Dark Chocolate Covered Gingerbread

“I shall remember always the mysterious beautiful sensation of wellbeing I felt…”
~MFK Fisher, Consider the Oyster

I am no action painter.
I am no action painter.

When I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, one of my favorite treats was to scoop out a bagful of dark chocolate covered crystallized ginger from a gravity bin at one of the several fantastic food co-ops in the city. My first year in graduate school was difficult, alienating and lonely. But, after some soul-searching and ending a toxic relationship, I found my footing. Food always plays a role in that for me. Those little candies were something I had discovered, were my treat, and gave me a sense of wellbeing.

Little did I realize then I was being spoiled in two ways–having multiple, even historic food co-ops to choose from and getting these spicy little nuggets of deliciousness in bulk form. I’ve written about the tense class issues around food co-ops in the cities before, but never have disclosed my deep and consuming love of dark chocolate covered ginger in print. Before now.

A mere simulacra of my memories. Proust gets me.

For years I’ve toyed with the idea of making a cake that simulated the taste of these beloved candies. I thought about flourless chocolate layers, to get that rich chocolate flavor, sandwiching some kind of ginger cream filling. But would that be gingery enough? I wondered about using the hard-to-find but seriously gingery British ginger jam made by Dundee. But that might be too gingery. What to do?

And then I figured it out–make a deeply spicy gingerbread (another favorite, unsurprisingly), stud it with crystallized ginger and the cover it with a fudgy dark chocolate ganache. It worked beautifully and will for you, too, especially if you don’t make all the mistakes that I did.

You can use whatever gingerbread recipe you like, but make sure it’s not wimpy. You need a spice-forward gingerbread here, one that lives on the edge of being too spicy. I quite like this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (spicy enough that when I served it some people just picked at it, but others devoured it). But the one I used for my trial run was from King Arthur Flour’s site, a playground for bakers.

Maybe it was the stress of the holidays, but I basically screwed up everything about making this cake that I could. I’ve baked for half my life, but even though this is an extremely simple recipe, I mismeasured the flour, added an ingredient to the dry that was supposed to go into the wet, and nearly threw my digital scale out of the window when it started to go wonky. Like some of the commenters, it ended up too wet for me (damn you, scale!) and took longer to bake than suggested, so that the edges were a bit dry. You’ll do better than me, though, I know it.

The ganache/glaze is the key. Here’s the recipe:

Fudgy Dark Chocolate Ganache (thanks to Wolfgang Puck)

  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate. I like to use a combination of a really dark chocolate (60% and up) with a lighter dark chocolate to get a range of flavors. Goes without saying–use your favorite. This makes the cake.
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2 oz heavy cream

Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or over a double boiler. Heat the cream to boiling. Stir into the chocolate mixture. Let it cool until it’s spreadable. This means that the bottom of your bowl is cool enough that you can hold it comfortably and the chocolate puddle nicely if you drip it.

To assemble: unmold your cake onto a cooling rack over a sheet pan to catch drips. Pour the ganache over the cake, spreading it evenly over the top and down the sides. There will be plenty, so you can have a nice thick cap with some extra for eating with a spoon. Chill.

To decorate: I wanted to make it a little more festive, so I melted a couple ounces of good white chocolate and milk chocolate in the microwave. Dipping a spoon in each, I flung them over the cake Pollack-style. The end result perhaps looks more like something that came off a porn set than I intended, but it was goddam delicious.

And tasted exactly like my beloved dark chocolate covered crystallized ginger.

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