Italian Gingerbread Cake with Brandy Butter & Masterpiece Theatre

Dec 22, 2011

On Sunday nights growing up, this song signaled that it was time for bed.  At first I thought this was just cleverly timed – a gentle reverse alarm clock.  As I grew, I realized my parents weren’t so much wanting me to get a good night’s sleep at the close of the weekend as they were DESPERATE to watch the next installment of whatever BBC drama was on the screen that week.

I may or may not (read: may) have my own little addiction to Downton Abbey.  Why?  Characters, drama, romance, war tensions, and also…the kitchen.  Those pots!  The oversized pottery bread bowls.  The pudding molds.

And so, today’s recipe is certainly relevant for the holiday – who doesn’t want to tuck into a warm gingerbread cake with a spoonful of decadent brandy butter? – yet it is also antiquated. Picture this being served to you by a man in an immaculate suit on a silver tray whilst you overhear the latest bit of news about Lady Buttersworth (she is a distant relative of Mrs Buttersworth) and her suitor, Earl of Grey (he makes a nice, smokey tea).

If you cannot arrange to have this served to you, please consider making it for yourself (or serving – from the right side of course – someone else).

Happy holidays (and brandy butter kisses).

Italian Gingerbread Cake and Brandy Butter

This cake is made with enough polenta flour and egg whites to keep the dough very light. If you like a very spicy gingerbread, add some fresh ginger to the batter before baking. Use the most flavorful honey you can find. There is no butter in this cake because the brandy butter is rich and pairs so well. If you prefer, serve with cream poured on top (kids do better with this than brandy!).

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup brown rice syrup (or Golden Syrup)

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup applesauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup milk

3/4 polenta flour

1 cup wheat flour

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 eggs plus 2 additional whites

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cloves

Oven to 350. Combine water, molasses, honey, rice syrup, sugar, and applesauce, mixing well until sugar has begun to dissolve. Add olive oil ad milk and mix. Add flours and eggs and egg whites and mix very well. Add rest of ingredients and stir until combined, doing your best to get out most of the lumps. Grease 9x13 pan or two smaller, deeper dishes. Traditionally this would be baked in a deep pudding mold (like a giant ramekin) or stoneware, so do whatever you like. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes and lower oven to 325 to finish baking - about another 15-20 minutes. Cake should be springy but cooked through in center.

For brandy butter mix 6 tbsp butter and 6 tbsp sugar - white makes light butter, brown sugar makes darker butter - until very creamy and incorporated (use food processor). Bit by bit add brandy and keep mixing. This will keep in fridge for a couple of weeks.