This time of year is the perfect time to fill the house with the wonderful spicy scent of gingerbread, and this recipe makes it so easy.
This is also a pretty addition to holiday parties and makes a perfect hostess gift.
Simply adding a few fragrant ingredients to a boxed gingerbread mix is all you have to do to make this your own 'secret' recipe.
A dusting of stencilled powdered sugar and gum drop holly leaves makes it extra festive.
8 or 9" square baking pan
1 package gingerbread mix (14.5 oz or 411g)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 tsp ground mace
3 small green gumdrops
3 'red-hots' or tiny round red candies
Prepare gingerbread according to instructions on the package, substituting 1/4 cup of orange juice for the same quantity of water.
(some packaged mixes call for mixing in the pan with a fork, but I find it better to mix in a bowl and use a whisk to stir ingredients)
Add grated orange rind and mace.
Bake according to directions on the package.
Cool cake completely.
To add powdered sugar stencil, place a small paper doily on top of cooled cake. Make sure all 'cut-outs' are punched out. To hold doily in place, use a few toothpicks around the edge.
Using a flour sifter, coat top of cake with powdered sugar.* Carefully lift doily off of cake so as not to spill excess powdered sugar.
To make holly leaves, sprinkle a small saucer with sugar and using thumb, press down on gumdrop in sugar to flatten, turning over with each press to coat with sugar. (This prevents sticking)
Flatten into an oval shape. With a pair of scissors, cut crescent shapes along edges to make holly shape.
Place 3 Holly leaves in center of cake and press 3 tiny red candies in center for 'Holly Berries'.
*Be sure that cake is completely cool before sprinkling on powdered sugar so it doesn't 'disappear'. It is best to decorate cake within 2 hours of serving.
Now if you are not bringing your pretty little gingerbread cake anywhere but to your table, you will need a nice hot cup of cocoa to go with it. And if you have a special someone to share it with, this is a lovely way to serve it.
Mocha Hot Chocolate with Cocoa Dusted Marshmallows
3-1/2 cups milk
1 cup half and half or light cream
8 oz bittersweet chocolate pieces (about 1-1/3 cups) or coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. instant coffee crystals or instant espresso coffee powder
1 tsp vanilla
large marshmallows, dusted with cocoa hearts*
In a medium saucepan combine milk and half and half. Stir over medium heat just until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add chocolate pieces and coffee crystals. Cook and whisk constantly until chocolate pieces are melted and mixture is smooth and well combined. Stir in vanilla. Ladle into warm mugs. Top with cocoa heart marshmallows.
* To make marshmallow hearts, you will need large marshmallows and some cocoa powder.
Trace circumference of marshmallow onto center of small sturdy piece of paper that has been folded in half and opened up flat.
Refold paper in half again. Draw and cut out half of heart in center of circle. Open fold to reveal heart shape stencil.
Cut marshmallow in half to reveal two sticky sides, being careful not to 'squish'. Place sticky side up and place heart stencil in center. Dust with cocoa powder and remove stencil. Carefully drop into cocoa.
Hot Chocolate with sweet hearts for your 'sweetheart'.