Category: molasses

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with brandy icing and sugared cranberries.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

So, hey guys… I made some mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. Cutest little things. And add to them some cute little sparkly sugared cranberries. Ugh. Forget it. Are visions of sugarplums- or sugared cranberries- dancing in your head? It’s Christmastime, folks! I know! So exciting. It’s such a busy time of year, I know, but I hope you all take some time to spend with your families and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that not only are we all human- but what’s important.

Beautiful things don’t always have to be complicated. Simple is beautiful too. And I promise you that these little mini gingerbread bundts are simple. Don’t be scared by the sugared cranberries!

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread is so Christmas, it’s practically mandatory. If you let a holiday season go by without making gingerbread, it’s almost sacrilegious. I decided to up the ante and add another holiday favorite: cranberries. And let’s not forget brandy, another holiday staple.

So yeah. Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. They’re so beautiful… and also just plain adorable. But SIMPLE. Just a few ingredients, a little bit of mixing and tossing and whisking and voila. Gorgeous little cakes to serve after a holiday meal. And they’ll make you feel all Martha Stewart-y.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

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Amish baking at it’s best… Shoo-fly pie.

Amish Shoo-fly pie.

Shoo-fly pie is one of those extremely interesting pies that’s really nothing more than sugar. It’s a goo-pie, really. Made with sticky molasses & sugar. And a little flour, and baking soda. But mostly sugar.

Obviously, it’s one of my favorite things.

So back when Jay surprised me with a new cook book, I was pleased to find out that it was this one!

The Amish Cook's Baking Book (and a recipe for shoo-fly pie!)

It’s filled with amazing pies & cakes & cookies & Amish stories. The first thing I wanted to make was the shoo-fly pie.

However, truth be told, I was hesitant to try to make a shoo-fly pie. See, Dutch Haven in Lancaster, PA makes THE BEST shoo-fly pie, ever, and I’ve eaten enough of it to know. Most shoo-fly pies aren’t as sweet as theirs, and that’s what I love about it. It’s a lot to live up to. Trust me, I know this well. Jay & I once went in three times in one day to sample it (they offer everyone who enters a sample!). We bought three to take home. And ate them. In like a week. So yes, I know all too well the high standard of shoo-fly pie.

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Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

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I didn’t know what to call these, so how about ‘peppery orange ginger muffins’?

After a while, coming up with names for things gets old. And tiresome. And when I’m doing 600 million other things (like for example: painting 5 rooms, 1 ceiling & a hallway, refinishing hardwoods, installing new light fixtures, getting new appliances, redoing my bathroom- there’s literally NO walls just studs & insulation, and of course on top of all that figuring out what’s going on for Thanksgiving) I can’t really focus well enough to come up with a name thats either a) clever or b) makes sense.

See, there’s been a lot of work going on at the house. There are a lot of people working very hard- myself included. I need to have snacks & goodies on hand to feed the troops… or else they might revolt. And the revolt might include not finishing my house! So I try to throw together things that are unique and not just your average snack repeated over & over. Being that it’s been so chilly & windy, I thought a warm, spicy, gingery muffin would work. Then I’d post the recipe if they came out good. Which they definitely did.

Peppery orange ginger muffins. Or spiced orange ginger muffins with black pepper. Whatever they are, they're amazing!

So I just gave up.

Peppery orange ginger muffins it is!

They’re like gingerbread cake, but with orange to sweeten it up a little more. There are so many flavors going on in these, you’d think they’d be “messy” tasting, but they’re not. They’re right on target.

Side note: they came out so delicate & perfectly rounded. Not big or obnoxious or overflowing out of the pans. I don’t know why that is, but they’re good. And I guess it really doesn’t matter. So I eat two instead of one. Big deal.

Ginger muffins with orange zest, candied ginger & black pepper.

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In need of something stout & hearty.

Argh. I know I’ve been repeatedly saying this, over & over again. But let me reiterate: it’s f*!%ing cold.

Early Sunday Morning on Orchard Street, by Vivienne Gucwa

Pardon my French, but really. It’s freezing. And one of those eerie signs of a cold day in New York? A white sky. When it’s just stark white or a very pale milky grey, my grandma used to say it was a sky full of snow. When it looks like that, I have no desire to do anything other than stay under the duvet in a warm, dark room, playing around on my MacBook listening to music while the wind whistles outside & frost patterns form on the windows. Screw interacting with society. I’m better off indoors, warm, with my four-legged companion(s) and my kitchen. There goes that Lisbeth Salander tendency again- good thing I got rid of the mohawk.

