For the last couple years my husband and I have hosted an ugly Christmas sweater party. Have you been to one? It’s become such a popular thing to do in the last few years that retail stores carry all sorts of ridiculous and funny sweaters, dresses, socks and just about any other clothing option you can dream up. Some dear friends of ours showed up to the party wearing matching Christmas suits down to the tie and jingle bell socks. They, of course, won the unofficial first place prize for best outfit.
The party is casual with a hefty dose of silliness. Everyone brings something to eat and we fill the dining room table with plates of treats and snacks. The kitchen island is set up with drinks, pitchers of water and sodas. Eventually, we all gather around the table, someone finally giving up on standing and pulling up a chair. It’s not long before everyone is sitting among the half eaten trays of food, conversation and laughter going on for another couple hours.
The party is one of my favorite traditions for many reasons. I love having an evening dedicated to friendship in the midst of a busy and sometimes stressful season. I find myself standing back, just for a moment, catching my breath and looking at my house full of people I care for and admire.
Sometimes making time in an already bursting-at-the-seams busy season can feel a little like climbing Mount Everest. Not to mention the pressure of entertaining and inviting people. But then the night arrives with guests in silly clothes, loud music and a wayward broken dish. But there is so much laughter and good cheer that all the preparations and complications immediately slip your mind.
If you find yourself at an ugly Christmas sweater party, a work gathering or just want to make something special over the weekend, my recommendation is this lovely chocolate gingerbread cake. This cake is the perfect holiday treat. Full of spicy ginger and bittersweet chocolate, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the season.
A hint of orange zest and lightly sweetened whipped cream take this recipe over the top. I used sanding sugar from the craft store to give the frosting the illusion of snowflakes. You can decorate your cake any way you like. Chocolate shavings, a drizzle of caramel sauce or chopped candied ginger would all make great additions to the recipe.
Chocolate Gingerbread Cake:
- 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1⁄2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1⁄2 cup molasses
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1⁄2 cup half and half
- 1⁄2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally spray a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream butter and sugar together for three to five minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time along with the molasses, orange zest and fresh ginger. Mix for an additional minute.
In a separate bowl mix together together flour, spices, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly incorporate the dry ingredients with the butter mixture, alternating with the half and half. Mix until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
Transfer mixture to the prepared cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
For the Whipped Cream:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1⁄4 - 1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a mixer combine all the ingredients and whip on high for three to five minutes or until stiff peaks form.
When the cake has cooled, transfer the cake to a plate or cake stand. Liberally frost the cake with the whipped cream and decorate as desired. Serves eight.