sirup).  This act was not so much a calculated decision, but more of a realization that whenever I ate something that was drenched in syrup, there soon followed a nearly immediate need to lie down and take a nap.  While I can confess to liking naps as much as the next person, it is not always convenient to fall into a near coma shortly after the start of the day.  In an effort to keep myself from doing a Rip Van Winkle impersonation after every weekend breakfast, in lieu of maple syrup I began to top my waffles, french toast, or pancakes with yogurt, sometimes lemon yogurt if I am feeling frisky.  Though this trick of mine works exceptionally well with standard, buttery waffles, would the magic be lost on a waffle with a completely different flavor?  As luck would have it, no.  These gingerbread waffles, so warm and spicy, pair up wonderfully with lemon yogurt, so much so that it almost seems as though they were made to go together.  Syrup danger averted!

Even if I was still able to handle a nice long pour of maple syrup, I doubt I’d get the bottle near these waffles.  The dark spices might play well with the syrup, but when paired with a scoop of cool lemon yogurt, everything really seems to come together in a more interesting and contrasting way.  Also, because I am now apparently one of those people, I drastically reduced the sugar in these waffles, but you’d never be able to tell with their comforting scent of molasses and brown sugar.  These waffles are a treat of the best sort, the type to start your day off right, sans fear of extended napping (unless, of course, your plans for the day already include a generous nap allowance, in which case I salute you and also, can I come over?).

Gingerbread Waffles

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1936

As a former copyeditor, it behooves me to point out that I refer to this book as “The Joy of Cooking” here, but it other posts reference it as simply “Joy of Cooking.”  This is because, in later editions, the book drops the “The” from the title, and I would be betraying the persnickety editor in me if I chose to add “The” to the title on my own accord.  Is anyone actually reading this explanation?  Because I am slightly embarrassed (okay, not really, which is, itself, slightly embarrassing) to be writing it, though that has apparently not stopped me from actually forging on with it.

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground powdered ginger

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/3 cup molasses

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk

1/3 cup (roughly 5 ½ tablespoons) melted butter

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, molasses, milk, and melted butter, and beat until well combined.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir just to combine.  Add the egg whites to this mixture, gently folding until the whites are incorporated and the batter is light and airy.

Pour batter onto a greased, heated waffle iron and cook according to waffle iron’s instructions.  Makes 6-8 waffles, depending on how large your waffle iron is, and how much batter each waffle will necessitate.

Top with lemon yogurt.

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