And good thing I love New York, & I was born here… or else this shit would get really old, really quick. I’m used to it… but that doesn’t make a 19° degree temperature any less shocking.

Anyway, this cake is warming. And really easy- which means I don’t have to be out of bed for very long to make it.

The best part? It’s made with beer.

Guinness stout, actually. It’s a delicious… cake. Bread. It’s more like… I don’t really know. It teeters between a bread and a cake, and just when you think it’s one thing, it’s another. Just when you’re thinking it’s a great dessert it jumps up and slaps you right in the face, saying: “I’d be excellent for breakfast, too.” And if you’re thinking that a cake with beer in it wouldn’t work for breakfast? Well then you’re not Irish/Polish/German and you’ve also never had this cake. It isn’t sweet, it isn’t savory. It’s an enigma. It’s like gingerbread, just not as sweet. And it’s like a brown bread, but moister and not as savory. And when I say moist? I mean it. It’s not something you can gorge on- one small slice at a time is plenty. You can add some diced candied ginger to the batter, or you can add a little fresh grated ginger, just to up the gingerbread-y-ness of it… or you just can top it with some whipped cream & then put some candied ginger on top. Speaking of whipped cream? I think if you put a whiskey whipped cream or a bourbon whipped cream on it, you’d knock your guests right out of the chairs. On the other hand- it would be good toasted (or baked twice) into an almost biscotti-like texture and paired with a soup that borders on the sweet side, like a creamy chestnut soup. It would even be good toasted, with butter, but you just can’t imagine how good it is plain, at room temperature, with just a bit of mildly sweet, homemade whipped cream.

But then again, everything is better with whipped cream, no?

I know, it doesn’t look like an enigma, does it? But it is. It’s a cake-bread. A bread-cake.

Anyway. It is what it is. You make it & figure it out.

All I know is that it’s spectacular with a simple whipped cream and a smidgen- just a sprinkling– of confectioner’s sugar, accompanied by a hot cup of Irish coffee made with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

GUINNESS GINGER CAKE (adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated)


  • 3/4 cup Guinness Irish stout*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, and set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, bring the Guinness to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally. Take off the heat and add the baking soda (mixture will froth). When the foaming subsides, stir in both sugars & molasses until dissolved. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients. In another large bowl, pour the Guinness mixture. Then whisk in eggs & oil until thoroughly combined.
  4. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture in thirds, stirring until completely smooth between each addition. DO NOT OVERMIX/OVERBEAT: less is more.
  5. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and gently tap it on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top of the cake is just firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

*If you haven’t got Guinness, any stout will do. Samuel Adams cream stout would work wonders too, I imagine.

I repeat: it is NOT a sweet cake. It’s not a chocolate fudge caramel drizzle cake that’s going to make your teeth ache just looking at it. And it’s NOT a full-on bread, because it’s too sweet to be. It is nothing like a beer bread at all, and it’s not like any cake you’ve ever had before. Seriously. Maybe if you use a more chocolatey stout, or maybe Samuel Adams Merry Mischief stout, it’d be a bit sweeter (and also stronger! That Merry Mischief stuff packs a wollop!)… but that’s up to you to experiment with, if you so choose.

I’m secretly giggling at that little peak that formed in the whipped cream… (!) It almost looks like a middle finger, doesn’t it?

Yeah. You’re welcome.

Now I’m crawling back into my warm bed, with a full plate & hot mug of Irish coffee, of course.

Sources & credits: Bailey’s mugs; vintage, silverware; vintage.

Beers & barbecues.

It’s that time of year again. When everyone starts to grill their meats, when the sun sets later and when corn on the cob becomes the staple side dish. It’s been an unusually warm winter and an early spring, despite the temperatures dropping quite low at night lately (which has threatened crops that started to grow far too early when it was 80° degrees in March), it is indeed only a few weeks from the unofficial start of summer: Memorial Day.

I saw this recipe at The Black Peppercorn and I knew I’d have to make it myself. I’ve made Guinness cupcakes, Guinness jelly, even put Guinness in macaroni & cheese. Why not Guinness barbecue sauce? Beer & barbecues go together like… rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong. Or peanut butter & jelly. I love me a good beer. Don’t you?

This was my first attempt at a barbecue sauce. I was a bit nervous, actually, but I think it all worked out just fine in the end.

