Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gingerbread Cake with Chocolate Maple Whiskey Ganache

This time of year there are so many delicious pastries and sweets to enjoy- nut rolls, sugar cookies, peppermint bark, chocolate santas, but my favorite Christmas treat just may be gingerbread. While I like the cookies (and who doesn't like a crisp little gingerbread man?), I love the cake. 

Spiced treats have always been high on my list of sweets- cinnamon chocolate bars, extra spicy hot chai, ginger snaps, mulled cider, spiced eggnog, those winter beers with the ginger and cinnamon in them, these are all things I love. There's something so warming and wintery about cardamom and ginger and nutmeg and cinnamon. 

A cake like this just makes me want to pop a bunch of popcorn and make those popcorn and cranberry garlands, turn on Donny' Hathway's This Christmas and decorate the christmas tree while wearing Christmas stockings. 

You see, in my family, since my (very silly) childhood days, it is a bit of a tradition that I put on two of our (purely decorational) Christmas stockings, and pin the tree skirt around my waist while we decorate the tree. 

This is no longer something that happens every year, as Christmas tree skirts have pretty small openings and I'm worried about the integrity of said Christmas stockings, but for many years I decorated the Christmas tree dressed like a mismatched elf. 

Basically, while this cake cooks your entire house will smell so much like Christmas you'll begin to suspect you're in Santa's workshop. The ginger and cardamom and cinnamon mingling with the molasses will be enough to send you into scent bliss, but then once you begin melting the chocolate, oh, then it's like a whole new level of nirvana.  

S, our roommate, and I were all home while this cake was baking, and we were all getting high of the delightful smell. It's hard to say who was the most impatient for it to be cool enough to pour on the ganache and take the last photos so we could all devour giant slices. 

The chocolate pairs wonderfully with the deep spiced molasses flavor of the gingerbread. The ganache is dark and rich, and the whiskey adds a sharp, earthy note, a lovely contrast to the sweet maple. 

This is a sizeable cake. When I poured it into the spring form pan I initially though it was not enough batter because it was still about three inches from the top of the pan, but while baking it really rises a lot, by the time I took it out it was doming ever so slightly above the top of the pan. It barely sinks at all while it cools, and it has a lovely moist consistency and a nice crumb. 

If you'd prefer to glaze the whole cake at once instead of slice by slice, you can chill the ganache in the fridge until it's thick enough that it won't make a mess, but still thin enough to pour- about 45 minutes to an hour, and then place the cake on a large plate and slowly pour the ganache over the top then chill the cake to help the ganache set in place. Alternatively, you can do what I did and glaze each piece separately with room temperature ganache. Either way is delicious! 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

      Gingerbread Cake
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks 
1 1/4 cups Unsulphured dark molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3  teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Chocolate Maple Whiskey Ganache
8 oz semi sweet chocolate
1/2 C heavy cream
1 OZ honey whiskey
1.5 oz maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350F, line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. Cut the butter into chunks and place in a medium saucepan, melt over medium low heat, add the molasses and the sugars. Reduce heat to low and mix, until all the sugar has all dissolved into the butter and molasses. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and baking soda, mix well with a fork or whisk. Set aside. 

Whisk the vanilla and milk into the molasses mixture in the saucepan, then whisk in the beaten eggs. Pour the saucepan of liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients while mixing, then stir until batter is mostly smooth. Batter will be thick.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the middle omes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a rack. Allow to cool five minutes, then gently run a butter knife around the edge of the cake before removing from the pan. 

While cake is baking, make the ganache. In a small saucepan or double boiler combine the chocolate and a 1/4C of the cream. Heat over medium low heat, stirring, until all chocolate has melted. Add the rest of the cream, the maple syrup, and the whiskey, and cook another 4-5 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat, pour into a jar and let it sit until the cake has cooled and the ganache has thickened. 

Serve slices of cake with thickened ganache poured over top, and enjoy! 
If storing, the ganache may thicken in the fridge. Gentle heating will re-liquify it. 

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