Gingerbread cake with molasses-lemon cream cheese frosting.

gingercake4Have you heard? Ginger is the new black carrot. Ginger is spicy, sassy, and the perfect vehicle for luscious cream cheese frosting. I believe that ginger, although seemingly usurped by other seasonal flavors (I’m looking at you, peppermint and eggnog!), deserves a spot amongst the best of the Christmas-time desserts.

So why should ginger, such a regal and bold spice, be confined to boy and girl cutouts?

If you’ve never had crystallized ginger, let this cake be the reason you finally try some out. The little spicy, tan-colored jewels were actually the inspiration for this cake. Chatting with a coworker about how we liked to pop them like candy, I suddenly envisioned a cream-cheese covered cake studded with nuts and surprising bits of spicy crystallized ginger. And I could not get the idea out of my head until the cake was sitting on the counter in my kitchen!

This cake is definitely a rip-off of carrot cake with a seasonal spin. But a rip-off never tasted so good!

gingercake1

Gingerbread Cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 cup milk

Molasses-lemon cream cheese frosting/garnish

  • 8 oz cream cheese (can come straight from refrigerator if butter is soft)
  • 5 T butter, room temperature
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 1 cup each of pecans and walnuts, measured and then processed/chopped smallish
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, measured and then chopped, plus extra whole for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray and flour an 8-inch springform pan (which I did), or a 9-inch cake pan.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and ground cloves. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each egg. Add molasses and lemon zest, combine.
  4. Add the milk and flour mixture alternatively, mixing after each addition, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake, checking at 45 minutes. Mine took over an hour, probably because of the tall 8-inch pan.
  6. Meanwhile, in a new bowl, cream together the butter, softened cream cheese, molasses, and extract. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.
  7. When cake is turned out of pan and completely cool, torte the cake (slice it in half horizontally.) Spread frosting in between the cake layers and sandwich back together; frost the entire cake. (If cream cheese frosting is difficult to work with, microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring after each 15 seconds, until consistency is spreadable and workable.)
  8. Combine the chopped pecans, walnuts, and ginger. Press into the side of the cake, and sprinkle onto the top center. Garnish with large chunks of ginger.

Enjoy, from my kitchen to yours! ❤

Strawberries N’ Cream Cake (dairy-free)

Glorious, glorious summer strawberries.

Has anyone ever had a farmstand strawberry? I am blessed to live in Sonoma County: known for vineyards and wineries, yes, but also home to a myriad of small farms that sell produce so fresh that your fruits and veggies usually still have dirt clinging to them. (washing before eating… not an option!) At a job I had before my current one, I would drive right by a strawberry field every day on my commute. When I finally pulled over and bought a basket of the little red berries for the first time, I could not believe how sweet and incredible they tasted.

I do still mostly buy strawberries from the grocery store out of convenience, but tasting a strawberry from a farm stand is a testament to eating produce that is in season. There’s a reason that farm stand fruit is so good: it’s only available when it is in season! In a typical grocery store, although the fruit/veggie may be adorned with a “USA” sticker, I still have no idea how far across the country it has been shipped. No guessing games are played when you visit a farm stand and you can actually see where their growing field is.

I saw the recipe for this strawberry cake pop up last week, and the author stressed the importance of using very good strawberries… I couldn’t believe how easily my blender turned the strawberries (store-bought, but so in season) into a puree without the addition of any additional liquid to help it along! Strawberries are sweet and soft and ripe right now… and I’m not sure how long they will be this good, so I plan on enjoying them liberally while I can!

Strawberries N’ Cream Cake
(ironically, as I made it, it was dairy-free… so I guess putting “cream” in the title is a stretch!)
halved and de-dairyed from this recipe found on “Healthy Delicious.”

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 T + 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick butter, softened (or 4 oz butter substitute- I used Earth Balance coconut spread)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or 1/4 cup soymilk with 1 tsp. vinegar)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup (fresh!) strawberry puree*
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of a round cake pan.
  2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter and strawberry puree, and beat with an electric mixture for about 2 minutes.
  3. Mix your egg whites and milk together in a separate bowl, and gradually incorporate into the large-bowl mixture.
  4. Pour your batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. (mine was done at 25, I would check at that point)
  5. Allow to cool in the pan for at least half an hour, then gently and carefully remove and allow to sit on a wire cooling rack until completely cool.

Seven-minute vanilla bean frosting

  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
  1. In a double boiler, combine all ingredients except for the vanilla extract and bean seeds, and whisk together for a good 30 seconds. Place bowl on top of simmering water, and beat on high with electric beaters for about seven minutes, or until soft peaks form. Remove from boiling water, add vanilla extract and bean seeds and continue to beat for an additional two minutes.

Because fruit in the middle of a cake always makes it a hundred times better, I chose to torte my cake and fill it with chopped strawberries and frosting.

The cake itself was very moist, and the frosting is extremely sweet. Honestly, because the cake was so moist, I wished that I had paired it with a firmer frosting. My seven-minute frosting was a merangue-like consistency and felt slightly too wet an already moist cake. However, I still enjoyed it, and I’m assuming that most everyone else did too- it was 4/5 gone by the end of the night!

Enjoy!

*strawberry puree can be made by throwing strawberries in your blender, turning it on, and watching them turn into liquid! Mmm. If you have good strawberries, you shouldn’t need to add anything!