Posts Tagged ‘cake’

There are few things I love more than gingerbread. Since I’m not much of a “dessert person,” the savory part of me loves the rebellious combination of spicy ginger and black pepper with sugar and molasses. For me, this is dessert, perfected, and I was thrilled to see it come up as this week’s TWD baking assignment.


There are about a million different ways to make gingerbread, each with varying degrees and combination of spice. This recipe was very straight-forward, focusing on the simple ginger flavor, using ground and fresh ginger and a bit of black pepper to boost the heat. Then there were two unexpected additions: instant espresso and cocoa powder. I was surprised to be including these ingredients, but each provided a pleasant bitterness and grounded what could have been a too-sweet recipe. (check out the full recipe here)

I love how easy this batter comes together — a quick mix of wet and dry ingredients and you are on your way to the oven. Don’t worry if your batter is lumpy — that’s normal and lends to an airy cake in the end.  I decided to make mine into one 9-inch cake but if I were serving it at a party, I would do mini cakes for sure so that every got an equal amount of crispy-cake-edge and moist-sticky-cake-inside.  Either way, this is such a simple cake and should definitely be your dessert staple this holiday season. It’s full of winter spices, makes your house smell amazing and tastes perfect paired with a mug of hot apple cider (with or without a splash of bourbon).

gingerbread - batter

In the end this cake had a lovely sharp bite — the combination of the spicy and bitter ingredients made for a very “grown-up” gingerbread. Perhaps a challenge for someone expecting a very sweet and only slightly gingery cake, but I loved it. Next time I would add a bit of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cardamom to give a bit more depth to the spicy flavor….but mostly because I look for any excuse to add cinnamon and cardamom to desserts.

While the cake is delicious on it’s own, it begs for a bit of something creamy on top to cut through the spice. My favorite choice: some Greek yogurt flavored with a bit of honey and lemon zest. Gingerbread AND Greek yogurt — now I’ve got two of my favorite things on one plate. Life is good 🙂

Happy Holidays!




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It seemed so simple starting out. I read through the recipe for French Strawberry Cake in Baking with Julia — this week’s assignment from TWD — and it was very straightforward. Bake a basic genoise cake, fill with berries and cream, frost with more cream and top with gorgeous whole strawberries. A grown up strawberry shortcake. I was all in. I reviewed the genoise cake recipe and got started — a simple cake leavened with eggs — how hard could it be? This is probably a good time to admit that even though I spend my days developing recipes and cooking for people  I am very much a hit-or-miss baker. And when it comes to cakes, it’s usually a miss. Maybe it’s the precision required in measuring the perfect cup of flour or maybe it’s the patience required in waiting for cakes to cool, but I’ve made very few successful cakes in my 18+ years of professional cooking. In fact I can count them on one hand. Despite these past failures, I went into this recipe full of optimism. Frankly, it just didn’t seem that hard.

So I sifted the flour, separated the eggs and whipped the mixture for the full 5 minutes until I had pretty lemon-yellow ribbons of batter. I folded in the butter, poured the mixture into a round cake pan and sent it off to the oven to bake. A mere 22 minutes later I had what seemed like a successful cake — the tester came out clean so I let it cool, wrapped it up and refrigerated it overnight.

But, to be honest, I knew something was amiss. Before refrigerating it, I noticed that the cake was awfully thin still — it had barely risen and was only an inch tall at best. The top of the cake was also very sticky. In my optimistic ignorance, I thought it would be fine after it cooled. Not so much. I decided to turn the cake into two rectangles to create some extra layers — I thought it would be fun to make a small rectangle cake instead of the expected round shape. To do this, I cut the round edges into straight lines, cut the cake into two even rectangles and that’s when I noticed something was very wrong.

The cake was rubbery and had a thin, gummy layer in the middle. In fact, everything about the texture was wrong: the top was spongy and super sticky, the middle was gummy and the bottom might as well have been the bottom of a shoe. One taste dashed any hopes I had of saving this cake — it was utterly inedible. The worst part? I have no idea why! Clearly I did something wrong with the eggs since they were solely responsible for making this cake rise. Did I whip the too long or not long enough? And why did the cake separate like that?  I’m hoping the other more seasoned bakers of TWD can explain the error of my ways. Part of me wants to give it another go and get it right. Part of me is thinking “What’s so great about cakes anyway?” Either way, I need some answers to have closure. Help!

In the meantime I ate the pain of my failure with a bowl of whipped cream and strawberries — nearly enough to make me feel better. But seeing as I’m two days late with this post, I was clearly still working through some feelings of shame. Whipped cream and berries only have so much power after all. If you’d like to try making this cake yourself, go to this week’s hosts for the full recipe — Sophia’s Sweets and Think, Love, Sleep, Dine — if you do better than I did (and I can’t imagine anyone doing worse), tell us about your success — I need pictures of what I should aspire to 🙂

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