Pear, Ginger and Rum Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

This spicy and boozy cake was inspired by my recent trip to London. I love exploring culture through cuisine, and foreign grocery stores are always a pit-stop for me. I came across this pear, ginger, and white chocolate cake in Waitrose, and was intrigued by the flavor combination.

The cake is described as a “dark sticky ginger cake made with black treacle and stem ginger, filled and topped with British pear jam and white chocolate ganache with notes of caramel.” The original cake was cloyingly sweet due to the white chocolate caramel ganache, but I loved the autumnal harmony of the pear, ginger, and molasses.

I don’t see pear jam very often, and I loved how mossy and velvety it felt on the tongue. The stem ginger, which is basically ginger soaked in a sugar syrup, studded the cake and greeted my molars like spicier and more succulent versions of raisins. And the treacly stickiness of the cake felt so warm and cozy and perfect for the cold weather.

After examining the ingredients list closely, I came up with an action plan to put my own spin on this cake. While the Waitrose version used stem ginger, I used a David Lebovitz recipe that relied on fresh ginger – I wanted a less sweet effect. After reading the comments, I also halved the sugar and oil from the original recipe. The cake is spicy and flavorful, but definitely a little dry with less oil.

I didn’t find an affordable pear jam in my local grocery stores (Whole Foods had one for $10) so I decided to make my own. The jam involved dicing up less-than-ripe pears and letting it sit in sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice overnight, then heating it up while simultaneously mashing it to get a jam. I probably should’ve cut the pieces smaller, but I didn’t mind the toothsomeness.

While I found many recipes for caramelized white chocolate frosting, I decided to keep it simple and made a two-ingredient frosting from Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce and unsalted butter. For me, the sweet, smooth and creamy frosting is what ties the whole cake together. I hadn’t planned to brush the cake with rum, but it seemed like a good idea and I did not regret it. The bite from the fresh ginger mellows after a day or two, as does the alcohol from the rum, and this is a cake that improves with time.

Pear, Ginger and Rum Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Makes one 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf cake

Cake adapted from David Lebovitz in the New York Times; pear jam from Practical Self Reliance; salted caramel frosting adapted from Let The Baking Begin

Ingredients

Ginger Rum Cake
  • 140g molasses
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 80g neutral oil, like canola
  • 150g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 oz fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dark rum (optional)

Pear Jam
  • 1 lb pears that are just shy of ripe
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Salted Caramel Frosting
  • 4 oz butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 7 oz salted caramel sauce

Instructions

To make the jam:

  1. Peel, core and dice pears. (Be sure to chop the pears relatively small, as they’ll remain close to that size in the finished jam.)
  2. Toss the pears in lemon juice and sugar, cover and refrigerate for overnight (12 to 24 hours). This step is important, and at an absolute minimum, they need 4 hours, preferably more.
  3. Place pear mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil on high. The mixture will foam, so be sure your pan is big enough to handle foaming to avoid overflows.
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally, watching for overflows, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. If pear pieces are too large, crush slightly with a potato masher (optional).
  5. Cook until the pear jam reaches gel stage at 220 F, using an instant-read thermometer or testing a small amount on a plate placed in the freezer.
  6. Set aside the pear jam in the fridge for later use.

To make the cake:

  1. Position rack in center of oven. Heat to 350 degrees. Line a 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the molasses, sugar and oil. In another bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Stir in baking soda, then mix hot water into molasses mixture. Stir in ginger.
  4. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into batter. Add egg, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into prepared pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, until top of cake springs back lightly when pressed or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. If the top of cake browns too quickly before cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.
  5. Cool cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen it from pan. Invert cake onto a cooling rack, and peel off parchment paper.

To make the frosting:

  1. Start with room temperature butter. For this, remove butter out of the fridge for about 3 hours.
  2. Add the butter to the mixer bowl and whip for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides several times throughout. Then add salted caramel sauce until just mixed.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Slice cake into three layers. Brush each layer with rum, if desired.
  2. Spread pear jam onto two of the layers.
  3. Assemble cake into a three-layered stack.
  4. I recommend freezing the cake for about 30 minutes for easier frosting. Spread salted caramel frosting all over the cake.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Rum Butter Glaze from Ottolenghi

I saw these gingerbread cookies when I was at Ottolenghi’s in London. What struck me about the cookies was how soft they felt beneath the packaging, but alas, I never ended up purchasing them in favor of other treats. Luckily for me, the recipe was easy enough to find online and therefore recreate at home. I learned that it was originally a Tartine recipe that Ottolenghi found super compelling and had to include in his book, Sweet.

