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30 Days of Christmas: Gingerbread


Let's take a moment to talk about snacking cakes, the unfussy, girl next door version of the cake world. These are cakes that last at least a few days so you have them around when sudden appetite for cake shows up (like when you have to wait 24 hours for cinnamon rolls but want something sweet NOW). By definition, you are looking for a cake that's easy to put together. Which means that anything that requires softened butter or whipped egg whites is out. Frosting is out too - instead, you are looking for something that can be simply dusted with icing sugar (or not) and has enough flavour on its own.

My favourite snacking cake to have around at this time of the year is something akin to a gingerbread. Instead of the hardy gingerbread houses or gingermen cookies, you are looking for a soft cake that's sweet and spicy and super quick to bake. I picked the recipe from smitten kitchen, and made a few adjustments like omitting the fresh ginger. I also replaced molasses with date syrup because molasses is so hard to get here but also because date syrup gives the right color and adds another depth to the flavour.

To start off, leave the oven to preheat at 180C and line a 8 inch square pan with foil (See Note at the end). This cake rises quite a bit so pick a deep pan if you can find one. In any case, don't fill more than half the pan depth with batter, leaving enough room for it to rise.

In a saucepan large enough to hold the entire batter, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add 3/4 tsp of baking soda. The water will foam up and bubble and it will be good fun for a while. After 5 minutes, add 50 grams butter and stir until the butter melts completely. Whisk in 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup date syrup. The mixture will still be warm to touch so put it aside while you get the other ingredients ready.

Beat one egg lightly in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix the following dry ingredients:
(a) 1 1/4 cup of plain flour
(b) 1 tsp baking powder
(c) 1 tsp ginger powder
(d) 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
(e) 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
(f) 1/4 tsp ground cloves

The liquid mix should be cool by now so whisk in the egg. Add the dry ingredients to the saucepan and whisk until everything is combined into a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. This can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on your oven. Let cool a little, then pick it up (foil and all) and put on a wire rack to cool down completely.

Cut into squares, sift over some icing sugar and put in an airtight container. This should last at least 4-5 days.

Note: David Lebovitz shows a fantastic way to line pans with foil. It is the best way to line pans I've found so far. You should try it too.

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