Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I mentioned that amongst our changes from our usual Christmas feast, this year I made dessert. I had seen a recipe for a gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese frosting online some weeks before Christmas. 

Of course when I went to actually find said recipe, I hadn’t marked it down anywhere. Does that ever happen to you? So frustrating!

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

Well, I commenced a new search and was pleased to find this recipe from Good Housekeeping that seemed to be exactly like the original. The result was the most delicious, moist gingerbread cake, with a lemony cream cheese frosting that was a perfect complement. I had to even out the tops of the cake layers so they would lay flat and I couldn’t stop myself from eating the pieces I cut off- they were so good I made myself sick. 

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I wanted a wintry garnish, but wasn’t sure if a holly branch was toxic or something, so I put a sprig of rosemary and some dried cranberries :)

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I just realized that this picture kind of looks like a Christmas Pac-Man.

My mom made this a couple days ago and she said she used orange instead of lemon zest and she said that it was yummy as well!

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 10
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Gingerbread Cake
  1. 3 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  4. 3/4 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  5. 3/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  6. 1 jar(s) (12 ounces) light (mild) molasses, 1 1/2 cups
  7. 3/4 cup(s) (1 1/2 sticks) margarine, softened, substitute butter
  8. 3/4 cup(s) granulated sugar
  9. 2 large eggs
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. 1 package(s) (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
  2. 1 package(s) (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  3. 4 tablespoon(s) margarine, softened, substitute butter
  4. 2 teaspoon(s) freshly grated lemon peel
Gingerbread Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with waxed paper; grease paper. Dust pans with flour.
  2. In medium bowl, mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In 4-cup glass measuring cup, whisk molasses with 1 cup water.
  3. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat margarine with granulated sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until creamy, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl often with rubber spatula.
  4. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, alternately add flour mixture and molasses mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat until blended.
  5. Pour batter into pans and spread evenly. Stagger pans on 2 oven racks, so layers are not directly above one another. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of each layer comes out clean.
  6. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen layers. Invert layers onto wire racks to cool completely; discard waxed paper.
Cream-Cheese Frosting
  1. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat frosting ingredients just until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Makes about 2 1/2 cups frosting.
To assemble cake
  1. Place 1 cake layer, rounded side down, on cake plate; spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Top with second layer; spread with another 1/3 cup frosting, then top with remaining layer. Frost top and side of cake with remaining frosting. Refrigerate if not serving right away.
Notes
  1. -I find that it's best to shave off the top of the cake layers to make them flatter on top if they're too domed.
  2. -It's easiest to frost the cake layers if they've been chilled in the fridge or freezer.
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

I don’t know if you guys remember, but about a year ago, Nate’s family friend Henny passed away unexpectedly. It’s been weird trying to come to terms with the fact that we won’t ever see him again. We didn’t see him on a regular basis, so it didn’t sink in right away. He used to invite us to his Brooklyn apartment for delicious home-cooked meals every few months so when we hadn’t been there in a while, it hit us that we’d never go there again.

Aside from Henny’s dinner parties, the one tradition we shared was including him in Nate’s mom’s Christmas dinner. I’m not sure when this started as it was before I entered the picture, but he always played a part at Christmas. Henny was Jewish so he didn’t have his own Christmas to celebrate and since Nate’s Christmas is just his immediate family, another guest was always welcome. 

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

Henny was in charge of cooking the main course, beef and he also brought dessert. This usually consisted of some sort of chocolate cake and his famous rainbow cookies! He used to only make these rainbow cookies at Christmas and we always looked forward to them. He always made enough for us to take leftovers home with us since Nate loves them, and they’re one of my favorites too.

