March. A contrary month, but promising. Still cold. Often blustery and muddy. Yet sprinkled with tiny harbingers of spring. That damp earthy smell. A hyacinth just peeking out of the ground…
My birthday is in March. Every year, I take a day around my birthday just to do things I want to do. Watch a horror movie that has been on my list for a while. Kick a few more zombies off roofs in Harran. This year, feeling a little low and beaten up by “springing ahead” an hour, I wanted a comforting baked good to go with my horror binge.
Spicy gingerbread. It so isn’t just for Christmas. This recipe makes a moist, stunning little square cake. Dark and rich with spices. One-bowl easy and massively comforting. Your whole house will smell amazing as this bakes. I love it for breakfast, warmed up in the toaster oven and spread with cream cheese. For you sweet people (tho’ I’m sure you’re all sweet!) try it with the cream cheese frosting recipe below. Really. Think outside the Christmas box and you won’t be sorry. You’ll be making spicy gingerbread to improve your mental outlook multiple times a year!
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup molasses
½ cup sugar
½ cup shortening
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup boiling water
Optional: you can also add chopped crystallized ginger (always!), raisins (rum-soaked or not), currants, grated fresh ginger…use your creativity.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour one 9-inch square cake pan. Measure all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Yep. Everything into one bowl. I add the boiling water last.
With the mixer at low speed, beat until well-mixed, scraping the bowl often with a rubber spatula. Then, beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, only occasionally scraping the bowl.
Stir in your crystallized ginger or raisins or anything else you are adding.
Pour the batter into pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in a pan on a wire rack. Makes one small cake. It is that easy!
You can go really cute if you decide to frost. Tint the frosting orange for Halloween and add some candy corn for decoration. Leave white or tint green for Christmas and add some decorative sugar or other candies.
Easy Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, really softened
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 ½ to 4 ¾ cups powdered sugar
Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with your electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well. Then, gradually beat in the rest of the powdered sugar until you hit spreading consistency.
Easy Buttercream Frosting
Super easy: another one-bowl wonder. This makes about double what you need to frost the gingerbread cake above. It can also be a base recipe, so you can kick it up for other things – add grated orange peel and orange juice in place of the milk and see what happens!
1/3 cup softened unsalted butter
4 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat the butter in a small mixer bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar then beat in the ¼ cup milk and the vanilla. Add in the remaining powdered sugar, beating until combined – you may need to add a little more milk to get it to spreading consistency. Tint with food color if you like. Yum.