Over the last few years it has become a tradition for me to make a Gingerbread House for my kids to decorate. Only two out of the three really like the taste of Gingerbread. But you see, it’s not about the Gingerbread: it’s about the sweets and icing; the edible glitter; and the fun and mess that we (they) make when decorating it.
I use a BBC Good Food recipe (link at the bottom), that bakes into a tasty yet sturdy building, able to withstand a heavy handed toddler. Just remember to let the royal icing “cement” dry overnight.
On a few occasions I’ve made a house, covered it in sweets, and donated it to my kids’ nursery or school. Money is easily raised by folk paying to guess how many sweets are on it. Yes, I do count them and yes, it’s a lot. If you plan to cover your Gingerbread House entirely in sweets, then make sure you buy lots of them. They probably won’t all make it on to the house. 😉
Then, two years ago I came up with the idea of Gingerbread Latte Macarons. The UK has gone crazy for Starbucks and Costa’s seasonal coffees, and folk routinely post their first “holidays” take-away cups filled with seasonally inspired 1500 calories of liquid. I like the idea of them, but personally find them too sweet. The syrups used to give these drinks their distinctive flavours have others uses in the kitchen, however. I decided to add the sweet and spicy gingerbread syrup to some creamy mascarpone and a dash of pumpkin pie spice mix and pipe it in between two macarons shells. It was a winner.
I’d planned to make them again this year and to share my recipe in a blog post. Then the November issue of BBC Good Food dropped through my letterbox, with the most splendid Christmas cake on the its cover. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a Gingerbread Cake, and I knew I’d be baking it soon.
The recipe suggests making Gingerbread biscuits to decorate the cake, but on the way to work on Monday morning I struck upon the idea of making my Gingerbread Latte Macarons and using them to crown this splendid cake. And that’s exactly what I did.
So, let’s just stop a moment and talk about this cake. It is three layers of the lightest, yet moist, gingerbread and rum flavoured cake, filled with one of the naughtiest icings I have ever tasted or made. It consists of butter, lots of icing sugar, cream cheese and Biscoff biscuit spread. It is simply divine: Cassie Best, author of the recipe, is a flippin’ genius. If you like these kind of warm, spicy, and caramelised notes then I urge you to run out and buy the magazine (if you don’t have it already) and make this cake. It’s not for the faint hearted and a small slice goes a long way, but it’s oh-so delicious.
To add interest to the top of the cake I sprinkled some cinnamon through a stencil before piping a little of the creamy macarons filling before nestling some of the finished macarons around the top.
When it came to photographing the finished cake I couldn’t resist digging out a couple of recent Christmas purchases and went all out festive.
Gingerbread Latte Macarons
I use The Pink Whisk’s macarons recipe, tinted with some Chestnut food colouring paste.
110g of Egg Whites (I use Two Chicks’ egg whites as there is no waste)
75g of Caster Sugar
125g of Ground Almonds
175g of Icing Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
- Blitz the Ground Almonds and Icing Sugar in a food processor for a few minutes to ensure the dry mixture is as fine as possible. Then pass this through a sieve twice, discarding any stubborn bigger pieces of almond.
- Weigh out the Egg Whites. As with all aspects of Macarons baking, you have to be very precise.
- Whisk the Egg Whites until they start to hold their shape then slowly add the Caster Sugar and keep whisking until you have a thick and glossy mixture. Now add the teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice mix at this stage.
- At this stage I colour my macarons, adding a little food colouring at a time. I use paste or powder to ensure that the consistency of the mixture isn’t compromised. For these I used a chestnut brown coloured paste.
- Once happy with the colour (which will always come out differently in the oven) I fold in half of the dry mixture of Ground Almonds and Icing Sugar. Once incorporated, I fold in the other half. I keep going with this action until the mixture has reached the desired consistency, which is that it will drop off of the spoon with a little resistance.
- I fill my piping bag with the mixture and pipe even amounts in equal spaces on the silicone lined baking sheets. Then I drop the baking sheet on the worktop or table, quite harshly, a few times to ensure there are no air pockets in the macarons and to smooth out any peaks on the top of them.
- Leave the macarons to dry, in that they have a dry coat over them and when touched do not stick to your finger. This can take between half an hour to an hour depending on the mixture, the temperature in the room and the humidity. Always err on the side of caution and leave them to dry well.
- I bake them for 13-15 minutes at 140C in my fan assisted oven, but they could withstand a greater heat in my last oven. You will quickly work out what works in your own oven. I know they are ready when given a gentle nudge, the whole macaron moves and its feet are not stuck to the base whilst the top moves.
- Allow to cool.
The Filling – Ingredients
250g of Mascarpone
5 Teaspoons of Gingerbread Syrup
1/4 Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
The instructions for the filling are pretty straight forward: mix all three ingredients together.
Pipe the filling between the macarons shells and chill until ready to use. Because of the high moisture of this filling, it will make the macarons shells soften very quickly after a day.