Sunday, January 31, 2016

chocolate gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting

I made a cake!! 

This is a distant cousin of the gaudy gingerbread people, who have retired into their decked-out gumdrop houses for the season. This is January gingerbread.

I tried to make the shots all dark and moody and I was well on my way, too, until those damn rainbow sprinkles got in my way. First I was just scattering a couple on the cake slice and then the next thing I know, I blinked and they were everywhere. I swear, I have no idea how they got there.

Cleanup was a real struggle, too; most of it was me sitting on the floor sticking individual sprinkles onto my fingers and then putting them in the trash. Somewhere in the process the sprinkle container was kicked and then I had to start over again. Why the vacuum cleaner never came to mind, I don't know. Sprinkles do weird things to your head, man.

Acknowledge the hardships I went through to bring you this cake by baking it for yourself! Or do it because it's rich and spicy and chocolatey and the frosting recipe makes enough extra so that you can justify eating large globs with a spoon. And you will want to eat it with a spoon, trust me.

If you've ever had brown sugar brownies, you'll know that molasses does great things to chocolate; it deepens the flavor itself and adds something extra (caramel? toffee?) along with extra fudginess to the crumb. The pumpkin pie spice– my trusty Trader Joe's bottle contains cinnamon, ginger, lemon zest, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom–adds warmth and a little kick. And pure, classic cream cheese frosting is the perfect partner to chocolate and spices. Actually, it would be my choice in pretty much any situation, but that's just me.

The cake, adapted from King Arthur Flour, is ridiculously easy, one-bowl and just so happens to be vegan! (Though the frosting is very much NOT.) It uses the old Depression-era Wacky Cake vinegar and baking soda technique to achieve a springy, moist cake without eggs or butter, but you won't miss them at all.

This cake is a perfect rainy weekend project. Maybe double it and make a layer cake for your winter birthday friends. Or for a dinner party. Or for a potluck. Or to celebrate that you are still alive. Just make it.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from King Arthur Flour
yield: 1 8-inch square cake
time: 2 hours

The Cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit and grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, spices, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, molasses, water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.

Dump dry ingredients into wet and mix well, being sure to scrape the bottom, until mostly smooth. Pour batter into your prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with some crumbs on it. Let cool completely before frosting.

The Frosting:

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 stick butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar

In a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter on low until combined and creamy, and then an additional 2-3 minutes on high until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating on low between each cup until smooth.

Frost the cooled cake generously with a spatula. The cake is best if refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting into it and eating (bring it back to room temperature first). Enjoy!

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