Tag: Cake

Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler Gingerbread Cake | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Ah, the holiday season. The time of year when we are surrounded by twinkling lights, ugly sweaters, and sweets. Oh the sweets! I love and hate it at the same time. Rather than a big Christmas dinner, my family opted for the age old Jewish tradition of Chinese food and movies. Don’t be fooled though, we did do a few Christmas-y things. My mom, sisters and I would usually spend an entire day in the kitchen making Christmas cookies for the mailman and the neighbors, but we didn’t make any really for ourselves (ok, that’s kind of a lie, we definitely ate a few during the packaging process).

The one thing that really sticks out in my mind as something we made during the holiday season was gingerbread. And I’m not talking about the houses made of stale candy, or the too-crunchy cookies. I’m talking about the almost-savory snacking gingerbread cake: gingery, perfectly spiced, moist, and a little bit sticky. In a season full of too-sweet cookies and candy, this cake is perfectly the opposite kind of treat. My mom used to make it, and I always remember her in her pajamas, eating it late at night between the dessert and midnight snack hours, usually dolloped with cream cheese and accompanied by a mug of tea. I love this cake because it takes me back to those nights when it was cold outside, but it was so warm in our kitchen, and full of the smells of holiday baking. When I told Jonah I wanted to make some of my own (which I had never done before), he said he’d never had this kind of gingerbread. I think this recipe convinced him.

Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks (plus some more for greasing the pan)
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup blackstrap molasses
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups AP flour (plus some for dusting the pan)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (ground will work, but fresh is better)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Optional: powdered sugar, whipped cream, or cream cheese for serving


Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the parchment and sides of the pan.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add baking soda (it will foam! don’t be scared!). Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in the butter until melted. Next add the brown sugar, molasses, and ginger and mix until combined. Set aside until no warmer and lukewarm.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder. Whisk in the eggs and then the molasses mixture, mixing until the ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared 9×13 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick (or skewer or knife or whatever you’re using) inserted comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack and, once cooled, cut around the edges and invert the cake onto the rack, and then onto a serving plate, where you can cut into whatever shapes you’d like and enjoy it alongside some tea or coffee.

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust
Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious CrustMiso Sticky Toffee Pudding // Serious Crust

Almost a year ago, there was a piece in the New York Times. I’m not sure where I found it – most likely someone posted it on Facebook – but it struck a chord. It’s called “When a Food Writer Can’t Taste,” by Marlena Spieler, a James Beard Award winning food writer. In the article, she writes about how a car accident, in which she broke both arms and sustained a concussion, completely demolished her ability to taste and smell.

Now, that sounds horrible no matter who you are. But when a food writer loses the senses that bring her the most joy and allow her to work, it’s devastating. Her descriptions of tasting what had once been some of her favorite foods are heartbreaking: “Cinnamon drops, a childhood favorite, were bitter, horrible.” “Bananas tasted like parsnips and smelled like nail polish remover.” “Gently sautéed mushrooms seemed like scorched bits of sponge.” Luckily, the nerves were only damaged, not severed, meaning that she would, in time, recover. She created her own rehabilitation plan, eating and tasting a huge range of foods, forcing herself to taste things like chocolate over and over again, starting with milk chocolate and slowly upping the cocoa content. Things she hadn’t particularly loved before – fish, especially – became a daily craving.

In the end, she recovered most of the way, and though her senses still occasionally go haywire, she can enjoy food to an incredible extent. But I’d like to focus on a specific part of this story: about halfway through the article, she tells us how, though she used to “lack a sweet tooth,” her sweet tooth now couldn’t be ignored. She lists a few things she baked, and they all sound delicious, but one jumped out at me: miso sticky toffee pudding.

When I studied abroad in London, I became a fan of sticky toffee pudding. It’s not pudding like we think of in the states. It’s a cake that is sweet but not too sweet, drenched in a warm toffee sauce that seeps into the cake, resulting in a moist, warm, absolutely fantastic dessert. Now I have looked for a recipe for Spieler’s mystical dish, and I am not the only one. The day after the article was published, someone tweeted at Spieler asking for the recipe. There’s a Chowhound thread asking if the recipe can be found anywhere (yes, I commented). But I couldn’t find it, and it seems, neither could anyone else. There are recipes for miso toffee, and for sticky toffee pudding with miso ice cream, but not this exact dessert. So, after talking with my baker friend Caitlyn, we decided to make one ourselves.

We decided to adapt David Lebovitz’s sticky toffee pudding recipe, and really, there were only a couple simple changes to be made. (In retrospect, I should’ve used Spieler’s sticky toffee pudding recipe, but I never happened upon it until I was sitting down to write this.) The resulting dessert is sweet, salty, caramelized, strong, and unique. Its flavors are perhaps a bit confusing at first, but I think the way they swirl around your tongue, combining to create a balance of sweet and savory is a fun adventure.

Miso Sticky Toffee Pudding

Note: I have made this recipe now with both red and white miso paste. While I personally liked the white miso better, Caitlyn, Jonah, and Caitlyn’s boyfriend Dylan liked the red. On one hand, I think the deeper, more caramelized flavor of the red miso was nice, and on the other, the white provided a little more brightness, while bringing the same level of saltiness. Both are good, so it’s up to you which you use.


Toffee Sauce

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup muscovado sugar (if you don’t have that, demerera or dark brown sugar will do)
2 1/2 Tbl molasses (we used Blackstrap)
2-3 tsp miso paste (start with two teaspoons, and add up to another teaspoon to taste)
1-2 Tbl toasted sesame seeds


6 ounces pitted dates, snipped into small pieces
1 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt, preferably fine
4 Tbl unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
toasted sesame seeds, to serve


Toffee Sauce

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and butter an 8 1/2 inch porcelain soufflé dish, or something of a similar size.

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the cream, muscovado sugar (or other dark brown sugar), molasses, and miso to a boil, stirring often to melt the sugar, and keeping a close eye to make sure it doesn’t burn. Lower the heat and let simmer for about five minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened and coats the spoon. Try your best to break up any chunks of miso. Pour roughly half the sauce into your buttered baking dish, sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the toffee sauce, and place the dish in the freezer. Set the pan with the rest of the sauce aside for serving.


In another medium saucepan, bring the dates and water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and ginger. Set aside, but keep slightly warm – leaving it on low heat isn’t a terrible idea.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl (you can use an electric mixer), cream together the butter and granulated sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla, stirring to combine. Add half of the flour mixture, then the date mixture, and then add the rest of the flour mixture, stirring between each addition. Be careful not to over-mix the batter.

Remove the baking dish from the freezer and pour the batter in over the toffee and sesame seeds. Bake for 50 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Allow it to cool slightly before serving. To serve, warm the toffee sauce, spoon portions of the pudding onto plates or bowls, and top with the warm toffee sauce and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream will make a nice topping. I’ve also topped mine with some homemade anise-cardamom ice cream (based on the anise ice cream from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop).

According to Lebovitz, if you’re making the pudding in advance of serving, bake it without the toffee in the bottom of the dish. Close to serving time, poke the cake about 15 times with a chopstick or skewer, and distribute half the toffee sauce over the top. Cover with foil, warm in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes, and then follow the serving instructions above.

Weekend Finds 6:29:14

Dang. It’s almost July. I apologize for my absence of late. Things have been a little busy lately, and Jonah hasn’t been here to cook me dinner, so I haven’t had as much time for writing and recipe researching as I’d like. Yesterday I was able to hit up the Organic Beer Festival here in Portland, and it was lovely, despite the clouds. Here are the weekend finds.

1. Bicycle Pizza Slicer

Fixie Bike Pizza Cutter // Weekend Finds on Serious Crust
For the biking, cooking hipster in your life.

I found this pizza cutter via Food Republic, and it immediately made me think of Jonah (who makes pizzas and rides bikes). I think it would make an adorable little gift. You can find it for sale on this website. I also like their salami sticky notes.

2. How to cut a cake. Better.

Cut Cake Better // Weekend Finds on Serious Crust
The new and improved cake cutting technique.

This video has been circling the internet (at least, in my food-centric newsfeeds). It’s pretty great, and teaches us a new, much more sensible way to cut a cake. Keep that pastry fresh and moist longer.

3. Pancake in a rice cooker…?

Rice Cooker Pancake // Weekend Finds on Serious Crust
Don’t you want to punch a hole in this pancake? I do.

Jonah discovered this method for making basically a large, thick pancake in your rice cooker. I’m not sure I believe that it will work, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Because how hilarious does that thing look?

4. Green Rice Salad with Corn and Nectarines

Green Rice Salad from Not Without Salt // Weekend Finds on Serious Crust
I love the bright colors in this salad from Not Without Salt.

I’ll be honest, as far as summer salads go, this one from Not Without Salt has officially skyrocketed to the top of my list. Rice with cilantro, parsley, and jalapeño, topped with nectarines, grilled corn, and queso fresco? This is going on my July 4th menu.

5. Car Trunk Organizers

Trunk Organizer // Weekend Finds on Serious Crust
Trunk organizers even come in pretty patterns like this, with a cooler in the middle.

You know that feeling when you go to the grocery store, grab a 6 pack of beer, a bag of apples, maybe some chips, etc. You pack it all into the car and as you’re pulling out of the parking lot, you hear the sound. The sound of your apples falling onto your chips, crushing every one of them, the apples roll out into your trunk, and the beer bottles tip over out of their little cardboard case, and then spend the next 10 minutes clinking around in your trunk, no doubt bruising some apples. There is a thing that can stop all of that from happening. Read all about it here.

