Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

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So I hadn’t mentioned this earlier, but I sent in an application for the next series of the Great British Bake Off. One day, I received a very interesting phone call – one of the people who works on the show; he asked me a few questions and then asked if I would like to come in for an in-person interview for the next round of auditions. Of course, I said yes!!

I don’t know how I managed to stay so calm during my interview, I’m pretty sure I was speaking a mile a minute and I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest. As soon as I got off the phone, I ran back upstairs to my desk at work with a grin bigger than the Cheshire Cat’s. I was going to audition. I had been selected out of thousands of applicants to have a chance to prove my baking skills.

I was given the instructions to bring some examples of my baking to show off my skills, and instantly my mind starting spinning – what should I make? I wanted something that would be a showstopper. Something that would represent me and my American-ness. Me and my Southern-ness. So I instantly thought to a recipe from Southern Living that I had been eyeing for some time – a chocolate gingerbread cake.

The following weekend, I did a trial bake to take to work for feedback. After a few suggestions and a bit of tweaking, I think I nailed my final recipe. I ended up making this cake three times – once for work as a trial, once for the audition, and a third time for Christmas Eve dinner to share with my family (who are probably more excited at my prospect than I am, as they immediately started planning out plot lines and how they’d ‘spin’ my story on the show).

Anyways, this cake does take a bit of time to prep and assemble. But it is worth it – it is so moist and delicious and it just looks and tastes like the holidays. Plus, the chocolate ganache and toffee layers in between the cakes are an extra decadent treat. The key is to take your time and try not to rush through.

As far as Bake Off goes, I’m awaiting the results to see if I’m invited to the next round – but hopefully this cake impressed! So, bakers, keep your fingers crossed!

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 16-ounce package (450 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups (330 grams) flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 10-ounce (300 ml) container sour cream
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup black treacle or 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 2 cups dark chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Tablespoons (28 grams) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
For the toffee layer:
  • 400 grams dairy toffee pieces
  • 1/4 cup (57.5 grams) butter
  • milk, if needed
For the ginger whipped cream:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5-6 1/8-inch slices peeled fresh ginger
  • 6 Tablespoons icing sugar
For decorating:

Directions

1. The night before you want to bake your cake, prepare the ginger whipped cream. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the cream and ginger for 3-5 minutes of just until bubbles appear. Be sure not to let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, place in a container to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but overnight would be best. The colder your cream, the better it will whip!

2. When you’re ready to bake your cake, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and line 3 round cake tins with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper. Next, begin your cake batter microwaving your chocolate in a bowl in 30-second bursts until melted. Be sure to stir the chocolate in between bursts to make sure it doesn’t burn!

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and butter at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the melted chocolate, beating until it’s just blended.

4. Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and nutmeg. Gradually add this flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Make sure to begin and end your additions with the flour mixture. Beat at a low speed until everything just comes together. Next, stir together the hot water with the black treacle/molasses as well as the baking soda (this mix will foam a bit). Gradually stir the molasses mixture into the rest of the batter, as well as adding in the vanilla. Once your mixture is blended together, spoon the batter evenly into your 3 prepared cake tins.

5. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely (about an hour).

6. When the cakes are nearly cool, prepare your toffee mixture. In a glass bowl over simmering water, place your toffee pieces and butter together. Gently heat until the butter and candy begins to melt and become runny. You’ll need this to have a fairly runny consistency in order to spread over your cake. If you need to, you can add more butter or a bit of milk to help lighten the consistency. Once the toffee is melted, quickly spread a layer over the top of two of your cakes. Be careful not to work it too hard as it cools, because it can tear your cakes.

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7. Next, make your chocolate ganache. Similar to the toffee, melt your chocolate pieces and salt in a bowl over simmering water. Once everything is melted, add in the sweetened condensed milk; cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until everything is smooth. Remove from the heat, then add in the butter and vanilla, stirring for 4-5 minutes until smooth. Let the ganache cool to room temperature before transferring to another bowl. Add in the cream and beat with a hand mixer on high speed until it reaches the consistency of buttercream. If you need to, you can add a bit of icing sugar to help with the consistency. Once it’s ready, spread the ganache over your toffee layers.

8. Once all of your cakes are toffee-d and ganache-d, layer them up so that the cake with nothing on it is the top layer. Then whip up your chilled ginger cream to make the frosting. Pour the cream through a fine mesh strainer to remove the ginger pieces. Beat with a hand mixer on high speed until the mixture starts to foam. Then add in your icing sugar and continue to mix on high speed until stiff peaks form. Use the whipped cream immediately and spread over your cake.

9. Finally, decorate your cake however you’d like using fresh gingerbread cookies, mint, and cranberries.

Eclairs

Towards the end of Bake Off, one of the challenges included baking with choux pastry, which instantly reminded me of the eclairs my mom used to make when I was little.

There’s seriously something magical about watching these tiny tubes of dough literally explode into crisp, airy pastry. They instantly triple in size due to the rapid heating of the water within the dough.

My mom’s recipe for the pistachio filling involves using Jell-o instant pudding, which I had to order from Amazon. For a few of my recipes there are some ingredients that are difficult to find in stores here in the UK, but Amazon is seriously a life saver in these situations, as many American ingredients and foods are sold there.

On Bake Off, they made choux cakes, but I decided to stick to basics and make mom’s eclairs instead.

Ingredients

For the choux pastry (makes about 12-15 large eclairs):

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
For the pistachio cream filling:
  • 1 3.5-ounce package of Jell-o pistachio pudding
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups whipping cream
For the chocolate glaze:
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • milk

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).

2. Bring the water to a boil in a medium pan. Once boiling, add in the butter and gently stir until it melts. Add in the flour and salt and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a doughy ball. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. Add the eggs to the dough mixture, one at a time, and stir until smooth in between each addition. Place the pastry dough into a large piping bag with a 3/4-inch tip. Pipe the dough into 4-inch long tubes onto greased baking sheets.

4. Bake the eclairs for 15 minutes at 450°F (230°C), then reduce the heat to 325°F (160°C) and continue to bake for another 25 minutes.

5. Once they are baked, remove from the oven and split the eclairs in half lengthwise (like a sandwich), turn the oven off and place the sliced pastries back in the oven to dry for about 20 minutes as the oven cools. Finally, place onto a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make the pistachio filling, first whip the whipping cream until it is nice and frothy. Next, mix together the milk and instant pudding in a separate bowl, then gently fold in the whipped cream. Spoon or pipe the filling into the cooled eclair shells.

7. Finally, make the chocolate glaze by mixing melted chocolate, powdered sugar and enough milk to thin glaze.  Coat the tops of the eclairs with the chocolate mixture.

Lemon Griestorte

 

Today has been a very long day. Ben left to go to a conference in Poland until Wednesday, so he was out the door before 6 a.m. to catch his flight. Unfortunately for me, I’m one of those people that once I’m awake, I’m awake. So I’ve pretty much been awake since about 5 a.m.  When I decided to actually roll out of bed 2 hours later, I was greeted by the most enormous spider I have ever seen!!!

I am absolutely terrified of spiders, so I found myself frozen in the doorway, facing off against this creature who was preventing me from entering my bathroom.   Normally Ben comes to my rescue (as he did last night when he went after another giant spider that had crawled under our bed), but he’d left hours ago and I was left to fend for myself. So what else could I do but start throwing shoes at it? It was the most logical solution.  Four tosses later, and the sucker was squished under one of Ben’s boat shoes, which is where he will stay until someone braver (i.e. Mr Moxey) comes home to dispose of the evidence.

I have no idea where all these spiders are coming from all of a sudden, but hopefully that will be the last one until at least Wednesday.

Anyways, back to business. This week on the Bake Off, the challengers made flourless cakes, or tortes. Originally I had planned to make a chocolate one, but I’m afraid that chocolate is the absolute last ingredient I want to have in the house at the moment. I spent all of Thursday touring around London visiting chocolate shops, gelaterias, and patisseries for a project at work and ended up getting really sick Thursday night and felt like crap most of Friday from eating so much rich, dark chocolate. So yeah, taking a break from that.

So to find a recipe for Plan B, I went to the Bake Off authority herself, miss Merry Berry. This recipe is from her Baking Bible, and uses whipped cream and lemon curd to make a delectable filling.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 large eggs, separated (you’ll need both the whites and yolks!)
  • 100 grams sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 50 grams fine semolina
  • 15 grams ground almonds
For the filling:
  • 300 ml whipping cream
  • 8 Tablespoons lemon curd
  • fresh raspberries
  • icing sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease a deep round cake tin and line both the bottom and sides with baking paper. (I don’t have a deep tin, so I used 2 8-inch tins and halved the baking time. The layers were really thin, but it worked out alright.)

2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they are pale and have a light texture. Add the lemon juice and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Fold in the lemon zest, followed by the semolina and ground almonds.

3. In a separate bowl (preferably with an electric mixer), whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold into the egg yolk mixture until it’s evenly blended. Gently pour into your prepared baking tin.

4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until it turns a pale golden brown (I did mine for 13 minutes in the two tins). Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack to peel off the baking paper and cool completely. When cool, cut the cake in half horizontally.

5. Whisk the cream until it thickens and holds its shape, then fold in the lemon curd until it’s evenly blended. Spread half of this onto the bottom layer of your cake, then place a few raspberries around the cake. Add the second layer, then top with the rest of the whipped cream mixture.

6. Add a ring of fresh raspberries around the top, then dust with icing sugar to finish it off.