Happy Holidays everyone!
I must apologize for my lack of posts recently. There’s nothing I can say except life just got busy. With curling, school, catering gigs, studying, practice, and everything else- I just couldn’t find the time. It’s sad, really because since I started this blog I have gotten nothing but good feedback and I have loved learning what works and what doesn’t! It began as a school project but I am so grateful I was pushed to start, it’s been such a fun, creative way to show my passion to all of my friends and family!
As I have mentioned before, I previously went to the University of Ottawa for psychology, but decided it wasn’t where I needed to be and moved home to start following my passion. A big decision like this caused me quite a bit of stress, even though I knew I was going to be happy and in love with what I was doing, you can’t help but wonder if it was the right thing to do. Every time I tell someone that I did three years of my four year undergrad, they would ask
“Why wouldn’t you just finish it? It’s just one more year.”
My answer is always the same. I spent three really tough years far apart from my family, my boyfriend, my friends, and I never considered Ottawa my home. It was really three years of being homesick. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I decided enough was enough and I needed a change to make myself happy and I wanted to feel proud of what I was doing.
I just finished my first semester of culinary school and in these 4 months I have met some of the most talented, passionate, diverse and incredible people I have ever met. I have learned things that I never even knew that I needed to know. I have met some very influential people and began working with some of the best chefs in the country. I am so grateful for my family for being so supportive of me and loving me through this big decision and being there for me every step of the way.
I am home now and have time to blog again (yay!) so I asked my family what my next blog post should feature. I thought maybe some of my favourite holiday cookie recipes, or a pie of some kind, maybe something savoury like a roast- but we all came to the consensus that one of the most Christmas-y things we could think of was gingerbread. I decided to tie all of the three classic forms of gingerbread together (cake, cookies, and houses) and created a gingerbread village cake. I absolutely love the way it turned out!
Comment down below what other holiday recipe’s you would like to see me try! Now that I’m at home in Elora for a little while and I have access to my beautiful Kitchen Aid stand mixer (I call her Black Beauty) baking just seems that little bit easier.
Fun Fact: I received Black Beauty from Santa when I was 12 years old and it was the greatest gift I could have ever received. All of my school friends returned from christmas break excited about their new cellphone, or iPod, or something like that and I was thrilled with my new Kitchen Aid.
I had a lot of fun making this cake! My dad was out at work, my mum and sister were out for lunch, so I had the whole kitchen to myself. Isn’t that the best feeling? Maybe that’s just me. I had a lovely afternoon, and I hope everyone else is enjoying their break as much as I am. Put your feet up, have a cup of tea, listen to your favourite music and enjoy all of the lovely little things life has to offer.
Happy Holidays everyone,
Gingerbread Village Cake
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup unsulfured molasses
- 2 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened until easily spreadable
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 4 ounces (110g) block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 ½ – 2 tBsp lemon juice
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour 2 9 inch cake pans. Whisk dry ingredients and spices in a large bowl. Mix milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a 2-cup measuring cup.
- Beat softened butter into dry ingredients, first on low, then medium, until mixture forms pebble-sized pieces. Add about 1/3 of the milk mixture and beat on low until smooth. Add remaining milk mixture in two stages; beat on medium speed until batter is just smooth. Add the sugar; beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Pour batter into cake pan.
- Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the pan perimeter and turn cake onto rack. Let cool.
- In a medium bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until creamy and no lumps remain, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 20 seconds then increase to high speed until everything is completely combined and the frosting is creamy. Taste. I added a small amount of black food colouring gel to mine to give it that blue/grey tint, you can colour it any way you like or just leave it white that would look nice too!
For the Gingerbread Cookies:
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in spices and salt. Add eggs and molasses; mix well. With the machine on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, and beat until combined. Divide the dough into thirds, and wrap each piece of dough in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpat nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. Set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into different chaped houses. I tried to make all different shapes of houses, tall, short, thin…just to have some variation. Transfer to prepared baking sheets.
- Decorate cooled cookies with Royal Icing.
- Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice until it is the desired consistency, it should be runny enough to pipe on the cookies easily, but should hold it’s shape when piped.
Bring it all together:
- Cut each cake in half to make 4 layers of cake
- Layer the cake with frosting in between each layer and frost the outside of the cake.
- Decorate the gingerbread cookies any way you would like. I didn’t make any two houses the same, and I wasn’t too precise with it. Have fun here! Even if they aren’t perfect your cake and cookies will still look gorgeous!
- Place the decorated cookies around the outside of the cake. Switch up the heights and widths of the houses to make it interesting. You can place some cookies on the top as well if you are presenting it a certain way, I placed toothpicks behind the cookies on top to keep them propped up but you don’t have to do this.
- If you want the freshly snowed look, dust with a little bit of icing sugar.