GUINNESS BARBECUE SAUCE (adapted slightly from The Black Peppercorn)


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, minced (I used one very large white onion)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup Guinness beer
  • ½ cup white distilled 5% vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 “shakes” Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 18-oz. can tomato paste


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, and garlic to the saucepan and saute until they are tender and beginning to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the molasses, beer, brown sugar, both vinegars, salt, pepper and cayenne . Bring to a boil. Let it cook with a low rolling boil for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste & Tabasco and lower the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool slightly. Puree, I did so right in the pot using an immersion blender.
  5. For shelf-stable sauce: pour into hot sterilized jars to within ½” from the top. Process in a waterbath for 20 minutes for pint jars, 15 for half-pints. Allow to cool overnight, then check the seals. As always, if the top pops up and down, the seal is damaged and you have to put it in your refrigerator and use right away. If you’re using the sauce immediately or don’t want to make it shelf-stable, you can pour into any container and either use right away or put it in the fridge.

There’s no end to the possibilities for this sauce. You can make it hotter, make it sweeter, do whatever you want. You could even totally alter it and use some Jack Daniel’s or Jameson, or a lighter beer. Play with it, tinker with it. Come up with your own sauce! And the best part? It doesn’t have to be a “canned” recipe. You can use it right away or put half in the fridge in a Tupperware. But if you do decide to jar it up, just know I got 5 half-pint jars and I would’ve had enough for a 4 oz. jar as well. And also know that in order to “can” it, the acidity has to be of a certain percent, so do your research before you tinker with it!

So how did it taste?

Right before I put it on the grill!


Delicious. I had it on a steak and it was just great. Not too sweet, not too tangy, not too overpowering. It’s a subtle taste, and you could taste the actual steak, not just the sauce like can happen with some sauces. And it actually mellowed more in the jar, after processing. Initially it was a bit tangier, after a day or two it was much mellower. I can’t wait to try it on chicken next. Actually, I can’t wait to try my hand at making more barbecue sauces & dipping sauces in the future. Thai hot & sweet dipping sauce, anyone!?

Perfectly irregular little Christmas trees.

Most people know I’m a New Yorker. I’m a New Yorker through & through- I like my clothes black & my coffee expensive, I walk fast & hate eye contact with anyone unless I know them. What most people don’t know is the history of one of New York’s most beloved traditions: the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

When I was little, my Aunt Winnie bought me a book called the A Perfectly Irregular Christmas Tree. It told the story of a little tree that grew to become the tall, beautifully lit Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, and at the back of the book, it told the story of the origins of the tradition. Ever since then, I’ve been totally in love with the concept. Not that I wasn’t before that… but it wasn’t until that book that I really even thought about it. It was sort of like I just assumed the tree was always there or something. I know, silly, but come on, I was like, what, 7 years old?


Basically there’s a very important history behind the origins of that big ol’ tree, and not many people know it.

Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 (the year the 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened), the unofficial tradition began during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a smaller 20 feet (6.1 m) balsam fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans” on Christmas Eve (December 24, 1931), as recounted by Daniel Okrent in his history of Rockefeller Center.[10] Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. There was no Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 1932.

The decorated Christmas tree remains lit at Rockefeller Center until the week after New Year’s Day, when it is removed and recycled for a variety of uses. In 2007, the tree went “green,” employing LED lights.[11] After being taken down, the tree was used to furnish lumber for Habitat for Humanity house construction.[12]

Anyway, in addition to all that New Yorker-ish stuff about me, I also love to bake, as is evidenced by this blog. And occasionally I get an urge to do so randomly, or I get inspired by something. So it happened one night that I wanted to make some frosted (or iced?) cookies, and I got the idea that they just had to be gingerbread. I had a few recipes already, stashed in cookbooks or ripped from magazines, most of which were supposedly awesome, but I thought I’d check Twitter & see if anyone had any they really liked. Gabrielle from The Punk Housewife responded super quick with a vegan version from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.

Now, I’m not vegan. I’ve made awesome vegan cupcakes before, and even made a dip entirely with vegan-friendly cheese & other non-dairy products (which I can’t say I’d do again, really). I have no problems with vegans or anything, but I myself can’t do it. I have a hot, dirty love affair with butter & cheese… & I like it. So I don’t usually have things like soy milk on hand, & if I’m going to bake something I’m usually going to go “whole hog” so to speak. However, by sending me that recipe she gave me a sort of kick in the pants to use that recipe as inspiration & then build on it with a few non-vegan tweaks. Sure, I could’ve just made it by substituting the soy milk with regular, but where’s the fun in that?! Basically, it forced my hand to do my own little gingerbread cookie thang. And that’s just what I did. So thank you, Gabrielle! I totally de-veganized that puppy. I made up my own little gingerbread cookie recipe as I went along, and then what did I do with that dough? I cut out little trees, as my homage to the big 74-foot guy in Rockefeller Center who just so happened to be having a little party & “lighting” in his honor last week. Of course mine weren’t lit- but they were all iced up with some royal icing & sprinkles.

