Gingerbread Cake

While peppermint gets all the glory as the flavor of the holiday season there is another flavor that is just as popular… Gingerbread. And while you may only think of houses and cookies when it comes to gingerbread, it’s also a great flavor for a holiday themed cake.

So, what exactly is gingerbread flavor? Well, it’s a combination of spices – ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon – and usually sweetened with molasses. I honestly think it’s the molasses that gives gingerbread it’s distinct flavor more so than the spices.

To make things a little easy I used a spice cake mix as the base for my cake and then added in some additional spices, molasses and other ingredients to doctor it up. I got the recipe from fellow blogger Baking with Blondie. She made cupcakes with her recipe whereas I opted to use the recipe to make 2 6-inch cake layers. Once they were cooled, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight before frosting. Frosting cold cakes is a lot easier than frosting cooled, but still room temperature ones.

I left the cakes in the refrigerator overnight and before removing them I made a Spiced Almond Cream Cheese Frosting. This frosting is so good I could eat spoonful’s as dessert!

Once the frosting was ready I torte the cakes and filled and frosted them with the frosting.

And finally, I decorated the cake with gingerbread men (you could bake them or, do as I did and use store-bought ones), fresh rosemary and sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread Cake with Spiced Almond Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup sour cream

2/3 cup buttermilk*

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 box spiced cake mix

For the Frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 8oz. block cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Gingerbread Men, Fresh Rosemary Sprigs, Sugared Cranberries for decoration

*I made my own by combining 2/3 cup whole milk with 3 teaspoons of white vinegar. Stir together and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. It will begin to curdle when ready.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray two 6-inch pans with baking spray and set aside.

To make the cake: In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the cake, except the spiced cake mix, and stir together until well combined. Sift the cake mix into the mixture and stir all the ingredients together until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing them and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: Using a hand mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, nutmeg and heavy cream. Continue mixing and gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly combined.

Torte the cooled cakes and then frost about a cup of the frosting on one of the cakes. Stack the other cake on top and crumb coat the cake. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes and then use the remaining frosting to finish frosting the cake. Decorate with gingerbread men, sugared cranberries and fresh rosemary.

Recipe from Baking with Blondie

Sugared Cranberries

Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar

12oz. bag fresh cranberries

Directions:

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cranberries until well coated. You will want to work fast as the cranberries may begin to burst.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cranberries to a parchment lined wire rack to dry for at least an hour.

Pour the remaining sugar into a bowl. Once the cranberries are dry work in batches to coat the cranberries in the sugar. Transfer to a clean piece of parchment paper and let the cranberries dry for at least an hour.

Rosemary and Pine Nut Cookies

December has rolled in, and you know what means… The Holidays are in full force! Everywhere you look there is red and green, Christmas trees, Snowmen, Poinsettias and Dessert! Specifically cookies. There is something about this time of year that makes all of kinds of cookies come out of the woodwork. Okay, maybe that’s not a great way of saying it, but, you catch my drift. Desserts go into overdrive this time of the year. Not that I am complaining though. I do my part and join in on the fun and add to that dessert pile. So, be on the lookout for some new cookie recipes hitting my blog over the next few weeks. The recipes are ones that I have had for quite some time – did I ever mention that I am bit of a recipe hoarder, thankfully they are all nicely organized – but I have never tried making. Well, as they say there’s no time like the present. No pun intended.

Now, you know how they say “Don’t knock it till you try it,” well, I definitely think these cookies could fall into that category. They are a buttery and crisp Rosemary and Pine Nut Cookie. Yes, you read that correctly… Rosemary in a sweet and buttery cookie. Rosemary is not just a wonderful and flavorful herb to add your meats, it can be used in baking and with the right amount it’s not overpowering but instead a welcomed addition. I may have to look for a few more baking recipes that incorporate it. Especially since I have a lovely rosemary plant growing in my kitchen. I originally planted it outside over the summer and since it was growing so well I decided to repot it and bring it indoors.

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For these cookies the key to using the Rosemary is making sure that you chop it first and then combine it with sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it until the rosemary is finely chopped. You definitely don’t want to take a bite of any cookie and get a nice whole piece of rosemary in it. That would definitely be overpowering.

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Once that is done you beat it with butter until it’s fluffy and then add in vanilla extract and eggs. Next add in toasted pine nuts that have been finely chopped in a food processor and finally a mixture of flour, baking soda and salt. Once the dough comes together dump it on a sheet of plastic wrap…

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And form it into a log and wrap it up. I then placed it in the refrigerator for two hours so it could firm up. Once it was slightly firm I removed it from the refrigerator to shape it a little better and then placed in back in the refrigerator.

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After the two hours I sliced the dough into discs about 1/4 inch thick. Unfortunately I didn’t really form my log correctly so my cookies were not perfectly round. I pressed a few toasted pine nuts onto the cookies and baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for 10 minutes.

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I let them cool on the pan for 10 minutes and then transferred them to a wire rack so they could cool completely.

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And I must say these are one of the best cookies I’ve ever had! The butter, pine nuts and rosemary work so well together. And they tasted even better the second day. The flavors only get stronger but in a good way!

