My love, it’s Christmas time
and nothing can I give you
more than all the love that’s mine to give
in every day we live through
I have a soft spot for Christmas music. When December rolls around, give me the old-timey comfort of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin; or maybe even a tried and true Amy Grant or Mariah Carey album; heck, you can even play that annoying Christmas music radio station, even though most of the songs are either over-played or should never be played.
But it isn’t really Christmas until Roger Whittaker Christmas has played in my house. My brothers and I were raised on this little known album, which my parents would let spin on their record player as we decked the tree in early December and then again as we sat beneath it in the early dawn of Christmas morning. My mom might play it as she baked holiday cookies; I even once embarrassed myself by taking it to a friend’s gingerbread house decorating party and insist it be played.
I had been feeling down this December, not getting enough rest and overwhelmed by the constant demands of motherhood. Then came the weekend of our annual Christmas party that we throw for our neighbors. It is the only time of year that we get together with them, but even so I wanted desperately to cancel it. I thought that the time would be better spent in bed perhaps. But after much deliberation the day before, we decided it would be crummy to cancel at the last minute. So Travis cleaned and I cooked, replacing my usual elaborate spread of hors d’oeuvres with a simple clam chowder and grilled cheese sandwiches and–at the last minute–a delicious ginger cake. Also, for once, I took up my neighbor’s offer to bring something and let her provide crudites and dip. Thanks to Travis’ help, I even had time to sneak in a nap and change my clothes before our guests arrived. And when I came down the stairs dressed in my party ensemble, still feeling somewhat uneasy about the evening ahead, Travis cued up the holiday playlist that he’d prepared for the occasion, and on came the familiar sound of Roger Whittaker.
Since then, I’ve been playing Roger nearly daily, my holiday therapy. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that its happy melodies are perfect for singing to Cadel. After all these years, the music’s unabashed sentimentality still speaks to me. Christmas is here again.
This fresh ginger cake comes from pastry chef and blogger David Lebovitz‘s book Ready for Dessert. You must make it, trust me!
4 ounces fresh ginger
1 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut (I used sunflower)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, room temperature
1. Preheat over to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment.
2. Peel (a spoon is a good tool), slice, and finely chop the ginger with a knife, grater, or food processor.
3. Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil in a large bowl.
4. In another bowl, sift (or whisk) together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper and set aside.
5. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
6. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter.
7. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9. Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.
This cake calls for a good dollop of freshly whipped cream, but I didn’t have any on hand and instead adorned it with nothing more than a generous cloak of powdered sugar, and people still raved about it.