Ice Cream Cake

Ice Cream Cake // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Ice Cream Cake // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Ice Cream Cake // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Ice Cream Cake // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

When I asked Carmelle what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday this year, and she replied, “ice cream cake,” I was stumped. I mean, not so stumped. I’ve had ice cream cake before. I understand the concept. But I’ve certainly never made one. In a summer cooking camp I did when I was younger, I made a baked alaska, but I certainly wasn’t going to attempt that. My mom used to make a version of ice cream cake with Ho hos: she would take a big metal bowl, line it with slices of Ho hos, fill the bowl with ice cream, freeze it, and then turn it out, so it looked something like this.

So I suppose it was officially time to learn to make my own ice cream cake. I had a choice to make: do I make the kind with an actual layer of cake in it? Or do I make the kind that just has layers of ice cream and chocolate sauce and magical cookie crumbles?

I decided to go with the latter. If I’d had more time I would’ve made my own ice cream, it turned out it was a crazy weekend (full of Valentine’s Day, a bar mitzvah, work, and an Amos Lee concert), so there wasn’t time for that madness. Still though, ice cream making is on my to-do list.

I decided to use a recipe from Not Without Salt (NWS) as a guideline, except I wanted to just buy Oreo crumbs at the store instead of making my own chocolate wafers. At this point, I was thinking more along the lines of cake assembly than actual creation. Don’t judge me. After hitting the grocery store (note to self: NEVER go to Fred Meyer’s on a Sunday again), and not finding Oreo crumbs or any wafers I liked, I decided to make them myself. And because I’ve been eyeing Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate wafers, I decided to go with that recipe. Interestingly, something I noticed after I had already made the wafers was that both Smitten Kitchen and Not Without Salt identify Alice Medrich as the cook behind the recipe for their wafers, though they do differ a bit. What I’m saying is, if you decide to go with NWS’s chocolate wafer recipe, I’m sure it will be just as delicious.

Ice Cream Cake

Note: For your ice cream, I would suggest something smooth like coffee, or with small pieces in it, like mint chocolate chip. Carmelle requested cookie dough ice cream, and while it was certainly delicious to get the chunks of cookie dough, it made it a little trickier to slice and serve.


Chocolate Wafers

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup + 2 Tbl sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
14 Tbl (1 3/4 sticks) butter, softened
3 Tbl milk (higher fat is better, because we’re baking here, people)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup  corn syrup (I used dark because I liked the slight molasses smell to it, but light or golden syrup will work)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup (6 oz) bittersweet chocolate (you can use chopped baking chocolate or chips, whatever is convenient for you)
2 Tbl butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 gallon of ice cream of your choice, or 2 quarts of ice creams of your choice


Chocolate Wafers

First, let’s make the wafers. In the bowl of your food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse to mix. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the bowl as well, pulsing again until evenly distributed. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla extract, and then add it to the bowl with the food processor running. Transfer the dough to a bowl and knead a few times to bring it together. On a piece of parchment or wax paper, form the dough into a ~14-inch log, wrap it in the parchment or wax paper, and refrigerate for an hour, or freeze for 20-30 minutes, or until firm.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the log of dough into ~1/4 inch slices, thinner if you’d like, but keep an eye on baking time. Place them on pans about an inch apart, and bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Allow to cool on the pan for a minute or two, as they’ll break easily. Which, for our purposes isn’t the end of the world, but you will have extras, and maybe you want those to be unbroken.

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Before making the fudge, I recommend taking your ice cream out of the freezer to soften.

To make the fudge, combine the cream, corn syrup, sugar, and cocoa powder in a pan. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate, butter, salt, and vanilla. Keep stirring so the chocolate and butter melt, and run through a sieve, preferably into a microwave safe bowl, make sure there are no clumps of cocoa powder. My fudge had a little trouble, and decided to separate (super fun!). Jonah had the brilliant idea to just get out the immersion blender, and I would suggest the same should the separation happen to you. But I sincerely hope it doesn’t. Set fudge aside and let it cool down a bit. Because you have to make this cake in layers and freeze between each layer, the microwave safe bowl comes in handy when you need to warm up (and potentially blend) your fudge sauce.

Now let’s assemble the cake. Put about 20-25 of the chocolate wafers in a big ziploc bag, and beat it with a rolling pin, until the cookies are completely crumbled and there are no pieces larger than a pea. In an 8 or 9 inch springform pan, spread 1/2 of your gallon of ice cream, or one of the quarts. Make sure it’s evenly spread, so it’s roughly the same thickness all the way around the pan. Sprinkle half the cookie crumbs on the ice cream, and then drizzle/spread half the hot fudge over the cookie. Put the pan in the freezer for 30-45 minutes to set. After it has firmed up a bit, spread the second half of ice cream over the fudge, then sprinkle over the remaining cookie crumbs and spread over that the remaining fudge. Put the cake in the freezer until you’re ready to serve, at least an hour.

When you’re ready to eat this bad boy, remove from the freezer and run a knife around the edge before un-molding the cake. Serve and enjoy!