In the wintertime, a lovely afternoon treat is to make a gingerbread cake. But I can hear you saying “Yeah, right. Like I’m going to drop everything in the middle of the day to bake a cake”. Yes, you can. Here is how: you cheat!
Here’s your cheat sheet:
One box gingerbread cake mix
One 15 ounce can of pumpkin or 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
One tablespoon molasses (light or dark, depending on how dark you like it)
1 tablespoon ginger
When using pumpkin, the moisture content can vary in consistency, so I recommend adding a tablespoon of water to the mixture. If it seems too dry, add another tablespoon or two.
You can also add other spices: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, or cardamom. I use a tablespoon of cinnamon and a generous ½ teaspoon of the others. Cardamom is expensive so I buy the seeds in bulk and grind them myself (a heaping teaspoon of cardamom in a pot of black tea is utterly delicious).
Mix all ingredients together with a fork, an electric mixer, or even your hands – think playdough. Put the batter in an oiled or buttered 8 x 8 pan or muffin tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 350⁰. Muffins will take about 35 minutes and a pan about 40. Ovens vary in temperature so yours may take a longer or shorter time than mine.
How will you know it’s done? A few cracks will appear on the top and it will start to pull away from the sides and when you insert a knife, no batter will be on it. And, you will smell the aroma. The fragrance will suddenly fill the room, as if the cake is shouting “I’m done!”
I like it best served warm. You can fancy this up by topping it with whipped cream and crystalized ginger. I like to sweeten the whipped cream with honey and vanilla (whipped cream sweetened with honey will stay whipped for several days). Or simply pour some cream directly on top of the cake. When topped with chopped crystalized ginger, it becomes special occasion food. Oh, you’re not having a special occasion? Sure you are, even if you are by yourself you can have a party for one. Think of something to celebrate and savor every bite. Crystalized ginger stores for years when kept in an airtight container.
Sometimes cheating is okay, especially if it warms your tummy. Using the cake mix saves you time but more importantly it inspires you to get in the kitchen. When you bake something on a cold winter day, this warms the kitchen and the aroma fills the house and your spirit.
Do you have a recipe for doctoring up a cake mix? If you’d like to share it, please send it to me at Isabel@plentymethod.org