Embrace The Temptation

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Embrace The Temptation

The adorable photograph above so perfectly captures the dilemma of holiday eating, doesn’t it? Those two little girls actually grew up to be professional bakers and are now the proprietors of Pert Girl Baking Co. in New York City where they create mouth-watering rugelach available for order online, thereby affirming the possibility of making peace with temptation on a daily basis.

The Christmas season is fraught with culinary temptations unseen throughout the rest of the year and, for all but the ectomorphs amongst us, it must be negotiated carefully in order to avoid an unsettling January resemblance to Winnie the Pooh. But it’s difficult. I can pass up a chocolate Easter bunny without the slightest twinge. I don’t hanker for Halloween candy. Even the Thanksgiving feast, although famously scrumptious, is, for me, not such an extravaganza of caloric intake. But, Christmas. Gee. That’s a tough one. I do try to keep everything on an even keel during every other month, just in case I’m undone by fudge in December. Or coconut cake. Or Santa shaped sugar cookies. Or shortbread. Lord, the Shortbread!

You see, I do love to bake, and Christmas is, for the baker, the penultimate holiday. The fireworks of July, the dances of May, the parades of St. Patrick - all rolled into a sugar dusting, chocolate tempering, sifting, stirring, whisking, nutcracker of a time. It is well-known here that when the festive season rolls around, I am to be found in the kitchen, with flour on my forehead and a grin on my face. And it seems my list of those who clamour each season for my fudge or my gingersnaps grows ever longer with each passing year. The more the merrier, I say, for it’s true, I do love to bake.

The first of several holiday parties was held here at The House of Edward last week and I was ready with Cappuccino Cheesecake, Chocolate Fudge, Mulled Wine, and a brand- new cake, just for this season. Tell they you never to try out a new recipe for a party. But, who ever listens to “them”? For instance, I have a castle cake pan that I adore. It’s been a fairy castle, a haunted castle and was even once, for a summer baby shower, a sand castle complete with chocolate shells scattered along the turbinado sugar that masqueraded quite perfectly as beach sand. But for a Christmas party, what could be better than a gingerbread castle? You have to be a little careful with the recipes you choose for this pan as cakes that are too light tend to stick, and of course, a stuck cake....?? Quelle Disaster! A denser cake works best and I was lucky enough to discover this recipe which proved not only delicious but which made the entire house positively redolent of gingerbread. Happily it worked perfectly, turning out of the pan with a satisfying “plop” and every turret intact.
Sprinkled with powdered sugar “snow”, decorated with spice gum drops and served with a warm lemon butter sauce, it was the perfect Christmas cake. I’m sharing the recipe for the cake and the lemon sauce, and you can find a castle cake pan all your own HERE.

Embrace the temptation!
And Have Fun Baking!

Gingerbread Pound Cake

1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup sour cream
Powdered sugar

Lemon Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 fresh lemon juice

1. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer, beating well on medium speed.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each.
3. Combine flour, soda, and spices. Set aside.
4. Combine molasses and sour cream. Lightly whisk together.
5. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with molasses mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
6. Mix until just blended after each addition.
7. Pour batter into a greased and floured pan. (Note: if you are using the castle pan, I find it sometimes difficult to get every nook and cranny greased well enough to prevent sticking. There is a product called Baker's Joy that works wonderfully for this. I highly recommend it)
8. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the cake's center comes out clean.
9. Cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes, then remove and let cool on a wire rack.
10. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar "snow".
11. Serve alongside a small pitcher of Lemon Sauce.

For the Lemon Sauce:
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan and stir with a whisk until smooth.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till smooth and thickened.
Add remaining ingredients, cook till heated.
Serve warm alongside cake.

Finished cake, taken just before it was sprinkled with snow!