Joie de Vivre and Spicy Honey Gingerbread

Every year the carols seem to start earlier, the decorations go up in the shopping centre more obnoxiously close to June than I am comfortable with, and retailers start pushing the need to ‘get ready for the holidays’. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I am from a family where Christmas  is embraced in Krank-ian proportions, for example, I keep Josh Groban’s ‘Noel’ album in my car from October onwards, and my Santa hat has a permanent place in my closet. But despite my love for the holiday season, sometimes the joie de vivre of the season takes a little longer to wrap my heart in tinsel and light it up like a Christmas tree.

Standing on the street near midnight on Monday with the scent of frangipani in the air and the heat of the day still soaking out from the bitumen, I could hear the whisper of ‘Carol of the Bells’ starting in my head. I wish I could bottle days like Monday: the endorphin rush of a great run, the laughter of friends over a birthday lunch, the tears of happiness induced by my gorgeous friend Melissa’s Salted Caramel Pecan and Chocolate Cheesecake.

Those are the days where the spirit of Christmas seem to come alive, and the best part is, when you really search for it, the joie de vivre of this short season can be found in the simplest things all year long: a bunch of flowers from the markets, an unexpected dinner party, a bear hug from my Dad, an ice cold diet coke and lime as an aperitif on a long summer afternoon…

Then there is this cake, every spice designed to lure the holiday spirit into your house, and a perfect gift for a neighbour to help them welcome the season. If you don’t want to make the ginger-honey glaze you can just dust the top with icing sugar, all the easier for wrapping in waxed paper to be gifted.

Tell me dear reader, what summons the beginning of the holiday season for you?

Spicy Honey Gingerbread

Please don’t be put off by the seemingly long ingredient list. If you don’t want to go and buy all the individual spices, or don’t already have them, you can use 3 teaspoons ground ginger and 1 teaspoon mixed spice instead; similarly, if you don’t have sour cream you can use all milk, or vice versa. I can promise though, that this perfumed bread will summon Christmas in your house as soon as the heat from the oven releases the first scent of ginger and brown sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup honey (I used a local macadamia honey – so delicious)
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking paper.
  2. Place butter, honey, and golden syrup in a medium saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together plain flour, self raising flour, almond meal, bicarbonate soda, spices, and brown sugar. Make sure that there are no lumps of brown sugar in the dry mixture – you may have to break them up with your fingers.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together milk, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.
  5. Add melted butter mixture to flour mix and whisk until smooth. Then add milk mix to the batter and stir gently with a wooden spoon. It may look like it won’t combine but just be a little patient and keep stirring.
  6. Pour mixture into loaf pan and slide into the oven.
  7. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and allow to cool completely before spreading glaze on top.

Glaze:

Whisk together 1 cup of icing sugar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 3 tablespoons milk until smooth. Spread over the top of the completely cooled cake.

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