Gingerbread Cake with (the Perfect) Cream Cheese Frosting

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This time last year: Haystack Cookies (2013)

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I made this cake for a Christmas party during the holiday break.

I am now back at school, eyeballs deep in reading and homework, craving this scrumptious cake and holiday memories it brings!  Ug. Why do the holidays always pass so quickly?!

I have made several cakes in my lifetime, however I tend to save my cake-making for my trips home. The rational for that is entirely health focused, and not at all because I’m a generous person that wants to share my dessert. I want to eat dessert every day, but if I make a cake while living on my own, I know that I’ll eat that entire monster by myself. Thus, I tend to wait until I go home, so I can take my family down with me, and allow them to eat some of this cake for me! Thoughtful, I know.

So, this Christmas, as is my tradition, I tried a new cake recipe, and think I found a winner! We ate that cake up in a matter of hours, oohing and aaahing over the moist consistency, the rich flavor, and the perfect icing. I am pleased to say, my family ranked this cake at the top of my cake recipes- competing only with my Carmel Apple Cake with Apple Cider Frosting.

In my mind, this cake is a winner for two reasons. One, the gingerbread cake is a unique flavor that is a perfect winter recipe, standing out at any dinner party or holiday gather.  And two, the icing is PERFECT.

There is no doubt that cream cheese icing is my favorite type of icing.

For some reason, I really hate all icings where I can noticeably taste the powdered sugar (I know, said no sugar-addict ever), and the presence of the cream cheese adds rich flavor, masking the powdered sugar flavor.  However, Even if I did like the taste of powdered sugar, the addition of the cream cheese makes this icing soooooo much richer, thicker, and in general more delicious. Thus, in my mind, there really seems to be no other option! Cream cheese icing is always the way to go.

And as far as cream cheese icings go, this icing is the best recipe I have found to date! That’s right, every cake from here on out will be topped with this perfect icing recipe. Get excited.  The consistency was perfect, making it easy to ice, not too runny, and long lasting without losing it’s form. Win-Win-Win!

Thus, if you’re missing Christmas, or family, or are eyeballs deep in work, I suggest you treat yourself to this cake. I promise, it will make your day better.

Come back soon!

– Sarah

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Cake Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ~ 1/2 cup cranberries  and mint leaves (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ and grease a 9-inch springform pan.*

2. In a glass or ceramic bowl, whisk together the boiling water, baking soda, molasses, and granulated sugar. Whisk until he sugar is dissolved, and set aside.

3. As the molasses mixture cools, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, making powder, and salt in a separate large bowl.

4. Whisk the vegetable oil and eggs into the molasses mixture, and then add to the dry ingredients.

5. Fold the dry and wet ingredients together until evenly mixed, and then pour into the baking pan.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, cool for five, and then gently remove from the pan. Allow to cool completely before icing.

7. While the cake cools, make the icing. Using an electric stand mixer, whip together the cream cheese and butter until pale and fluffy. Thoroughly mix in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar, cover, and refrigerate until ready to ice.

8. Optional: Once iced, chop up 1/2 cup of cranberries and arrange around the rim of the cake for decoration. Garnish with a few mint leaves.

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Notes and Tips!

  • Don’t have a 9-inch springform pan? Using an 8-inch square pan, or a 10-inch spring form pan will work as well! However if you use the later option, decrease cooking time slightly.
  • Source: Cooking Classy
  • Yield: 10 servings
  • Like this recipe? Try these other scrumptious treats from A Rented Kitchen as well! (Recipe links found below photos!):

Holiday White Wine Sangria

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This time last year: Mexican Hot Chocolate (2013)

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Friends, it is Day FOUR of “6 Drinks that aren’t Eggnog.” My how time flies. I hope you have been enjoying this series as much as I have!

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, scroll through the last there days of posts, because this week is all about fun drink recipes! You don’t want to miss it!)

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A few nights ago my family went to dinner with some family friends of ours. They were providing the entree, so we offered to bring a drink and some dessert as a contribution.

This is when having a food blog gets tricky.

Due to the fact that I am coooonstantly trying new recipes, and looking for new scrumptious dishes I can share with you all, anytime I have the opportunity to try out a new recipe on a crowd- I do! Crowds provide the best food blog feed back. You can tell if something is a total hit or if it’s not the most popular dish in the room.  It’s like having a bunch of food blog guinea pigs, which is super helpful!

Despite this obvious benefit to me and my blogging efforts, constantly cooking new recipes for parties is a high-risk, high-reward way to live. Sometimes I find myself bringing new dishes to a social setting and being a little nervous about how they will go over!

Last night was one of those situations.

Although I do love sangria, I will admit this was my first time ever making it! Thus, as I stirred together these delicious ingredients I started to get anxious that it would be a bust- there would be too much fruit, or people would find it too sweet, or find the wine too bitter, etc.