Yeah, at this time of year EVERYONE makes cookies, especially gingerbread, & everyone seems to be in on the “fancy royal icing decorating” craze now as well. But I’m not aiming to be like everyone else, so hopefully mine are not only perfectly imperfect (more on that in a bit), but unique.



  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses (I personally like Brer Rabbit full flavor, even though that & Grandma’s are now owned by the same company)


  1. Unroll a fairly large piece of plastic wrap & sprinkle lightly with flour. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice & ginger together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Add egg & molasses one at a time to butter/sugar mixture, beating after each until combined.
  4. Add flour mixture gradually, until a sticky dough forms. Form dough into a ball the best you can & place on plastic wrap, rolling it up tightly. Chill for anywhere from 1 hour to overnight (but no longer than that).
  5. Remove dough from fridge & if too firm, let sit for 20-25 minutes before rolling out. The dough will be quite sticky, so have flour on hand. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F, meanwhile roll out onto lightly floured surface to about ¼ – ½” thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes & using a thin spatula, carefully place onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (they will be very soft!!! BE CAREFUL HERE). Re-roll the scraps left over until you haven’t got enough left to use, then just lay the pieces on the sheet (they make for nice nibbles later while you’re decorating your cookies).
  6. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.



  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk or water
  • 4 tablespoons meringue powder


  1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. If too thick, add more liquid, if too thin, add more sugar. Add food coloring as desired. Ta-da!

There are tons of different recipes for royal icing- some include pasteurized egg whites, some using regular old egg whites, some meringue powder, some just cream of tartar. Any of them work just fine as long as they’re the right consistency for what you’re using it for; i.e. outlines, flooding, etc. This particular recipe can be halved, quartered, doubled, tripled, etc. to suit your needs.

So once these babies are 100% cool, you can decorate them all fancy-like using that royal icing there. I obviously made little trees, so I decorated them like trees (duh). You can make anything from snowflakes to bells to holly to whatever. And then just decorate them using the icing & top it with quins, jimmies, sanding sugar, dragees– anything! The icing part can be a bit tricky if you’re not used to it. I’ve been icing cookies with royal icing since my mom made gingerbread & sugar cookies when I was a kid & let me decorate them. Now, I’m far from an expert on this, my main decorating niche lies within the cupcake sphere, so I’ll leave the explanation of how to decorate/frost cookies like a pro to Marian at Sweetopia who really is the expert. She not only does it way better than I do, but her explanation of how to decorate the cookies is probably way better than I could write. Not that mine came out terrible… I mean they’re cute, fairly neat & most importantly they taste great. So they’re not perfect, they’re ‘perfectly irregular’; like the tree in the book. But thats totally cool with me. I’m not perfect either. What in the world is perfect, exactly?

Well, cookies & tea are pretty damn close.

Amazing. There is nothing, NOTHING like a good cookie. I have to say I really, really loved these. I had like 8 of these the first night, with a cup of Licorice Spice tea. So after that one batch of trees were such a success, the next night I made some little Christmas wreaths. I used green royal icing this time, along with red tie-dyed looking marzipan for the bows, and some round pink sprinkles in different sizes that Lyns sent me back in October. I wasn’t 100% pleased with how these came out though. I think I like the trees better. Oh well. It was a cute concept, poor execution.

It was almost disgusting how good they were. The dough is very soft. VERY. Which admittedly can make it very hard to work with. It will definitely be a tricky dough, but the flavor is so amazing & perfect, and the texture is also so amazing & perfect, it’s well worth it. Just right for a cold December night while looking at how pretty your tree looks under a blanket on the couch. The best chewy gingerbread cookie I’ve had in a while; not hard as a rock & teeth-breaking, not flavorless nor overpowering. They’re just the right amount of soft, sweet & spicy.

But at this time of year, you can’t keep ’em all to yourself. Or rather you can… at the risk of being compared to Ebenezer Scrooge. I prefer to share the wealth (to an extent). I put them in a little box (originally a cupcake box, I just removed the insert) courtesy of Bake-A-Box that was perfect for showing them off. And how cute is that gingerbread ornament?

As if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been including vintage postcards at the bottom of all my holiday posts. This one is just so pretty I had to share it, plus it’s eerily perfectly appropriate for this post; it’s a big, beautiful tree & the baubles on it look just like the ones on my cookie wreaths.