Gingerbread for Christmas – what’s the origin of this tradition?
Christmas is always associated with the magnificent smell of freshly baked ginger cake, spiced with various seasonings:
Gingerbread has a rich and extensive history. It used to be one of the most expensive goods, which was related to the spices used for its preparation. Because of this, it was often used as currency. In time, this maturing delicacy became a traditional dish on many festive tables during Christmas.
How far in advance should you make a classic ginger cake?
Delicious gingerbread doesn’t require special preparations. Nonetheless, we recommend making and storing a ready-to-bake ginger dough at least two days in advance. Thanks to this, the cake will be more delicate, and its aroma more pronounced.
The way you store a baked gingerbread cake is key. Make sure to keep it in a cool place. Cover it with a cloth or parchment to prevent drying. This way, your gingerbread loaf will be more velvety and soft when served.
Old-fashioned gingerbread loaf – a long-maturing cake
According to English etymology, gingerbread means full of ginger. The name is related to the number of spices added to ginger cakes. The distinct flavor can be characterized as spicy. The tradition of baking gingerbread cakes for Christmas reaches as far as the 13th/14th century. At that time, they were made mostly by monks. Countries with access to a sea could import spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and other seasonings used for baking. No wonder then, that gingerbread loaf was initially considered a delicacy for the rich. Even today, traditional gingerbread manufacturers claim they use old recipes to achieve a unique taste – and guard those secret formulas jealously.
Time is the main ingredient of an old-fashioned gingerbread loaf. The dough has to be prepared from 4 to 6 weeks prior to holidays, and left to mature. The ginger cake is supposed to be baked several days before Christmas and stored in a cool place until serving.
A quick and delicious Christmas gingerbread cake – the easiest recipe
If you didn’t have enough time to make an old-fashioned gingerbread, but you can’t imagine Christmas without ginger cake – don’t worry. You can use this last-minute recipe and be sure the cake is equally delicate and delicious.
You need the following ingredients:
- 400 g wheat flour,
- 300 g sugar,
- 30 g cocoa,
- 40 g gingerbread spice mix,
- 5 g baking soda,
- 2 g salt,
- 30 g honey,
- 300 g butter,
- 250 ml milk,
- 2 eggs,
- 50 g raisins,
- 40 g walnuts,
- 100 g preferred jam for filling.
The quick ginger cake is very easy to make, just follow the recipe below:
- In a bowl: combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, gingerbread spice mix, soda, and salt.
- In a saucepan: melt the butter, honey, and milk until the ingredients combine.
- Pour the cooled mixture to the dry ingredients and add the eggs. Mix everything thoroughly. In the meantime, pour hot water over the raisins and put them away for 15 minutes. Drain them and mix into the dough. Chop the walnuts and add to the mixture.
- Prepare a baking pan – butter it and spread baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Put the pan with dough in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes.
- After the cake is baked, slightly open the oven door and leave the cake inside for about 15 minutes. Then take the pan out and put it aside to cool off completely.
- When the ginger cake is cool, take it out of the baking pan and cut it into two layers. Spread your favourite jam on the bottom part and cover it with the other part.
- To decorate the cake, you can melt 100 g dark chocolate and pour it on the top.
Beer and honey gingerbread cake – learn the recipe
A Christmas gingerbread cake based on beer is an interesting variant of this popular pastry. If you want to make this curious cake, make sure you have:
- 500 g wheat flour,
- 200 g butter,
- 200 g honey,
- 200 ml dark beer,
- 150 g cane sugar,
- 40 g gingerbread spice mix,
- 20 g cocoa,
- 10 g baking powder,
- 10 g baking soda,
- 5 eggs.
To make the ginger cake, follow the steps below:
- Sift the flour, soda, baking powder and cocoa into a large bowl.
- Place a small pot over low heat and pour the beer, honey and butter in it. Gently heat until the ingredients dissolve and combine. Put the pot aside to cool off.
- Beat the eggs in another dish. Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients and the cooled off mixture. Combine thoroughly until smooth.
- Prepare a baking pan – butter it and spread baking parchment.