 

 

Rosemary and Pine Nut Cookies

  • Servings: 30 cookies
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted*

 

*To toast the pine nuts spread them on a baking sheet and bake them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 5-7 minutes.

 

Directions:

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt until well blended, set aside.

In a food processor pulse the sugar and rosemary until well combined and the rosemary is finally chopped. Transfer to a stand mixer. Put all but 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts in the food processor and process until finely chopped.

Add the butter to the rosemary mixture and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add in the egg and vanilla extract, beat until combined. Add the chopped pine nuts and then the flour mixture and mix until the dough absorbs the flour and become to come together. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form it into a log about 2 inches thick and 11 inches long. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 to 2 hours. If the dough is too soft to form a log, refrigerate for about 30 minutes, remove from the refrigerator form it and then place it back in the refrigerator.

Once firm cut the dough into discs between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle the cookies with the whole pine nuts, lightly pressing them into the dough. Bake in a 350 F preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Fine Cooking

Tomato-Fontina Torte with Rosemary Crust

There is nothing like home-grown fruits and vegetables! When I was younger we used to always grow cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, string beans, strawberries (the only fruit with its seeds on the outside) and my favorite, tomatoes. I remember picking the tomatoes, rinsing them and biting into them like they were an apple. Unfortunately store bought tomatoes don’t invoke that same zeal in me. I strictly use those for sandwiches and salads. But, there is one store-bought tomato that does come close to that memory of my childhood… Heirloom Tomatoes. You may or may not have seen them at your local supermarket. They are usually not the perfect round tomatoes that many of us have come accustomed to seeing and they come in an array of colors – red, orange, yellow, green and purple. Recently I came across a torte recipe – Tomato-Fontina Torte with Rosemary Crust – incorporating these tomatoes and I knew I had to try it. It took visiting a few different supermarkets, but, I finally found decent heirloom tomatoes to use.

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I started the torte by making the crust… I combined flour, sugar, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper in the bowl of my food processor.

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After I pulsed it until it was just combined I added in 12 tablespoons of cold butter cut into small pieces and pulsed the mixture until it looked like coarse meal.

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I then added in eggs while the food processor was running so the dough could come together.

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After kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface I pressed it into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. I then covered it and refrigerated it overnight.

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The following day, while the crust was still in the refrigerator, I prepped the heirloom tomatoes by slicing them, spreading them on baking sheets and sprinkling them with kosher salt so they could release some of their juices.

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I also got my other ingredients together… shredded fontina and parmesan cheeses and capocollo.

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I combined the 3 cups of shredded fontina with 7 tablespoons (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon) of shredded parmesan along with a teaspoon of fresh chopped rosemary.

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As you can see my tomatoes did a great job of releasing their juices. I should note that I did let them sit for about an hour as opposed to the recipe recommended 30 minutes.

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After patting them dry it was time to start assembling the torte. I finally took the very cold crust of out the refrigerator and sprinkled it with a tablespoon of panko breadcrumbs.

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Next I topped the breadcrumbs with about 1/3 of the tomatoes and then topped the tomatoes with the capocollo.

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On top of the capocollo I scattered half of the cheese mixture.

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I repeated the layering once again.

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And finally I used up the rest of my tomatoes for the very top layer and then sprinkled it with a tablespoon of shredded parmesan cheese.

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I placed the torte on a baking sheet and baked it in a 375 F preheated oven for 40 minutes. I wanted to be sure that the crust was completely cooked through so I dropped the temperature of the oven to 350 F and baked the torte for another 7 minutes. While the recipe did call for 35 minutes in a 400 F preheated oven I didn’t want to run the risk of over-cooking the torte at such a high temperature. And I am happy to say that my temperature and time adjustment was just perfect…

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I let the torte cool for about an hour before removing the ring from the springform pan.

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This was absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to make it again! There’s isn’t one flavor that overpowers the torte… In every bite you get a hint of the rosemary, the tomatoes, capocollo and best of all the cheese.

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Tomato-Fontina Torte with Rosemary Crust

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

2 1/2 to 3 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes

3 cups shredded fontina cheese (about 12 ounces)

1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese or parmesan cheese (1 ounce)

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/3 pound thinly sliced capicola (capocollo) ham, cut into strips

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

1. Combine the flour, sugar, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a food processor and pulse until just combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.

2. Whisk the eggs and egg yolk in a small bowl. With the motor running, add the eggs to the food processor and process until the dough just gathers into a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until soft and pliable. Press the dough into the bottom and about halfway up the side of a 9-inch springform pan. Cover and refrigerate the crust until very cold, at least 1 hour or overnight.

3. Slice the tomatoes and spread them out on 2 baking sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside until they release some of their juices, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the fontina and all but 1 tablespoon of the pecorino (parmesan) in a bowl; add the remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pat the tomatoes gently with paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon panko in the crust, then top with one-third of the tomatoes. Scatter half of the ham over the tomatoes, then half of the cheese mixture. Repeat with the remaining 3 tablespoons panko, another one-third of the tomatoes and the remaining ham and cheese. Top with a final layer of tomatoes and sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoons pecorino (parmesan); drizzle with olive oil.

5. Transfer the pan to a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool about 1 hour, then remove the springform ring.