The Christmas season always makes me daydream about my Grandma Mary and Gingerbread cake. I imagine her thoughtfully inspecting her tinseled Christmas tree (she has spent an hour putting a single tinsel strand on every branch), champagne glass in hand, hand on hip, humming to “Silver Bells”. Soon after, she’d announce that it was time for a toast, that the tree was completed and that we better enjoy it because of all the hard work she put into it. Of course, it was a beautiful tree and it was the first of many toasts that Christmas weekend.
Mary Smida was born on December 2, which is most likely the reason that she emulated the spirit of Christmas so well. She taught her family a manner of celebrating that included champagne toasts, Bing Crosby and Kate Smith, reindeer and sleigh decorations, delicious feasts and her love for Home Alone. My sister and I were always included in the festivities. Which is the reason why Christmas is so wonderful to this day, and the same reason that my mother passed this down to me to share with my family (okay, I’m getting emotional now!).
Grandma Mary left us with two Christmas traditions: an angel tree put up on her birthday and Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Sauce to enjoy after. I like to imagine that her and I would make apps and dips together (such as Dorothy’s Dip), that we’d experiment together, laugh out loud when it was a flop and celebrate together when it was a win, giving two-handed high fives, hooting and hollering. And that she would bake with me.
I’ll be honest, I love to cook, but I’m not a baker. Mary was an absolutely fantastic baker. Whereas I struggle with precise measuring and following step-by-step instructions to the tee, she would put on her black-rimmed glasses, roll up her sleeves and with unfaltering focus and intensity, present a gorgeous apple pie. She did the same with Gingerbread Cake and Lemon Sauce and I laugh thinking about us baking together. I can almost hear her say, “Alana Claire! You need to measure the flour exactly, now, take a knife and level it off so you have the right amount. That is not the way you make a pie.”.
This post has a few elements that are firsts for me:
- There’s a bit more words because this dish has meaning and memories to it. This is the passion of cooking – as you make and taste a dish, you remember the smiles, clinking of champagne glasses and fun moments you had.
- To show my Grandma Mary that I can bake if I put my mind to it and I am sharing a dessert with you that requires baking in honor of her Christmas spirit.
- Lastly, I have yet to share a recipe that is not original. This recipe is from Southern Living 1991 and has been made by my mom for as long as I can remember.
The Jolly Hostess twist this week takes a forever-loved Gingerbread Cake and Lemon Sauce that I hope will become part of your Christmas celebration too. Grab your glass of champagne, oven mitts and Home Alone soundtrack and enjoy this heavenly, melt-in-your- mouth holiday dessert.
Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cake:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar (I have cut this down from 1 cup sugar so it’s more lemony than sweet)
1/4 cup water
1 egg, beaten
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
Makes: 15-18 pieces; Prep time: 15 mins; Cook time: 50 mins
Beat room temperature butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add in sugar and egg, beat well for 5-6 minutes. You know that you are done when you can no feel the grains; Add molasses and beat till blended, about 2-3 minutes.
Combine flour and next four ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Mix. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, alternating with hot water, and beat with mixer. Begin and end with the flour mixture. The hot water’s purpose is to dissolve the sugar, so you are done when it is completely smooth. Mix after each addition – see, such specific and time-staking instructions! But so worth it when you’re done.
Pour mixture into lightly greased 13″x9″x2″ pan. You can either use more butter or cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 mins or until you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean.
I always like to wait until I am ready to serve to make the lemon sauce, so it’s slightly warm and gooey.
Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter. Add remaining ingredients (3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1 egg, beaten and juice and rind of 1 lemon), stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat until mixed fully and thick. Should take around 4-5 mins. Keep a few pieces of rind out for presentation.
Serve immediately. Cut cake in small pieces and top with lemon sauce and rinds.