I didn’t have a cookie stamp, so I made my own with salt dough, which is essentially flour, salt, and water formed into a clay and baked at a low temperature to form a mold. I used the end of a funnel to form this holey honeycomb pattern.

How soft the cookies were really depends on the thickness of the dough, how long it was in the oven, and whether the cookies were cut from the first roll-out or reconstituted dough scraps, which tends to have incorporated extra flour sprinkled on the bench to prevent sticking.

The cookie was warmingly spiced with black pepper, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, and not too sweet. I loved the rum glaze; it added a touch more spice and just a bit more complexity. I actually forgot to add butter to the glaze, but I didn’t find that the cookie suffered from it at all. I also loved how the glaze cracks with each bite.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Rum Butter Glaze from Ottolenghi

Recipe from Epicurious

Makes 12 3-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

Cookies:

  • 6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 packed cup plus 2 tbsp (90 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (100 g) blackstrap molasses (I used regular molasses)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp (235 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for pressing
  • 1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used regular cocoa powder)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Rum-Butter Glaze:

  • 2/3 cup (80 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp (15 g) unsalted butter, melted and warm
  • 1 tbsp dark rum (or lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp warm water

PREPARATION

  1. Place the butter, sugar and molasses in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium speed until smooth and incorporated. Add the egg yolk and continue to beat until fully combined.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper into a bowl. Turn the speed of the mixer to low, and add the dry ingredients to the butter and molasses. Once the mix comes together, tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently. Roll out the dough so that it is about 1/4 inch/ 0.5 cm thick. If the dough is very soft, you will need to chill it.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Dip the cookie stamps in a small bowl of flour, shake off any excess and then press them firmly into the dough, one at a time, to create a deep imprint. How far you need to press to get an imprint will depend on your stamp; the patterns on some are more deeply cut than others. Bear in mind that the cookies rise a little when cooked, so any soft imprints will disappear. Using a round cookie cutter that is slightly larger than the pattern, cut out the pieces of imprinted gingerbread. Transfer the cookies to the lined baking sheets, spaced about 3/4 inch/2 cm apart. Reroll the dough and continue to stamp and cut cookies until all the dough is used up.
  5. Bake for 9–10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until firm to the touch. They will continue to firm up as they cool, so don’t be tempted to bake them for any longer.
  6. To make the rum butter glaze while the gingerbreads are in the oven, as the glaze needs to be brushed onto the cookies while they are still warm, sift the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl. Add the melted butter, rum (or lemon juice) and water and mix with a spoon until smooth. The glaze will thicken slightly if it sits around, so stir through a little more warm water if you need to—it should be the consistency of runny honey.
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven, leave them to cool for 5 minutes, then brush or dab the glaze all over with a pastry brush. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Matcha (Green Tea) Ginger and Almond Biscotti

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One of the primary motivators for my baking is because buying dessert everyday is too expensive. Yes, I crave sweets everyday, and most often of the pastry variety. Chocolate bars and candies don’t satisfy me. I was examining my Mint budget for the month of October, and was shocked at how much of it went to buying random snacks to tide over an afternoon lull. This must stop!

Enter the matcha, ginger, and almond biscotti. I had crystallized ginger from an oatmeal, white chocolate and ginger cookie recipe, and I had matcha powder from a previous iteration of a green tea shortbread cookie. I also had slivered almonds from a chocolate granola recipe – triple win! Efficient, and makes good use of existing ingredients I have in my pantry.

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Biscotti is cool because it’s a double-baked cookie. First it is shaped into a flat loaf and then baked till just firm on the outside, and then sliced into the familiar biscotti shape and then baked again. I’m not sure why this is so. Is it because biscotti is meant to be a long-lasting, storage food? 

