Happy holidays to you! I would usually extend my holiday greeting to you and your whole family but this year you may not be seeing everyone. The next best thing is sending far off family a tin with love, sugar, and spice baked right in.
As astute followers of myteaplanner.com and our blogs may have noticed, we appreciate a good cake recipe. A beautiful cake atop its cake pedestal has pride of place on the tea table and at celebrations throughout the year. These special occasion cakes tend to be presented with luscious fillings and frostings, creamy swirls adorning tops, shiny glazes dripping richly down the sides. As gorgeous as these cakes are to gaze upon and eat, they would not be the ones to send through the mail. When choosing a cake to mail, the properties to look for are sturdiness, long keeping attributes, and an absence of gooey toppings or fillings. Anything needing refrigeration is to be avoided. In general, pound cakes and bundt cakes are good candidates for shipping. For some excellent recipes from our website, check out the rum bundt cake, cocoa apple cake, cinnamon apple crown cake, moist chocolate marble cake, Greek lemon cake, triple espresso cake, and easy orange pound cake.
The gold standard of long keeping holiday cakes is fruitcake. If some of you have run screaming from the room, please make yourself a calming cup of tea and come back here and keep reading. One can make a yummy fruitcake without any of the day-glo green candied cherries that adorned fruitcakes of yore. I’ve long made my fruitcakes with dried fruit only and they pass the fruitcake lovers’ tests and are enjoyed by fruitcake haters as well. More about candying your own fruit, recipes for a variety of fruitcakes with tips for making and aging fruitcakes can be found here: https://www.myteaplanner.com/in-defense-of-fruitcake-fruitcakes-and-candied-fruit.html
Never fear, there are festive cakes for the winter holidays that do not involve month-long planning, oodles of brandy, multiple pounds of dried fruit, and are beloved favorites: gingerbread! The warm baking spices and distinct flavors of molasses and ginger make gingerbread a welcome treat with hot tea, coffee, or mulled cider. I have used the Gosby House gingerbread recipe for many years but am always on the lookout for new twists on our family favorite. I had come across the famous Gramercy Tavern recipe several times and decided to try it this year. The recipe makes one large bundt cake but I made it in three small steamed
pudding molds which look a lot like sized-down bundt pans. It was so delicious, dark and rich with just the right amount of spice. I wrapped up one of the little cakes and sampled it for several days in a row: it kept beautifully at room temperature, snuggled in its airtight tin. I highly recommend it. The recipe can be found here: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/gramercy-tavern-gingerbread-103087Gramercy Gingerbread Recipe
In my gingerbread file, I also found a recipe I’d clipped sometime in the past for a gingerbread cake mix. A mix would allow a lucky recipient to make their own warm gingerbread, with just a few additions, making the house smell so inviting. The recipe makes enough for five 8” by 8” cakes. I baked one and it was quite good and also kept well for several days. The only change I made was to increase the amount and variety of spices used in the original mix. I like my gingerbread gingery-spicy!
(Makes 5 batches)
- 6 -2/3 cups flour
- 1 -1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
- 1/4 cup baking powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 5 tablespoons ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon EACH ground allspice, cardamom, cloves, mace, and nutmeg
- 1-1/2 cups shortening
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, milk powder, baking powder, salt, and spices. Using a pastry blender or a large fork, cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Divide mixture into 5 equal portions of about 2-2 ¼ cups each. Store in attractive air-tight containers such as jars, holiday plastic storage containers, holiday zip-top bags, or other giftable container. Mix will keep at cool room temperature for up to six months.
Baking Your Gingerbread Cake Mix
Another type of cake that travels well is the coffee cake/crumb cake style of cake. Besides being an indulgent treat, the coffee cake can be enjoyed from breakfast to afternoon tea to latenight fireside time. I tested a New York-style crumb cake that sported almost as much crumb as cake. The recipe even mentions that it can be stored at room temperature for up to five days. Though the recipe called for it to be baked in a 13” by 9” pan, I baked it in two 8” by 8” pans with great success. This crumb cake is definitely a keeper and will probably make an appearance at a brunch soon.
After deciding on what cakes to make, begin by choosing cake pans that will fit comfortably into tins. I collect pretty tins all year at thrift stores and tag sales but they can be found during holiday time in super markets and such. Smaller tins can be found at a dollar store. This year, I happened upon a nesting set of very pretty Christmas tins online and bought all they had. Wash and dry all tins before use. Have on hand plenty of plastic wrap, waxed paper, parchment paper, and tissue paper for packing. I found that some disposible aluminium pans will fit into tins nicely. Besides aged fruitcakes, for freshest baked gifts, plan to get the cakes packaged and in the mail on the same day they are made.
adapted from Martha Stewart Magazine
Yield: Makes one 9-by-13-inch cake (or two 8” by 8” square cakes)
- Make the crumb topping: Mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour warm melted butter over mixture, and mix using your hands until medium to large clumps form.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make the cake: Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
- Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.
- Spoon batter into pan, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Spread with jam, if using. Sprinkle crumb-topping mixture evenly over top.
- Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack. Let cake cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.