How soon after Christmas do you take your Christmas decorations down? Are you ready to toss the tree to the curb on Boxing Day, or are you one of those people that leaves it up until Spring Break? In our family, we're somewhere in between. We leave our decorations up through New Year's, but they're usually taken down and boxed up before we go back to school. We love ourselves some Christmas spirit...but we recognize that there are certain limits. Which you might find hard to believe, considering that we are posting a gingerbread house recipe on January 11th.
I realize this post comes laughably late, considering the most appropriate for holiday-themed is well before the holidays. But then again, there are many holidays, are there not? And why have we limited the potential of celebratory edible miniature residential structures to Christmas? Why can't there be edible love shacks (love shack, baby love shack) on Valentine's Day? Haunted houses on Halloween? Replica white houses on President's Day?
If you ask me, there's a multitude possibilities for themed holiday houses that we've left egregiously untapped.
These alternative holiday houses don't need to be made out of gingerbread, either. You can easily tailor the flavor composition of the house to reflect the theme. Especially if you follow the example of this gingerbread house - which is in fact a cake. Yes, you read that correctly. This beautiful and structurally sound construction you see before you is actually a very edible, very delicious cake.
The world is a beautiful place.
Audrey and I have made gingerbread houses in the past, but they've never turned out very well. Working with crispy gingerbread cookies or graham crackers, it's challenging to construct something structurally sound enough to stand on it's own. Also, there's nothing terribly appealing about nibbling on a house made out of crunchy cookies and stale candy.
This year, however, we came across an idea in a baking magazine that changed everything: Build the foundation of your house out of gingerbread cake, and encase it in graham cracker. The house will stand better, look better, and taste (100x) better.
Our world? Officially rocked.
Not being huge fans of gingerbread, we opted to swap the magazine's plain gingerbread cake for Sally's chocolate gingerbread cake recipe that we first featured last winter in our Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes. That turned out to be a pretty inspired decision. That recipe is bomb.
And if you want to take my grand idea for a whole calendar's worth of edible, miniature holiday homes and run with it, it would be sooo easy to replace the inside of this house with red velvet cake for your Valentine's Day love shack, or with devil's food cake for your Halloween haunted house. As for decorations, the candy aisle of your local Target will be replete with so many various holiday-appropriate options you won't even know where to start.
We had a lot of fun decorating this house, as you might be able to tell. And we're not too shy to say it: We think it turned out pretty dang awesome. We even found a way to make Santa's sleigh, Rudolph, and the big man in the red suit himself! Not too shabby, if you ask us.
We took a lot of step-by-step pictures of the assembly process and realized they'd make a pretty sweet stop motion video, so we made them into a pretty sweet stop motion video:
Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
For gingerbread house: Double recipe and bake in two 9x13 pans. See video for assembly. Decorate as you please!
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk or cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9-inch bundt pan with nonstick spray. Dust with cocoa powder and tap out excess. Set aside.
Over medium-low heat, melt together the oil, molasses, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan until all of the brown sugar has dissolved. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs and milk into the molasses mixture after it has cooled (to avoid heating and scrambling the eggs). Set aside.
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Gently fold the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until just combined. There will be lumps remaining. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes until cake is pulling away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.