Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Gingerbread Experiment

The last few pieces of cake, with frosting.
At the beginning of the month, in my post about the history of gingerbread, I mentioned that I was going to be making my own gingerbread for Christmas. A picture of the fruit of my effort accompanies this post. 

As the earlier post said, nowadays "gingerbread" can take one of several forms. It can be a cookie (thin and crisp, thicker and crunchy, or thicker still and chewy), or a cake. I chose to try out a gingerbread cake recipe found in a cookbook designed for use with the brand of slow cooker that I have. 

It happened that the recipe was designed for a 4 1/2 quart round slow cooker. I have a 6 quart oval slow cooker. After a brief search for a cake pan that would fit inside my slow cooker, I decided to double the recipe instead and use the crock itself as the cake pan, greasing it thoroughly with butter first. Up to this point, all went according to plan, except that I discovered that I didn't have enough molasses for the doubled recipe. So I used honey for the last 4 ounces required. 

In the end, the cake took twice as long to cook as the recipe called for. Possibly, given that I had doubled the volume of batter involved, I should have expected that. Then I got interrupted, so I set the pot on "keep warm" and left it for another half hour. The extra half-hour was too much--the entire outside surface of the cake (i.e., the part that touched the wall of my crock) was scorched to varying degrees. But the rest of the cake was wonderful--rich, chewy, and dense, and full of flavor. By this time, it was nearly 3:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, so we left matters until later that morning. 

Getting the cake out took some effort; I had to run a thin metal spatula around the inside of the crock, and then my husband had to remove the crock from the rest of the pot and tip it upside down.  But it came out, almost completely intact. I hadn't been planning to make icing, but given the obviously scorched sides, that now seemed like a good idea. 

I opened a web browser and looked for a plausible cream cheese frosting recipe. The recipe I found uses no butter--just confectioners' sugar, an 8-ounce block of regular cream cheese, and a pinch of salt. The recipe called for vanilla extract, which I ignored (I had plenty, but I didn't want to use it) and for 3 cups of sugar, which I cut to about a cup and a half. Moreover, I don't have an electric mixer, so I had to combine the ingredients using a whisk, helping the effort along with a few tablespoons of heavy cream.  The resulting frosting was creamy enough, but never formed peaks.  Though it eventually set, I originally feared that it would be too runny to stay put, so I only put it on the top surface of the cake. 

So the frosting ended up not acting as a cosmetic disguise.  I'm still glad I made it--its cream cheese flavor was the perfect compliment to the cake. I'm also glad we chose to give away about half of the cake as Christmas presents and that a fair amount of the rest was too scorched to eat--otherwise my husband and I might have gorged our selves impermissibly. 

But I already miss the cake.  Already I want to taste it again, and for that reason I expect I will make it again next year.

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