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

When Christmas was approaching this past year we already knew it was going to be different since Henny wouldn’t be there. Rather than trying to recreate the past and have a crucial part absent, we decided to revamp it. Since none of us actually liked eating beef (we never told Henny this), we decided to go with a vegetarian menu with plenty of sides. Dessert was a Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe coming soon). But the one tradition we couldn’t omit was Henny’s Rainbow Cookies- it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

We emailed Henny’s girlfriend and after some searching through his old recipe collection, she sent us the recipe she thought was the one he used. It was a recipe from a 1999 edition of Gourmet magazine and I followed it to a T. The cookies came out exactly like Henny’s and I know he would be proud. I guess he really was there with us this year in spirit :)

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

 Since I didn’t change a thing, you can find the recipe online here. I just have a few helpful notes:

  1. Don’t worry about having the right size pans. These cookies don’t spread at all so you can just line with parchment and draw on the parchment so you know where to spread the batter to.
  2. Use a small offset spatula to spread. It will be really hard to spread it since it’s so thin but just do the best you can. 
  3. Wait to trim the cookies until after you’ve assembled the layers with the jam and they’ve set in the refrigerator. I didn’t do this and the layers shifted so I ended up having to trim then twice. Not a big deal but just figured I’d mention it.

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

This past weekend I had my annual gingerbread house decorating brunch with my friend, Erica. We do it every year, but it has gradually been changing for the better, I think.

The first year we did it we used graham crackers and tried to attach the structure together with icing. Anyone who has attempted a gingerbread house knows that this method works, but only if the structure has a day to dry before decorating it. Since we only had an afternoon, we found out the hard way that royal icing takes a while to set.

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

The next year I had read online that you could use melted sugar to instantly bind the crackers together. This works awesomely, as long as you’re SUPER careful not to burn yourself on molten sugar. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. We did this for a couple years, but you still have to set aside time to assemble it. 

But this year I decided to just buy a couple of those gingerbread house kits.

gingerbread house kit ~ ElephantEats.com

The kits come with pre-assembled houses, saving us hours of aggravation, and they also come with candy included and an idea for how to decorate. I knew the kit was great because I decorate a house from a kit every year when I go down to my mother-in-law’s for Christmas. 

photo 2

Anyway, it ended up being perfect. We had a tasty brunch that Erica prepared and then got to spend a couple hours decorating our houses. I think Erica did a much neater job with the icing, but it was fun nonetheless.

Gingerbread Houses 2013

Today’s recipe is related because it’s for gingerbread bars! Not only that, but I literally think they’re the best thing to come out of my kitchen this year…and that’s saying a lot since it’s now December.

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

These bars are spicy from the molasses, have tons of flavors from all the spices and have the ooey gooey texture of the perfect brownie. I chose to add some orange juice and zest too, because for some reason i feel like gingerbread goes really well with that citrus flavor.

Basically, you NEED to make these. They taste like the holiday season :)

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

 

 

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars
Yields 9
A spicy, citrusy, dense and chewy gingerbread bar!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  2. 1 large egg
  3. 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  4. 1/2 cup unsulphered light or medium molasses
  5. zest of 1 orange, divided in 2 (will be about 1 Tbsp total)
  6. juice of 1 orange (will be used in both bars and icing)
  7. 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  8. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  9. 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  10. 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  11. 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  12. 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
  13. 1 cup powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, egg, brown sugar, molasses, half of orange zest (about 1.5 tsp), 1 Tbsp of the fresh orange juice, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until smooth.
  3. Add the flour and stir until just combined, don't over mix.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 32-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs clinging. Allow the bars to cool while you prepare the icing.
  5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, powdered sugar and rest of orange zest. Add orange juice (you will only need about 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp) a little at a time until it reaches a smooth, pourable consistency. Pour evenly over cooled bars. Cut and serve.
Notes
  1. Best served at room temperature.
Adapted from The Live in Kitchen
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

I hope that everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My family had Thanksgiving in Manhattan this year, for the first time ever.

This is the last year that Nate and I will be living in NYC, and the first that we were actually here on Thanksgiving, so my parents, brother, Nate and I decided to go to my office to check out the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy's Day Parade 2013 ~ ElephantEats.com

Snoopy!

It was a pretty awesome view since my building is right on the parade route. The only problem was that the balloons were kept low to the ground this year because they were worried about the wind, and the floor we were on was pretty high above them. It was still closer than I’ve ever been to the parade though!

We took a nice family photo on Thanksgiving but I think my mom is using it for her holiday card, so you’ll have to settle for this pic of just me and Nate. I think I dressed for the wrong holiday :)

Thanksgiving 2013 ~ ElephantEats.com

Yes, I’m really that pale…

Actually, I think my outfit is kind of appropriate for this post, since it matches this dessert I’m sharing with you. I don’t know why but I just got this idea of peppermint white chocolate cheesecake bars in my head and couldn’t get it out. I had visions of these swirly pink and white bars perfect for a holiday dessert. 

These definitely need to be refrigerated overnight if you like them to firm up a bit, but they’re more on the softer side of cheesecake bars- this is according to Nate who likes cold, dry, hard food. If you leave the candy cane bits out of the batter and just sprinkle them on top, they should firm up a little more, but I thought they were perfect!

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

Oh, and for another house update, since you guys seem to love that so much :) :

The contractor had told me at the beginning of last week that he was pretty much done with demolition and would start framing by Friday. On Wednesday he texted me, saying his guys had removed the ceiling in the basement and found some asbestos underneath that had been overlooked when they did the asbestos removal back in August…UGH! 

He told me that he called up the company that I had used for the removal before and they said it was ok for him to work, but he thought it would be best to wait til Monday when the asbestos guy would meet him at the house to check it out. Because of Thanksgiving, that only meant one day of work (Friday) would be wasted. 

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

So Monday, my contractor had a smaller than normal crew there working and the asbestos guy came to assess the situation and gave me a quote for removing it ( $$ :( ), but the good news is that he can do it this Thursday and that the contractor can continue to work in the meantime. 

But the exciting part is that I took my family over to the house on Friday since my brother had never seen it, and when I opened the door, I was SO surprised. There are NO WALLS in my house at all! Like completely gone…all that’s there are the studs. I had NO idea they were going to remove every single wall!! It was so crazy to see the house that way and I’m sorry I don’t have a pic, but it was getting dark out. I should be able to take one before they put up the drywall I think.

Anyway, I’m so psyched :) It totally made this project feel like it’s really happening!

Oh yeah, and on Friday morning my mom came with me and Nate to the bath store and we managed to pick out pretty much all of our faucets, sinks, toilets and a bath vanity. Still a few more things to decide but good progress. Thank you, Mom!!!

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars
Creamy cheesecake squares with a festive minty swirl!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies (about 35 cookies)
  2. 2 Tbsp sugar
  3. 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  4. 4 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened (I used two light and two regular)
  5. 1 cup sugar
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 4 eggs
  9. 6 oz. white chocolate chips
  10. red food coloring (I used 7 drops of red liquid food coloring)
  11. 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  12. 3/4 cup crushed peppermint candy canes (about 6 oz), divided
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  2. For crust, mix crushed cookies, 2 Tbsp sugar and the melted butter. Press mixture evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 10 min then set aside to cool while making batter.
  3. For filling, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, sour cream and vanilla with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs until blended. Pour 2/3 of batter over the prepared crust, spreading to edges and set the remaining 1/3 of the batter aside.
  4. Put white chocolate chips in a microwaveable container and microwave 1 min at 50% power. Stir well. Continute microwaving in 30 sec increments, stirring well in between until melted. There can still be a couple solid pieces- do not over cook!
  5. Stir white chocolate into the 1/3 of the batter that you set aside. Stir in about 6 drops red food coloring (or enough to give a pink hue), along with peppermint extract and 1/2 cup of the crushed candy canes.
  6. Put the pink batter on top of the white batter in the pan in 5-6 large blobs, making sure to leave white in between. Drag a knife back and forth through the batter to create swirls.
  7. Bake for 35-40 min or until set (a knife pierced 1" from edge comes out almost clean).
  8. Cool in pan for an hour or so, and then cover and chill for 4-24 hours. Cut into bars and sprinkle with remaining peppermint candies as desired.
Notes
  1. For slightly firmer bars, leave the chopped peppermint out of the batter, and only use as a garnish.
  2. Best served after being refrigerated overnight.

Spent the morning constructing and decorating this gingerbread house. Nate managed to get a picture of it while it was “snowing” sugar…

gingerbread house 2012

gingerbread house 2012 2

Smokey Chimney gingerbread

Merry Christmas