Gingerbread guys and dolls are not the only things gussied up for the holidays. Suspended above extensive scaffolding fronting Lord and Taylor’s 5th Avenue department store is a dazzling canopy of white twinkle lights and artificial fir. One window boasts a Victorian gingerbread house supported by a perfectly choreographed troupe of gingerbread men. Another window features a conveyor belt of intricately decorated cakes, cupcakes and pastel macarons. I want one of each.
Blondilocks suggested to me that she grew up in a household devoid of Christmas cookies and gingerbread houses. I reminded her that in her childhood, more than a bakers dozen of holiday cookies tumbled out of our illegal commercial oven. True, the majority of those cookies were baked in the eleventh hour of the last day of school prior to Christmas break. Also true, the recipients were Bob the School Bus Driver, a slew of hard-working teachers and Philly’s Forrest Theatre staff. The cookies iced under my professional hand at Tabora and Cafette rarely made it home, but they can be listed on my resume of special skills. How do you think carpal tunnel begins?
After some thought, Blondilocks recalled that she had some experience with gingerbread house decor. I had forgotten that holiday crafts in elementary school featured gingerbread houses fashioned out of heaven forbid, empty half pint milk cartons. Slathered in thick ready-to-spread frosting and a dizzying array of Christmas candy, I vaguely recall the arrival of the decorated milk carton and the prompt disposal of the handicraft. Sorry kids.
My childhood gingerbread memories did not revolve around Christmas. They were rooted in a 9” square Bake King pan brimming with Jessie’s after school gingerbread snack cake. Lugging home a pyramid of textbooks held together by an elastic book strap, the fragrance of molasses and spice taunted from the front door. This was the cake I ate at the kitchen table, watching The Million Dollar Movie with Jessie. Evidently this food memory skipped a generation because my children’s after school snacks leaned heavily towards chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.
This weekend, I will try to make it up to Blondilocks and Master/Master in both cookies and cake. As we assemble for a leisurely holiday weekend, there just so happens to be a pudgy square of gingerbread cookie dough in the fridge awaiting inspiration. I’m also convinced a gingerbread cake seems the perfect contradiction to the unseasonal temperatures we’ve been experiencing. This cake is not to be confused with Master/Master’s birthday cake, a completely separate and independent entity. The tube cake that we will nibble prior to the 28th of December has plenty of heat from a laundry list of spices and a serious dose of crystallized ginger. Having baked dozens of them this week providing sustenance to many Whos down in Whoville, it’s quite possible this recipe is permanently ingrained in my memory. Not to say there hasn’t been any pie this week; there’s been plenty. I’m sporting a brand new this-oven-mitt-doesn’t-quite-cover-my-elbow burn to prove it.
I am giddy with the thought of several days sans Christmas tunes and chronic oven timers, surrounded by my favorite people. This is what Christmas is all about.
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Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm