December is here with it the fresh festive fragrances of the season. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger along with other aromatic spices star in many favorite holiday recipes as they delight our senses and stir our memories. They brighten the flavor of our favorite cakes and cookies and satisfy our appetites for warmth and comfort in the kitchen.
Of these holiday spices I think ginger is my favorite. I am already three layers deep in my first bag of Pepperidge Farm Gingerman cookies this week. They are delicious dipped in coffee and their dark ginger flavor along with the sparkle and crunch of their coarse sugar topping sets the mood for festive homemade treats yet to come. Soon there will be plates of Pfefferneusse, Gingerbread Biscotti and Ginger Cookie Sticks to enjoy, not to mention an Old-Fashioned Gingerbread or two.
During the holiday season I most often think of ginger as part of a festive medley of spices; dark, rich and often sweetened with molasses. Sometimes, however, I am reminded that ginger can take some interesting turns, even in December. Here it is paired with white pepper to lend a gentle clean heat to its exotic spiciness and then brightened with a fresh lemon glaze.
This white ginger cake has a complex flavor that offers a unique variation on a holiday favorite. But beware! Once you've tasted it you won't want to limit it to just one season. Enjoy it served at a spring tea or as a worthy foil to a tropical fruit medley on a fine summer evening.
White Pepper and Ginger Lemon Cake
From newspaper, attributed to “Maida Heatters’s Book of Great American Desserts”
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons, finely grated
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½–ounce piece fresh ginger root (about 1 x 1.5 inch piece), grated
3 cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
To prepare the Lemon Glaze:
Combine the juice and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside and allow the mixture to stand while the cake is baking.
To prepare Cake:
Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare a 10 – 12 cup Bundt pan. (I used Wilton Dimensions Belle bundt pan.)
In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and ginger. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed beat the butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the sugar and beat for another minute. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well incorporated after each addition.
With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 portions, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 portions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the lemon-ginger mixture just until combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt pan. Smooth the top.
Bake at 325F for 70 – 80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let the cake rest in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and let it rest on a wire rack over a piece of aluminum foil.
Glaze the cake while it is still warm. Stir the glaze and, using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the warm cake allowing some to drip down into the center hole. The cake should absorb all of the glaze. If some drips down onto the foil, pour it back over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.
Transfer the cooled cake to a serving plate. Serve....... or cover the cake with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to blend and mellow for a day or two.