Spiced gingerbread cake is iced with tangy cream cheese frosting and decorated with gingerbread man cookies for two festive desserts in one!
‘Tis the season. We say it, we sing it, but what does it really mean?
I get as caught up as the next person in getting my house holiday ready and I can never have enough twinkling white lights around me during the month of December. I agonize over which picture of the boys to include on our holiday card, strive to find the perfect gift for a man with the sense of humor of a twelve year old and of course can never decide which cookies I should bake for gift-giving (therefore baking all the cookies).
But the holiday season is so much more than that. Cliché, but true. It’s about sharing, giving, refocusing on the simpler things, and being grateful.
There was a moment recently when this really rang true for me. I was reading a post on Facebook about a local organization that throws parties for children and families that couldn’t otherwise provide them. Some for financial reasons, others because a crisis occurred in their lives that makes planning any sort of celebration seem insurmountable.
It made me reminisce about all of the celebrations we’ve had with our boys over the years. Pre-school birthdays at the zoo, art and painting parties or even a bunch of boys running wild through our backyard playing laser tag. I think of the joy they’ve experienced laughing with their friends, blowing out the candles on their favorite cake and tearing the wrapping paper off of a coveted new box of legos.
As I continued to read about this organization called Take the Cake, I was so moved by their simple, but powerful goal: to make children feel special and celebrated. They strive to give these kids their own day, one that they don’t have to share with anyone else. No a birthday party isn’t a critical need like food and shelter, but it is a very human need to feel unique and celebrated.
In addition to birthday parties they also occasionally host events for groups in local outreach programs. Last year they even hosted a prom for teens battling homelessness. The founders, Janine and Laura, have worked tirelessly to compile a list of vendors that donate their goods and services or provide deep discounts for these events. I’m honored to now be a part of that list.
This gingerbread man cake and festive holiday cake pops were included in a event that Take the Cake hosted this week and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my holiday baking. I used my version of my grandma’s spice cake recipe layered between swirls of cream cheese icing. Then I baked up some cute little gingerbread man cookies and attached them to the sides. Pair a slice of this cake with a cold glass of milk (and one of these cute holiday straws) and you’ve got reason to celebrate. The cake is super moist with a tender crumb and to me it tastes like Christmas.
In between all the shopping, baking and decorating this year, I plan to find ways to celebrate the true meaning of the season with my family. Sometimes it can be as simple as making one individual feel special or by donating time and money to an organization that helps many. Take the Cake’s mission of giving back and celebrating each other is a message that I know I’ll carry with me not only during this holiday season, but throughout the upcoming year.
To learn more about Take the Cake and how your can contribute, visit their website: https://www.take-the-cake.org
- Gingerbread Cake
- 8 oz unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup molasses
- 3 cups all-purpose flour sifted
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ cups boiling water
- Cream Cheese Icing
- 16 oz cream cheese softened
- 8 oz unsalted butter 2 sticks, softened
- 2 lbs confectioners sugar 2 boxes
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- Gingerbread Man Cookies
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 12 oz 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup molasses
- Royal Icing
- 1 pound confectioners sugar - SIFTED
- ¼ cup meringue powder
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp clear vanilla
- Red gel food coloring
- *special equipment: 3 inch gingerbread man cookie cutter
- **The cookie recipe makes about 24 cookies but you will only need half the recipe for the cake.
Gingerbread Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 - 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
Cream butter and sugar on med/high speed with an electric mixer.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each.
Add molasses, mixing to combine.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with boiling water.
Pour batter into prepared pans (mixture will be runny).
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, rotating the pans once during baking.
Cream Cheese Icing: Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes on med/high speed with an electric mixer.
Gradually add in confectioners sugar, mixing well to combine.
Stir in vanilla extract until incorporated.
Gingerbread Man Cookies: Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.
In another bowl, cream the the butter and sugars together with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 mins.
Add the egg and molasses and mix until well blended.
Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until combined.
Divide the dough into two balls and wrap them in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of lightly floured wax paper and cut out cookies using a 3 inch gingerbread man cookie cutter.
Place the cookies on baking trays lined with parchment paper and put in freezer for about 10 minutes before baking.
Bake at 350 degrees until cookies are set, about 10 minutes (depending on the shape/size of the cookie). Cool on wire racks before icing.
Royal Icing: Combine confectioners sugar, meringue powder and cream of tarter in large mixing bowl. Add water and clear vanilla and beat on high speed with paddle attachment until stiff peaks form, but the mixture is not dry. Add water to reach desired piping consistency (tsp or two at a time), mixing after each addition of water.
Separate the icing into two bowls and add drops of red gel food coloring to one bowl to reach the desired color, but keep in mind the color will deepen and darken as the icing dries.
Fill piping bags fitted with round metal #2 tips and ice the cookies.
Let completed cookies dry for several hours before attaching to the cake and store the remaining cookies in an air tight container.
Cookies will keep for several days stored at room temperature.
Putting it all together: Slice the top off of each cake to create a nice, flat surface.
Divide each cake in half to create four layers.
Place one cake layer (save your best for the top) on a cake plate and spread on some cream cheese icing.
Repeat two more times and finally top with the last cake layer.
Ice the top and sides of the cake with a very thin layer of icing (crumb coat) and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to set. Remove and finish icing the cake, carefully smoothing the top and sides.
If desired, you can tint a small amount of icing red and pipe a border around the top and bottom of the cake.
Place the gingerbread man cookies around the sides of the cake (the icing will act as the "glue") and place one on top (I bake one cookie on lollipop sticks so the gingerbread man can stand on the cake).
Slice and enjoy!