I carried the pitcher into our friend’s home with lots of apologies and excuses that I had yet to try it, and it really might not be all that great! (Such a human move, am I right?)

However, to my delight, every member of the party drank a large glass with nothing but compliments! The fruit was the perfect amount, the wine was fresh and crisp, and the drink was a wonderfully festive fit.

For my first round of sangria, on a group of food-blog guinea pig testers, I got lucky. This recipe is delicious. It’s so easy to make, and was a total crowd pleaser!

Give it a try yourself! I am confident you will love it.

And make sure you come back tomorrow! More drink recipes on the way!

XO Sarah

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Ingredients:
  • 1 granny smith apple, chopped into small bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 red apple, chopped into small bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup fresh/frozen cranberries
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh Rosemary (+ sprigs for garnish- optional)1 bottle white whine
  • 2 cups ginger ale
  • 1 cup sparkling apple cider
  • 1/3 cup sugar
Directions:
  1. Add your apple slices and cranberries to a large pitcher.
  2. Bruise your rosemary to allow the flavors and juices to escape the leaves more. Do this by laying your rosemary on a cutting board, and using the backside of your knife blade, press down on the leaves.  Add the sprigs to the pitcher.
  3. Pour in the wine and stir. (At this point, you can put the pitcher in the refrigerator, and allow the fruit to marinade in the wine, or if you’re impatient like I am, you can skip to the next step!)
  4. Add the ginger ale and sparkling cider, and stir well.
  5. Optional garnish: Dip a few rosemary leaves in the wine, and then roll in a thin layer of granulated sugar. Place one in each glass, drink, and enjoy!
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Notes and Tips!:
  • Serving recommendation: Best served chilled as an appetizer drink.
  • Source: Picture the Recipe
  • Like this recipe? Make sure you don’t miss this week’s other posts for “6 Holiday Drinks That Aren’t Eggnog” (Recipe links below photos):

 

Baked Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries

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For someone who loves and uses sweet potatoes as much as I do, I have been seriously neglecting some of the other delicious fall/winter root vegetables. For example- the acorn squash. (Where is the love, Sarah?!)

Not cooking with acorn squash sooner was a huuuuge mistake, for it turns out that acorn squash is all kinds of delicious! While there are dozens of ways to use acorn squash, this recipe in particular was not only delicious, but incredibly easy! If you happen to have an acorn squash in your house at this moment, start preheating your oven now! It’s worth it, and the prep time will only take you 5 minutes!

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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I have easily imagined this recipe serving as an entrée dish for a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Surround this delicious squash with green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato biscuits, and you will have one incredibly delicious vegetarian meal, a very full plate, and zero complaints about a missing turkey!

On that note, make sure you check back in a few days for my very own ‘Build Your Own Vegetarian Thanksgiving’ post.

Tis’ the season to be jolly! (and go green!)

With love,

A Rented Kitchen

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Ingredients

  • 1 Acorn Squash, cut in half
  • ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup cranberries, frozen or fresh
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, cranberries, and brown sugar. Mix well to combine.
  3. Rinse the acorn squash and cut in half.
  4. Using a spoon, scoop the seeds out of each half and discard.
  5. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the bottom and top of each squash half, and then evenly divide the fruit and nut mixture between two halves of the squash.
  6. Top each haf with 1 Tablespoon of butter, and place side by side in a square baking pan.
  7. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes- 1 hour 30 minutes. (Done with a fork can be easily inserted).
  8. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Notes and Tips:

  • Yield: 2 Servings
  • Vegan? Either substitute vegan butter, or drizzle with a little bit of honey/agave.
  • Source: Let the Baking Begin!
  • Like this recipe?! Check out these other delicious fall favorites from ‘A Rented Kitchen’! (Recipe links found below photos)

Fall Harvest Vegetarian Stuffing

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It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving was already over a week ago. This time last week I was at home with my family, decorating our Christmas tree, going on long walks, and enjoying the company of my favorite people.

I am so grateful for that time, and for the gift that holidays bring many of us every year.

For those of you curious about my vegetarian Thanksgiving, it was filling and delicious- a huge success! My mom and I spent most of the morning Thanksgiving day in the kitchen together, whipping up my all-time favorite Sweet Potato Casserole, roasted Brussels sprouts, homemade rolls, baked fruit, a homemade apple pie, and this fantastic homemade stuffing.

I have never made a homemade stuffing, so that was my goal this Thanksgiving, the most delicious stuffing I could possible create!

Good news, I found it.

This recipe is absurdly good. With the fresh apple slices, cranberries, sage, and onion- this dish is bursting with flavor.

Usually I really only care about the sweet potato casserole on the table, however this year, I hesitate to admit that this was just as good as my favorite Sweet Potato Casserole! (Those words have never been uttered.) Try it yourself and see!

Also, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I must reiterate you all that I am so grateful for you all. You bring my life joy, and that is a gift.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks salted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh, chopped sage
  • 1 large, white onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery finely chopped
  • 2 apples, chopped (with skins)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 loaf day-old French bread*
  • ½ cup Craisins or dried cranberries
  • Salt (~ ½ teaspoon)
  • Pepper (~ ¼ teaspoon)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large frying pan, melt your butter.  Once the butter is completely melted, add one Tablespoon of the sage, the chopped onion, celery, and carrot.
  3. Sauté, stirring regularly, until the onion becomes translucent.
  4. Add the garlic, apples, salt, and pepper to the pan (salt and pepper to taste!). Cook for about two minutes, and then add the vegetable broth to the pan.
  5. Add the cayenne pepper, and allow to simmer for another few minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, tear the bread into small squares and place in a large bowl. Add the cranberries and sage, mix well.
  7. Remove the liquid mixture from the stovetop and pour over the bread. Stir thoroughly, so that the bread is evenly moist.
  8. Transfer the mixture into a 2-3/4-quart casserole dish and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour.
  9. Enjoy!

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Notes and Tips!:

  • Instead of ripping a loaf of bread into squares, you can often buy bags of day old bread at the grocery store that is already torn and dry.  This just saves you a step!
  • Yield: Serves 6 people
  • Source: Epicurious
  • If you like this recipe, check out these other seasonal favorites from A Rented Kitchen! (Recipe links below).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Goat Cheese, and Cranberries over Barley

Due to the fact that I am a college student, cooking in a tiny rented kitchen from the 1920s, I do not have all of the kitchen tools that say, Martha Stewart- or any adult living on their own would have. I am completely fine with this reality because I have most of the necessities one would need for efficient cooking- cutting boards, a few pots and pans. I recently got a potato peeler!

This week was a big week because I decided to invest in my first cast iron skillet! I kept stumbling upon recipes that require skillets, so when I found one at the groccery store it quickly ended up in my cart. And of all the recipes I have been eager to make with a skillet, this recipe takes the cake.

I have only had brussels sprouts a few times in my life. My mom never cooked brussels sprouts growing up, so I am assuming my dad was not a fan of these little green vegetables. After making this recipe however, I don’t know what’s not to like! Mixed with warm goat cheese, sweet cranberries, and natural barley, these brussels are the perfect complimentary flavor- savory, without a bite of bitter. You are going to love this fall-time medley of food. Give it a try! Whip out that old skillet of yours and shake things up a bit. You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry Barley
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2/3 cup fresh cranberries (or 1/3 cup dried cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste

Directions:

  1. Add 1 cup of dry barley to 3 cups of water in a medium sized saucepot. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the barley is soft and the water is absorbed.
  2. While the barley cooks, preheat your broiler.
  3. Rinse the brussles sprouts and remove the tips, all browning/discolored leaves, and slice in half.
  4. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet on medium-high heat on the stovetop. Allow it to sit for a few minutes until hot. *
  5. In a medium-sized bowl combine the sprouts, olive oil, and salt. Toss well so that the Brussels sprouts have a fine coating of oil.
  6. Once the skillet is hot, quickly arrange the brussels sprouts so that the center of each sprout- the flat side- is face down. This method of roasting allows for the heat to get trapped in the layers of the sprout and steams them. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  7.  Add the cranberries to the pan and place the entire pan in the oven. Use oven mitts! The pan will be very hot.
  8. Broil the Brussels sprouts and cranberries for about three minutes. The tops should be lightly browned and the bottoms caramelized.
  9. Combine the warm barley, sprouts, cranberries, goat cheese, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Mix well to evenly distribute the syrup and vinegar.
  10. Season with salt as desired, serve, and enjoy!

Notes and Tips!:

  • Yield: Serves two.
  • Optional: add toasted almonds to this dish!
  • A quick and easy test to determine whether your skillet is hot enough: Sprinkle a few drops of water on the skillet while heating it up. If the water quickly sizzles away, your skillet is hot enough!
  • If you don’t have/ don’t like Goat cheese, try Gorgonzola! Vegan, omit the cheese!
  • Use a cast iron skillet for the oven! Non-stick skillets are not designed to be used in the high temperatures of the oven- they can emit toxins at the extreme temperatures.
  • If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container.  This recipe will keep for a few days and can easily be microwaved for later meals!
  • Source: Cookie + Kaite
  • Other dishes you might like!: Terriyaki Tofu and Pineapple Bake; Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes, Mint, and Goat Cheese; Sweet Potato Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, and Kale