Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Gingerbread House, Rum Raisin Apple Butter Cake, and an Advent Calendar

I always kind of wanted to live in a gingerbread house...  wouldn't that be magical?  A cookie house covered in brightly colored candy, everything twinkling and sparkling.  Or an elegantly iced, snow-covered cottage tucked away in an enchanted forest, nearly hidden so that you stumble upon it unexpectedly.

We've been decorating for Christmas this week and brought home our first real tree.  It smells wonderfully of pine and winter and cozy evenings at home.

I baked gingerbread, too, having rolled out the dough and cut the house from templates I drew up.  The gingerbread is heavily spiced, and so fragrant, its scent filling our kitchen with the aromas of molasses, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

After assembling the sides, roof and chimney with royal icing, I thinned out the icing with a little water to decorate the house, embellishing it with drifts of snow and dripping icicles.  It was my first time baking and decorating a gingerbread house from scratch, and it was so much work that I have no intention of letting anyone eat it...

Having made a big batch of apple butter, I thought it would taste lovely in a cake, so I also baked a rum raisin apple butter cake, frosted with salted and spiced vanilla buttercream.  I originally intended to put the gingerbread house on top of the cake, but the house ended up far too big for that, so I just photographed them together, and they complemented each other so beautifully.

On December 1st, I surprised my husband with an advent calendar, made with a memo board, tiny little envelopes full of treats and notes for him for the whole month, and some pretty watercolor tags.

It definitely feels like Christmas around here.

Rum Raisin Apple Butter Cake

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups apple butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup dark, spiced rum
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and mix on medium speed for two minutes.  Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pans, set on wire racks, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the butter and powdered sugar and meringue powder to combine.  Add the remaining ingredients and whip for 4-5 minutes on medium high speed until very light and fluffy.

Frost the cooled cake.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen