First, I thought the cake was too seasonal and the time for its posting had already passed, but then I realized the St. Patrick’s Day was still ahead and decided to share the recipe anyway. Besides, there are two winter months left, plenty of snow, so the cake in its whiteness should fit just right in.
The gingerbread recipe is adapted from the famous Gramercy Tavern’s. It’s moist, flavorful (Guinness and fresh ginger make the world’s difference), and light. And it goes so well with tangy lemon filling. The meringue frosting with some lemon juice added doesn’t seem overly sweet at all. The whole thing turned out to be a perfect winter cake. I was surprised that even after a quite heavy meal everyone asked for the second serving.
Meringue mushrooms are totally optional, the cake will look great without them, just create more swirls in the frosting.
Makes one 9-inch cake, about 12 servings
For the Guinness gingerbread:
- 2/3 cup Guinness stout
- 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1+1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½-oz (15g) finely grated fresh ginger (heaped tablespoon)
For the lemon filling (adapted from Tartine bakery):
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¾ cup fine granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 8 oz (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-tbsp pieces
For the meringue frosting:
- 2 large egg whites
- ½ cup fine granulated sugar
- 2 tsp light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (it doesn’t affect the white colour much)
For the meringue mushrooms (the recipe makes far more mushrooms than can be fit onto the cake top, but they keep well and, obviously, can be served separately):
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Tiny pinch cream of tartar
- ½ cup fine granulated sugar, divided
- About 2 oz dark bittersweet chocolate, melted
- About 2 oz white chocolate, melted
Make the gingerbread:
Center the oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Generously butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Dust the pans with flour, knocking out the excess flour. Butter the parchment (only the bottom).
In a high-sided saucepan, combine the Guinness and molasses. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates and the mixture is barely warm (transfer to a clean bowl to speed up cooling).
Meanwhile, sift over or whisk in a large bowl the flour, baking powder, salt, and ground spices. Set aside.
Once the Guinness mixture is cool, combine the eggs and both sugars in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. Whisk in the oil and fresh ground ginger. Then whisk in the Guinness-molasses mixture. Pour over the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing to combine.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans (using scale really helps). Bake for about 32-33 minutes, until the cakes start pulling from the sides of the pans and a cake tester comes out clean. Don’t be tempted to open the oven too early, the cake will fall then. Cool the cakes in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then unmold, and cool completely on the rack before filling.
Make the lemon filling:
Bring 1 inch of water to a light simmer in a wide skillet. Reduce the temperature to the lowest setting.
Combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt in a stainless-steel bowl, whisk well. Place the bowl directly into the hot water and whisk continuously until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 F on a thermometer. You might need to increase the heat a little to keep the temperature climbing up. The whole process will take about 15 minutes. Remove the bowl from the water and strain the lemon mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl (if you plan to use an immersion blender) or right into the bowl of the food processor (I like this one the most), or into a countertop blender. Check the temperature of the lemon cream, it should be about 140F by now. With the blender/processor running, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, blending until incorporated before adding another portion of butter. The cream will be pale yellow and opaque.
You can proceed with the cake assembly right away (what I prefer), or you can refrigerate the filling in an air-tight container up to several days, but then you’ll need to heat it gently before using to soften.
Make the meringue frosting:
The frosting should be made the same day you plan to serve the cake.
Place the egg whites into the bowl of the stand mixer. Don’t start whipping yet.
In a small saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and heat the syrup to 244F, washing the sides of the pan occasionally with a water-dipped brush to prevent crystallization. When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches about 220F, start whipping the egg whites with the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Once the egg whites form firm peaks and the syrup reaches 244F, pour the sugar syrup into the whites in a thin stream while continuing to whisk on med-high speed. Whip for 1 minute on med-high, then reduce the speed to medium and continue to whip until cool (approximately 5 to 7 minutes). While whipping, add the lemon juice and vanilla extract. The finished meringue should be thick and glossy.
Make the meringue mushrooms:
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 200F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat.
In a clean, dry mixer bowl whip the egg whites until frothy, add the salt and cream of tartar and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase the speed and very gradually add 1/4 cup of sugar (half of the stated amount), then beat until the meringue forms stiff but not dry peaks. With a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining sugar. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe tall kisses (for stems) and round mounds (for caps).
Bake for 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 175 and bake for another 45 minutes. The mushrooms should be dry but not colored. Transfer the baking sheet onto a cooling rack and cool completely before removing the cookies.
Spread a little bit of dark chocolate over the caps, let the chocolate set. Spread a bit of white chocolate over the dark chocolate and, using a toothpick, make lines resembling the gills. Let the chocolate set again.
Using a sharp knife, cut the pointy tops and level the bottoms of the stems, so they can stand securely. Pipe or just drop from a spoon a small dot of white chocolate in the center of each cap. Invert the caps onto the standing stems and let the chocolate set.
The mushrooms can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of weeks (if the weather is not too wet).
Line a 9-inch springform pan or a cake ring (place the ring on a serving platter or baking pan) with parchment paper or acetate strip. Fit a cardboard cake circle inside the ring if you plan to move the cake later. Fit in the first gingerbread cake layer inside the ring.
Pour the lemon cream over the gingerbread layer in the ring, spread to level. Place the second gingerbread layer on top of the filling. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least for 4 hours before unmolding and frosting. Unmold the cake, transfer to a serving platter, spread the meringue frosting over the top and sides of the cake creating abstract swirls. Serve right away or refrigerate until serving time. If planning to decorate with the meringue mushrooms, do it in a last minute since the mushrooms will soften rather quickly from the contact with the frosting.
You can skip the whole “assembly in a ring” if you decide to refrigerate the lemon filling first until it’s thickened to a spreadable consistency. Then, you’ll just have to spread it over the first gingerbread cake with a spatula, then top with the second gingerbread.