As delicious as they were, it didn't feel right to serve gingerbread scraps for Christmas Eve dessert. Enter the trifle—my attempt to bury our mistake in layers of whipped cream and pumpkin mousse.
It made for an impressive presentation (there is an aesthetic/geologic value to the trifle, if not a gastronomic one), and it was perfectly tasty, but, in the end, I think I would have preferred the scraps. I was still snacking on leftover gingerbread chunks days later, while the remaining trifle made its way to the trash.
Moist Gingerbread Cake
Adapted from Karen DeMasco
Despite my faith in Karen DeMasco (and the fact that I have tasted a delicious version of this cake at Locanda Verde), I was a little skeptical of this recipe at first. Between the molasses, the coffee, and the stout beer, the batter smelled a little bit like death. But somewhere in the baking process, it transformed into gingerbread perfection. Be sure to make this at least one day in advance; it improves with age. DeMasco's recipe also calls for a lemon glaze, though I omitted it here.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup, packed, dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (a 2-ounce piece, peeled)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 large egg
3/4 cup stout beer
3/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup brewed coffee
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. [If you do choose to use a bundt pan, make sure you butter and flour the pan, and say a little prayer.]
In a bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl combine brown sugar, turbinado, ginger, lemon zest and oil. Beat in egg.
Place beer, molasses and coffee in a deep pot, at least 3 quarts. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Mixture will bubble up. Allow to cool 5 minutes.
Whisk flour mixture alternately with beer mixture into brown sugar mixture, in 3 shifts. Pour batter in pan and bake 40 minutes without opening oven. Give pan a 180-degree turn and bake another 15 minutes, until cake is springy and a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. When cool, remove sides of pan, invert briefly to remove bottom of pan and paper and set upright on a plate.
Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
Adapted from Gourmet
The pumpkin mousse proved to be the weakest of this trifle's strata. I would have preferred a custard layer to provide some textural contrast with the whipped cream. While I won't be making this recipe again, I might be tempted to try Claudia Fleming's variation.
1 recipe Karen DeMasco gingerbread cake (see above; or substitute gingerbread recipe of your choosing)
For pumpkin mousse:
1 (1/4-ounces) envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 (15-ounces) can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For whipped cream:
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chopped crystallized ginger, for garnish
Bake the gingerbread cake, according to recipe's instructions. Cut half of the gingerbead into 1-inch cubes; reserve the remainder for snacking. [You may need more or less depending on the dimensions of your trifle bowl.]
Make pumpkin mousse: Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan and let soften 1 minute. Bring to a simmer, stirring until gelatin has dissolved. Whisk together gelatin mixture, pumpkin, brown sugar, spices, and salt in a large bowl until combined well. Beat cream with vanilla using cleaned beaters until it holds soft peaks, then fold into pumpkin mixture gently but thoroughly.
Make whipped cream: Beat cream with sugar and vanilla using mixer until it holds soft peaks.
Assemble trifle: Put half of gingerbread cubes in 2-quart trifle bowl or other deep serving bowl. Top with half of pumpkin mousse, then half of whipped cream. Repeat layering once more with all of remaining gingerbread, mousse, and cream. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. [The trifle, without top layer of whipped cream, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled; whip half of cream just before serving.] Garnish with chopped crystallized ginger, if desired.