A cozy, perfectly spiced gingerbread transformed into a layer cake and iced with a delicate, whipped brown sugar & bourbon frosting.
I don’t know how this month got here so quickly, but here we are, and I’m welcoming the twilight hours of 2015 the best way I know how: with cake.
I can’t think of any better way to herald a month so chock-full-of festivities and my favorite holidays (and most importantly, my birthday 😉 ).
I played Christmas music in the background as I worked my way through four renditions of this cake, and every ounce of Christmas magic that I could muster went into contriving the perfect combination of butter, flour, molasses and spices (I suspect having a Christmas tree in the house would have helped, but our home is still woefully absent one, though I hope to change that this weekend).
While I usually prefer to make my cakes with oil, the attempts made with butter had a clearly superior flavor, and so butter it was.
This cake is soft, moist, and while it’s slightly heavier than I usually prefer my cakes, it is appropriately so, touched by a generous pouring of rich, dark molasses. It reminds me of a carrot cake, only minus the carrots, and more strongly spiced.
And forget sugarplums dancing in your head, this frosting is the stuff dreams are made of. A scant shot of bourbon lends an almost caramel-flavored undertone to the icing, subtle but warm and present. Whipped into a brown sugar infused cream cheese frosting alongside a freshly split vanilla bean, it is the perfect cozy frosting for this wintry cake.
I’ve included a second, super easy, recipe below for sugared cranberries, as well, just in case you want to decorate your cake with them, too. They make for an interesting, sweet-then-tart poppable snack that I’m not personally overly fond of, but that went over well at a family party last weekend (and looked amazing on top of the cake, if I do say so myself).
- 1 1/4 cup butter softened to room temperature
- 1 cup molasses
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups brown sugar tightly packed
- 3 large eggs preferably room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 cup + 2 Tbsp buttermilk
Brown Sugared Bourbon Frosting
- 12 oz cream cheese softened to room temperature, 1 & 1/2 packages
- 12 Tbsp salted butter softened to room temperature, 1 & 1/2 sticks
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar tightly packed
- 1 tsp vanilla bean or 1 vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp bourbon
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350F and prepare 3 9-inch round cake pans by lightly greasing and flouring. Set aside.
- In KitchenAid, beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamed.
- Add molasses and sugars, beat until light, fluffy and well combined (pausing to scrape down sides of bowl as needed).
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
- In separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices (ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice) until combined.
- With the mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk (add about 1/5 of the flour, as soon as it is mostly combined add about 1/5 of the buttermilk, continuing in this pattern until all of the flour mixture and all of the buttermilk have been added). Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl to be sure ingredients are well-combined.
- Evenly divide batter between prepared cake pans.
- Bake on 350F for 30-35 minutes (use a toothpick test to ensure done-ness; a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan should come out clean or with crumbs--not batter). Be sure to check each cake separately, as your oven may not cook evenly.
- Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes and then run a knife around the inside rim of the cake pan to loosen from the sides. Allow cakes to cool completely in pan before inverting and icing.
- In KitchenAid (or with hand mixer) cream together butter and cream cheese.
- Add brown sugar, stirring until combined.
- Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds from the inside and scoop into cream cheese/butter/brown sugar mixture.
- Add bourbon and stir until well-combined.
- Gradually (about 1/2 cup at a time) add powdered sugar to mixture. Pause occasionally to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
- Increase speed to medium-high and add heavy cream, beat until mixture is lightly whipped.
- Once cakes have cooled, ice/assemble cakes by generously icing between layers, applying an even layer on the top of the cake, and then applying a scant, semi-naked layer around the outside of the cake.
- Top with sugared cranberries if desired.
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar + 2 cups sugar divided
- 3 cups fresh cranberries rinsed
- Set out a wire cookie cooling rack over a piece of wax paper (to catch any spills) and set beside your stove.
- In medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine sugar and water, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved (do not let mixture come to a boil, it should just be warm enough to dissolve the sugar).
- Add the cranberries and stir well until completely coated.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove cranberries from the water and lay out on the wire rack (it's best if the cranberries are not touching each other).
- Allow to sit at least an hour (they will become very sticky).
- Place your 2 cups sugar in a large bowl and, working in batches (about 1 cup of cranberries at a time) toss the cranberries in the sugar until well-coated.
- Return to wire rack and allow to sit at least 1 hour.
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