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The one thing that I’m not so crazy about this recipe is the strong eggy taste. It might not be so discernible if you weren’t looking out for it, but it was strange to me. The exclusion of any fat whatsoever necessitates the additional eggs, so I think it would be inherent to any biscotti recipe, unless you get a bastardized American version that’s softer and chewier. Nevertheless, this biscotti is great to dip into a hot cup of tea and munch on.

Matcha (Green Tea) Ginger and Almond Biscotti
From Big Biscotti Bake

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup roughly chopped almonds
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1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2. In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4. With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5. Add the crystallized ginger and almonds, and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 to 20 times.

6. Separate the dough in half. Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes. Press the top of each log with granulated sugar.

7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split. Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8. Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board. Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Candied Ginger Chunks

IMG_4002This may look like a nondescript oatmeal white chocolate chip cookie. But little did you know that when you bite into it, there would be unexpected warmth and spice from the candied ginger chunks that cuts the sweetness of the white chocolate a little bit. What I like best about these cookies is how it is reminiscent of the winter holidays. The flavors are definitely very seasonal, and somehow the combination of oats, ginger, white chocolate and honey just feel like a warm, comforting embrace.

Which explains why I have eaten so many. Nom nom noms.

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Candied Ginger Chunks
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes about 50 cookies

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (It’s okay to use all-purpose flour although I suspect whole wheat can add a nutty, earthy, wholesome flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In medium bowl, combine oats, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Using electric mixer at high speed, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg, honey, and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add oat mixture and mix at low speed just until incorporated. Stir in white chocolate chocolate and ginger. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or until slightly stiffer. In the interest of time optimization, I recommend doing the dishes now.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake until golden and slightly crisp on edges, about 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on sheets 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Key Lime Pie with Ginger Almond Crust

IMG_3965I inherited some limes from my workplace's Frozen Drink Friday happy hour, and made a key lime pie. This is probably my first deliberate endeavor into slightly more gluten-free baking. I had some almond flour left over from my macaron-making adventures (which turned out to be quite dissatisfactory, and is the reason why no mention of it has been made) and decided to incorporate it into the key lime pie, which traditionally has a graham cracker crust. I also happened to have some ginger at home, which is probably one of my favorite spices which unfortunately gets little use in my kitchen. I grated some into the crust mixture, and voila – spicy, nutty, tart flavor explosion.

What you see here though, was actually my second attempt at a key lime pie using this recipe. For my first attempt, I tried to avoid using condensed milk and used rehydrated powdered milk instead but that didn't end up so well.

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The pie filling was crumbly and powdery, and nothing like the silky texture I was hoping for. But I knew I found a winner with the ginger almond crust and I simply had to try again, even if it meant going to the store and buying a can of condensed milk for the express purpose of this pie. (And you know I’m not terribly fond of purchasing recipe-specific ingredients since it leads to wastage.)

Fortunately my second attempt turned out much better. The pie filling, with its simplicity of ingredients, really is fail-proof. It’s smooth and tart, and contrasts well with the nutty crust. I like that the crust is not just a base for holding the pie filling, but actually contains a unique flavor of its own. Its texture is a little chewy, somewhat resembling a granola bar. It is modifiable to be entirely gluten-free if you so desire, but not in an overt way that might put off food purists.

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Key Lime Pie with Ginger Almond Crust
Makes one 9-inch pie

Crust
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1/2 cup all purpose flour (Feel free to use all almond flour or change around the proportions a little bit as long as you use 1 cup of flour eventually)
2 tbsp butter, softened.
1.5 tbsp fresh grated ginger root
2 tbsps honey
30g brown sugar

Heat oven to 350 F. Line an 9-inch round pan with parchment paper, or use a pie dish if you have one. Mix all the ingredients together into a clumpy mix. Use your hands to mix it more evenly, if necessary. Press into the base of round pan. Bake for 10 minutes until edges of the crust is very lightly browned. Leave to cool.

Pie Filling
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice (I used the juice of two large limes)
1 (14 oz) can of condensed milk

Mix egg yolks, lime zest, and lime juice. When mixture is homogenous, stir in condensed milk. Pour mixture into crust and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. The pie filling should still be glossy and wet. Let it cool out of the oven, and then refrigerate at least a couple of hours so the pie filling sets.