During my childhood, our version of gingerbread was better known as "Lebkuchen"; a famous German Christmas cookie. It isn't exactly gingerbread, but Lebkuchen is thought to be the origin of the famous holiday treat we know and love. Growing up with a German father, we ate plenty of Lebkuchen at Christmas time; lots of it shipped direct from Germany and Austria. Connor, our son, has yet to taste his first bite of Lebkuchen, but it's coming!
While Lebkuchen holds a special place in my heart, traditional Western gingerbread steals my heart every year. My mild obsession with it can possibly be traced back to a childhood without it...not that I was deprived by any means! I will always pick gingerbread over any other holiday confection, hands down! The opposite is true for my husband who absolutely loves Lebkuchen, perhaps traced back to his childhood without it. During the season of gingerbread, I'll happily indulge when I can (Lebkuchen or otherwise), however I could really eat it any time of year, let's be honest.
In fitting with the season's traditions, gingerbread cake is my recipe of choice today. Typically, I make a gingerbread bunt cake at Christmas time, but this year, I decided to make something different. Poached pears are such an elegant and beautiful addition to this already lovely dessert. It's so seasonal and festive! And, it's really not as hard as it looks.
You're probably thinking, pears again? Heidi, where is the originality? Apologies if you're tired of this ingredient, however, I couldn't resist their appeal this season. Naturally, I would combine them with my other holiday favourite, right?! I first came across this idea from Martha Stewart Living some 10 years ago, and, surprisingly, this was my first year crafting a similar recipe. I am happy I did. It's just lovely and may become another tradition to observe each year. The fragrant and sweet pears are a perfect match to the spicy and rich gingerbread cake. It's thick, brownie-like texture is such a delight mixed with a forkful of soft and delicate pear. The Poaching liquid for the pears is served alongside this dessert for an added layer of sweet 'umami'. This recipe is wonderful served warm with a side of cold vanilla coconut ice cream and will happily satisfy 4-5 people.
Well, this will be my last recipe post before Saturday's and Sunday's festivities, so I send you off with my warmest greetings and love. Whatever your traditions this time of year, I wish you happiness, health, gratitude and simple joys this season with family and friends...carry it with you all year.
Oh, and if you have any holiday traditions, I love hearing about how others celebrate this time of year; do share below with a comment.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from me to you!
POACHED PEAR GINGERBREAD CAKE
For the Poached Pears
- 3 Bosc or Bartlett pears peeled with stems left intact
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract or ½ tsp Vanilla seeds
- Peel from 1 orange
- 3 cinnamon sticks
For the Gingerbread Loaf Cake
- ½ cup molasses
- ⅔ cup coconut sugar
- ½ cup coconut oil melted
- 2 TBSP Flax Meal + 5 TBSP Water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 TBSP freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cups Spelt or Whole Wheat Flour
- ⅔ cup almond milk
Poach the Pears:
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the pears are easily pierced with a knife (approx 15-20 minutes). Remove pears and set aside.
Strain the poaching liquid through a fine strainer and return the liquid to the saucepan. Simmer until it thickens to form a syrup that coats the back of a spoon (~35 minutes). Set aside.
Prepare the Gingerbread Cake Batter:
Preheat oven to 350' F. Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment and lightly grease the sides. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine the flax meal and water and set aside for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the molasses, coconut sugar, and coconut oil. Add the flax meal mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt. Alternately, fold in the flour and almond milk until combined.
Assemble the cake:
Place poached pears in the prepared pan and spoon the gingerbread batter around the pears. Don't worry if it looks messy at first; it will bake up beautifully. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan (using the parchment paper, gently pull up on the sides to help the cake release). Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack to cool completely before serving.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and spoon some of the poaching syrup over each slice.
If you don't have whole wheat or spelt flour, simply use all purpose flour. In exchange for the fresh grated ginger, use ¼ tsp ground ginger. Almond milk can be exchanged for coconut milk or any other non dairy milk your prefer.