If there are two things that have been generally constant in my life, they are my love of Christmas and my love of baking. Growing up in The Christmas City certainly has something to do with why I love Christmas - lighted evergreen trees mounted on lightpoles, pop-up Christmas markets and larger than life advent candles are just a way of life come the month of December in the city where I'm from.
Similarly, baking is something my mom and I used to enjoy doing together as I was growing up. We would spend many a weekend afternoon baking cookies and other holiday desserts, often following the recipes that her mother used to use. Now, when I travel home for the holidays the tradition of baking with my mom is something I look forward to including in my visits.
My love for baking tends to intensify during the holiday season - the comfort and joy a yummy baked good can bring to a gathering of family or friends seems to match the general spirit and happiness of the holidays that I look forward to each year. And while I do still enjoy baking cookies at the holidays like I used to with my mom, my absolute favorite Christmas dessert to make is gingerbread cake served with a little bit of lemon curd. The spicy gingerbread paired with the tartness of the lemon curd is the epitome of Christmas to me. So, I'm excited to share with you my recipe for Christmas Gingerbread Cake served with Lemon Curd!
This gingerbread cake recipe uses both freshly grated ginger as well as ground ginger, which makes it rather spicy (and is one of the reasons I love it so much!). If you don't like that level of spice in your desserts, you can always leave out the freshly grated ginger if you want to. And my secret? I add a little bit of lemon zest to the cake batter as well, which brightens the overall flavors, tempers the spice a little bit, and barely hints at what is to come with the lemon curd. Put it all together and you have a delicious Christmas treat!
Christmas Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Curd
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for buttering your pan
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2/3 cup packed mix of light- and dark-brown sugar (a while ago, Kurt accidentally mixed our light- and dark-brown sugars into one storage container. But I think the mixture works just fine for this recipe! If you don't have yours pre-mixed like we do, use all dark-brown sugar instead.)
- 1 cup unsulphured molasses (unsulphured molasses is typically used for baking because it doesn't include sulpher dioxide, which is added as a preservative and dulls the sweetness of the molasses. If you can't find unsulphured molasses, you can use either light or dark molasses instead. Just don't ever use blackstrap molasses as a substitute - it will be too bitter!)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting your pan
- 2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (you can subtitute ground if you don't have fresh nutmeg to grate in your kitchen!)
- The zest of one small lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the finished cake
- Your favorite store-bought lemon curd, room temperature (which I think is essential for serving!)
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment and any exposed sides of the cake pan. You can also spray with a nonstick baking spray if you'd rather.
- Add the baking soda to the bottom of a large mixing bowl. To it, add the cup of boiling water. It should foam up. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, and then stir in the butter until melted.
- Whisk in the brown sugar, molasses, and fresh ginger. The mixture should be lukewarm, but if it still feels hot, let it stand for about 10 minutes until it has cooled further.
- Sift together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, lemon zest, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
- Whisk the eggs into the molasses mixture until just combined. Then, add the sifted dry ingredients, stirring the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan; bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Transfer the cake still in the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Once fully cool, cut around the cake to make sure no parts are sticking to the sides. Flip the cake out of the pan and onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioners' sugar and cut into squares.
- Serve with a spoonful of your favorite store-bought lemon curd! Or, if you don't like lemon curd for some reason, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream works well too. Enjoy!
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? And what's your favorite dessert to enjoy at the holidays? I'd love to hear more about your celebrations and traditions in the comments!