I plan our tree decorating day. It's a busy day so an assembly only appetizer is perfect after a day of Christmas shopping. I put together platters of assorted cheeses, fruit, nuts, crackers, breads and chutney. A festive punch or easy cocktails and we are all set to get our holiday cheer on. Next Saturday is the day!
I have my baking list. It comes together over an evening of browsing through my collection of recipes. I love this part of the planning process. I flip through Canadian Living Magazine's holiday issues (I have every issue going back to 1996!) This year included a very uncomfortable ten minutes when I could not find the 2010 issue...but thankfully I found it stuck inside another issue. I poke through a large box of recipes clipped over the years from various newspapers and magazines. I flip through Christmas cookbooks. There is usually Christmas music on and a glass of wine (or two!) involved in this. By the end of all this browsing, I have 20 or 30 recipes set aside. Now the hard part...decisions, decisions! This is when I drag my husband into it. I ask him what he thinks of each selection (and sometimes even listen to what he says!) eventually I weed the pile down to a more reasonable 10 or 12 choices. Although there are old stand bys on the list, I like to change it up every year and add some new treats. Next, I write a shopping list for all the ingredients I will need. Every year I spend one very long day in the kitchen mixing, stirring and baking all these goodies to be parceled up in festive tins, arranged on fancy trays or packed carefully in shipping boxes to be shared with those nearest and dearest to me and mine. Next Sunday is the day!
I have just one menu left to plan and then I am officially ready. Not bad for December 6th, if I do say so myself. Today, like most Sundays, I spent time reading as well as cooking. I love ginger anything, but especially ginger cake. Although my home doesn't look ready for Christmas yet, it did smell like Christmas today. This cake came together quickly, with just a bit of elbow grease. No mixer needed so an easy clean up too. My favourite kind of baking! This cake is moist, but the edges are crispy-chewy and the crystallized ginger takes it up a notch with an extra kick of flavour. You need to add this recipe to your Christmas baking repertoire. It's a welcome change from gingerbread men and truly...it's just too good not to!
Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Cream
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup boiling water
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square metal baking pan and set aside.
Whisk flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt in medium bowl to blend well. Next whisk in crystallized ginger and set aside. Next, whisk the vegetable oil, molasses, and brown sugar in large bowl until blended. Next, whisk in the egg and lemon zest. In three additions, whisk in the dry ingredients, then the boiling water until well combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake about 30 minutes, or until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto decorative plate. (The cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely; cover and store at room temperature.)
While the cake cools, prepare cream topping. Whisk the mascarpone, honey and lemon juice in bowl until smooth and set aside until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, cut cake into squares and dollop each piece with cream topping.
Makes 9 squares (or 6 if you are feeling greedy!)