The mornings are crisp and the air has a glint of white about it that gives the whole world a frosty veneer. It is, as the song tells us, the most wonderful time of the year. Salutations are peppy and festive, food plentiful, and fellowship constant. It is Christmastime.
It is hard to believe that this is one of the last recipes I will be sharing in 2017. It has been the best year of blogging yet and I am humbled and deeply thankful by the support and love you have shown by visiting this site each and every week. I am of the opinion that all work is personal, or at least it should be, but I feel that bloggers, or creators in general, feel that especially intensely. It is both a joy and a challenge. When your work is well-loved you feel the warmth of pride and accomplishment deep within your soul. When it is not, well, the disappointment of rejection is equally as fierce. I have known both, but I am so very thankful for you - my readers - who have been nothing but kind and lovely. Never once have I read an unkind comment and I know that that is all too rare for those of us who open up our lives to the internet. So thank you. Thank you so very much. I love you all.
This cake may not be the last recipe of 2017, but it is the last Christmas recipe. I have to admit, I am a bit sad at how fast these weeks have disappeared. I still had several ideas that I never got around to testing, so they will just be tucked into the notebook to be revised and photographed next year.
I love sheet cakes. Last week, I gave you this eggnog poke cake which is so creamy and delicious, but this week I wanted to share something a bit more traditional in flavor. Something that I would eat whilst reading my annual favorite - A Christmas Carol. It is the kind of cake best enjoyed with a mug of tea. Maybe a spicy, Christmas tea. That would be a very good choice.
I saw these candied lemons at Trader Joe’s a couple of weeks ago and I knew I wanted to make something extra special with them. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, their flavor is pretty spectacular. Not the kind of thing you would sit down and eat by the handful of course, but a very fine addition to a cake.
Gingerbread has been a longtime favorite of mine. My mother has had a Christmas ornament with the recipe for gingerbread on her tree for as long as I can remember and it was one of the first things I learned to bake on my own.
Because gingerbread has a very robust flavor profile, it is the perfect carrier for the bitter, candied lemons. The bits of citrus add a fresh and unexpected bite to this otherwise traditional cake.
This is the moment where we put on the tea kettle and plug in the Christmas lights.
GINGERBREAD CAKE WITH CANDIED LEMONS
cake recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
for the gingerbread cake
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided use
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup crystalized ginger, finely diced
1/2 cup candied lemon, finely diced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick spray.
Place water in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add baking soda - it will foam up. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to sit and cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in butter, adding several cubes at a time, until fully melted. Whisk in brown sugar and molasses, then check the temperature of the mixture. It should be just warm, but if it is still hot, allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes before whisking in the eggs.
Sift 2 1/4 cups flour, spices, salt, and baking powder over the pot and whisk to combine. Toss the crystalized ginger and candied lemon in the remaining 1/4 cup flour and fold into the batter.
Cook’s Note: Tossing the preserved fruit in a bit of flour prevents it from all falling to the bottom of the cake when baked.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the edges have pulled away from the sides and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.
for the frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
candied lemon slices
Cook’s Note: Refrigeration will dry out the cake but cream cheese frosting should not be left at room temperature past a few hours, so frost the cake just before you plan on serving it.
Combine butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes; until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest. Slowly mix in heavy cream to loosen the mixture.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until the frosting is smooth.
Use a spatula to spread the frosting over the cake and decorate with candied lemon slices. Enjoy!