Friday, December 2, 2011

Peanut Allergy News: Nut-Free Christmas Recipe...Mini Gingerbread House Cakes!

Kids love to make gingerbread houses at the holidays, but the kits you see in the store all seem to have 7 or 8 food allergy warnings--and always for peanuts and tree nuts. And while supermarket gingerbread kits are pretty to look at, they usually don't taste very good.

Sure, you can make your own using a gingerbread cookie recipe, but that is a time-consuming project. If you have the time, go for it and have fun. But what if you don't?

While looking at a King Arthur Flour baking catalog, I found a solution that I love--mini gingerbread cake houses! (See the pictures above.) My daughter and I had a blast making these and while there are a few steps, this is a pretty easy project. Once your gingerbread is finished, it doesn't take long to create these adorable and delicious gingerbread houses.

Sadly, the King Arthur gingerbread cake mix in the catalog has tree nut allergy warnings, so I couldn't use it for this edible craft project. (But this site has some terrific bakeware and cookware, so it's a good baking resource.)

Instead, I will share my gingerbread cake recipe that I've used for years, adapted from the 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook. I'm a collector of vintage cookbooks and some of those old-fashioned baking recipes are truly the best out there. This recipe will give you a moist, delicious and fragrant cake that's not too spicy (and better for younger palates.)

Regarding decorations for the cakes: You have several options. You can make your own buttercream frosting and use a pastry bag and tip to create the wreath and houses. (Wilton has pastry bag/tips at good prices as well as a buttercream recipe.) You can also use the prepared Betty Crocker cookie frosting--it comes with a built in pastry tip. We used the Wilton cookie writer frosting to create the bow and door--this has egg and wheat allergy warnings for those who need to be careful with those.

Sometimes you can find candy wreaths at the supermarket--Cake Mate brand makes these. I haven't seen them yet but it's early days. You should check stores that carry Wilton cake/cookie decorations. They may have some wreaths, too. Wilton is well-marked for allergens -- these candy decorations usually are safe for nut allergies but they contain egg and sometimes wheat. Check the labels to be sure.

We ended up making frosting for the wreath and using a star tip on the pastry bag for the wreath; then we used Wilton cookie frosting for the wreath bows and the creation of the door. Powdered sugar sprinkled with a shaker gave a pretty snow effect to the cakes. Yum!

If you're looking for a relatively easy baking project, I hope you enjoy making these--they would look very pretty on a party table. (And they taste great!)

Old-Fashioned (Nut-free!) Gingerbread
1/2 cup shortening (we used Crisco (non-hydrogenated variety)--you can use your favorite dairy-free shortening if this is a concern).
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup molasses (Grandma's brand is what we used--regular, not the robust)
1 cup boiling water or buttermilk (use water to make this dairy-free)
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger (you can grate in some fresh or crush in some crystallized ginger for even more ginger flavor)
1 tsp. cinnamon

Have a ready a greased and floured 9 inch by 9 inch pan. It has to be this exact size--a smaller pan will create a deflated spot in the middle and the edges will cook too soon.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In standing mixer, beat shortening, sugar and egg until well blended. Blend in molasses and water or buttermilk. Gradually add the dry ingredients, and mix until well blended.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes. Test at 45 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool, remove from pan and then place in freezer, covered, for a couple of hours to make the cake easier to work with. Now you're ready for the houses! You can click on this link at the King Arthur web site to see how to create these or follow directions below.

Mini Gingerbread House Cakes
When partially frozen, remove cake from freezer and place it on a cutting board.

Using a serrated (bread) knife, trim any tough edges from the cake.

Cut the cake into 2 inch cubes, for a total of 16 cubes.

Cut 5 cubes on the diagonal to make triangles (these are the roofs of your cake). You will have one cube without a roof--an added treat for you.

If creating your own wreaths with frosting, draw a circle in green using a pastry bag and the star tip. Then draw a red bow on the wreath with cookie decorator icing (or other homemade icing).Draw a door if desired.

If using candy wreaths, secure them to the gingerbread with a dab of frosting. Place roof on top of gingerbread house and press gently to secure the frosting to the house.

Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar for snow!

Makes 10 houses. The cakes keep, covered, for several days in an airtight container.


Anonymous said...

Jenny, Your timing could not be better as we are planning our first attempt this weekend. Thank you for sharing all the recipes and information! :-)

SneakyPoodle said...

Brilliant, Jenny! Thanks so much for posting this. Jack is not there yet, but he definitely will be old enough next year and I don't want him to feel left out. Keep the recipes coming! Also, I just posted an update on airline nut policies on Feel free to grab and share.

Happy Holidays!
Meg / @sneakypoodle
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