- Put the dough in the prepared pan.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and place the pan with dough inside. Bake it for about 70 minutes.
- Cool off the ginger cake. You can place it in a cold place for about a day, making sure it’s covered with a cloth – to make it more delicate.
Old-fashioned Polish gingerbread – traditional ‘piernik’ recipe
Traditional Polish gingerbread cake – called piernik is not complicated and can be made everywhere. It’s an interesting old-fashioned cake, known as maturing or fermented gingerbread.
Here’s the list of needed ingredients:
- 1 kg wheat or cake flour,
- 500 g natural honey,
- 300 g fine refined or brown sugar,
- 250 g butter,
- 4 eggs,
- 20 g water,
- 125 ml milk,
- 50 g gingerbread spice mix,
- 4 g salt.
To prepare the glaze, you need 120 g butter and 260 g dark chocolate. Don’t forget about ingredients for filling: 750 g powidl (plum jam) and about 50 g chopped nuts for decoration.
To make a traditional fermented gingerbread cake, follow this recipe:
- Put the sugar in a saucepan and add the honey and butter. Put it over medium heat and stir the mixture until the ingredients melt and combine. The mass has to be hot, but you can’t bring it to boil. When it’s ready, set the saucepan aside to cool off.
- Sift the flour through a sieve. Add salt and gingerbread spice mix. Combine thoroughly.
- Add 125 ml milk and whole eggs. Pour the prepared and cooled off mixture. Combine everything until the consistency is smooth. The dough prepared this way has to mature in a cold place, thanks to which it will set. It will become harder and flexible. Cover the bowl with the dough with a cloth or a plastic wrap.
- After the maturing period, which lasts up to 6 weeks, the dough gains its proper parameters.
- Place the dough on a pastry board with some flour sprinkled on it. Divide it into three parts. Roll each piece thoroughly, so they are large enough to put in 30x45 cm baking pans.
- Prepare the baking pans. Butter them and spread baking parchment inside.
- Heat the oven to 175°C. Put one baking tray with the dough in the hot oven and bake it for about 18 minutes. Repeat these steps with each portion. Leave the gingerbread pieces to cool.
- Put ½ of the powidl on the first layer and spread it thoroughly. Put another layer on top and spread the other half of the jam on it. Cover it with the third gingerbread layer. Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and leave it in a cool place for at least one day, so the jam can merge each layer.
Before serving the ginger cake, melt the chocolate and pour it on top of the cake. Sprinkle some chopped nuts.
How to store a Christmas gingerbread cake?
A maturing gingerbread loaf should be stored in a cold place. It’s also good to cover it with a kitchen towel. This way, the cake won’t dry, especially if it’s already been cut. Ginger cake keeps from several days to 2-3 weeks, without worrying it will dry or taste bad.
How to decorate a gingerbread loaf cake?
You can use various elements to decorate your Christmas gingerbread cake – just like gingerbread cookies. Melted dark chocolate is the most popular method. You can also sprinkle freshly chopped walnuts on top.
A gingerbread cake can also be decorated with icing, either store-bought or homemade version. Using colorful icing to draw Christmas symbols, e.g., a Christmas tree is an interesting way to decorate your cake.
📍 When to bake an old-fashioned gingerbread cake?
A Christmas fermented gingerbread is a cake prepared only once a year. But the long time needed for its making is rewarded with a perfect flavor. If you want to achieve the best ginger cake, begin the preparations about four weeks before you plan to serve it.
📍 How long should you bake a gingerbread layer cake?
A gingerbread cake should be baked in an oven heated to 175°C. The middle rack and top-bottom heating mode make the best option. Bake each layer for about 18 minutes.
📍 How to store a ginger cake after baking?
Make sure to keep your Christmas ginger cake wrapped in parchment paper or a kitchen towel. Thanks to this, it remains fresh for longer. This method prevents the cake from drying and becoming hard.
📍 How to fill a ginger cake?
Filling a traditional gingerbread cake is very easy. Divide the baked gingerbread loaf into three equal horizontal parts. Spread your favorite jam in between the layers. In the modern version, you can use walnut cream or chocolate.