I don’t believe I’ve ever had gingerbread before. Gingerbread cookies, sure, but actual gingerbread? This would be the first. Shocked? I’m not. This is precisely why I went into this whole food blogging business– the endless discoveries! Although I do admit, the fact that I haven’t ever eaten gingerbread has gotten me thinking about the kind of Christmas treats we had at home when I was a child. I don’t remember any significant ones so I guess we weren’t that big on the sweets department, or maybe I was too busy concerning myself with gifts to remember the food.
These days, I don’t get that many gifts under the tree anymore like I used to, but I think the worse struggle by far has been trying to get myself into the Christmas spirit. Back in the day, counting down to Christmas vacation has always been such a natural part of being a student. Everyone is always so excited about Christmas and the Secret Santas, and everyone is teasing each other about gifts. Now that I’m out of school and working, the days have begun to look a little more similar.
There are times when the dates feel like just another set of numbers coinciding with deadlines and to-do’s, regardless of the month. In the past couple of years, when things get busy, I forget all about how near Christmas is until someone or something reminds me. Is that really part of growing up?
It’s nice to discover that the Gingerbread is a great reminder of the Christmas season just by the way it smells. The warmth of the spices has a way of tapping into the festive side of a person. Sentiments aside, for my first Gingerbread, I enjoyed this a lot taste-wise. I like the combination of the spices with the chocolate topping. I tried it with ice cream and it was absolutely delightful; the hot spices mingling with the coldness of the ice cream.
Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread
Makes one 9-inch pan, serving 9 to 12
For the cake
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons, 5 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup molasses, not blackstrap
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate—2 ounces melted and cooled, 4 ounces finely chopped
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger in syrup, available in Asian markets, optional
For the icing
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon strong coffee
- 3 tablespoons 1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
To make the cake
- 1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and put it on a lined baking sheet.
- 2. Put the fresh ginger and sugar in a small bowl, stir and set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda and spices together.
- 3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together at medium speed until they are light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled at this stage. Pour in the molasses and beat until smooth.
- 4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate along with the sugared ginger. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions and the buttermilk in two (begin and end with the dry ingredients), mixing the batter only as much as needed to blend the ingredients.
- 5. Fold in the chopped chocolate and the ginger in syrup, if using. Pour the batter into the pan (remember, if your pan is small, do not fill it to the top).
- 6. Bake about 40 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Don't be concerned if the cake has domed and cracked— it will settle down as it cools. Transfer the cake to a rack, cool for 10 minutes, then unmold the cake.* Turn right side up and cool to room temperature before icing. (The edges of the cake might be quite brown, but don't fret—you can trim them after you ice the cake.)
To make the icing
- 7. Fit a bowl over a pan of simmering water, put the chocolate and coffee in the bowl and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl and, using a small whisk, stir in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the chocolate and stir it in.** Transfer the bowl to a counter and let the icing sit for about 10 minutes.
- 8. Put the gingerbread, still on the rack, on a piece of wax paper or foil (the drip-catcher). Pour the icing onto the center of the cake and use a long metal spatula to spread the icing evenly over the top.
- 9. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes (you can hurry it along by chilling the cake briefly). If the edges of the cake are overbaked, now's the time to trim them. Then cut the cake into even pieces. Serve the gingerbread as is or with whipped cream or crème fraîche.
- Storage: Gingerbread is a good keeper. You can wrap it and keep it at room temperature for about 3 days or freeze it, iced and all, for up to 2 months.
** I was too lazy to sift my confectioner's sugar, thus the grainy appearance of my chocolate icing. Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan