There’s something about the holiday season that inspires indulgence. No matter how you eat the rest of the year, it’s worth putting restrictions on hold for a fleeting taste of gingerbread spice, eggnog lattes and anything wrapped in chocolate.
Our drubbing by the pandemic gives us even more reason to indulge. After all, there’s nothing like a three-tiered cake bedecked in sugared cranberries to help refocus our gratitude (see recipe below).
Marcella DiLonardo’s Bake the Seasons is an excellent companion to the holidays. The food and lifestyle blogger who shares recipes at Hey Modest Marce chose a seasonal theme for her first cookbook—and it couldn’t be more inspiring.
“Adding citrus is also a great way to get the taste of the season without having an abundance of fresh produce available.”
Harkening from the Niagara Region where abundant orchards provide fresh and delicious ingredients, DiLonardo has packed her book with recipes tailored to local favorites. There are over 100 sweet and savory recipes to choose from, but what catches the eye at this time of year are the dazzling winter options.
“I love utilizing cozy spices in my holiday baking such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Adding citrus is also a great way to get the taste of the season without having an abundance of fresh produce available,” DiLonardo says.
With an eye for simplicity, she shares combinations like Smoked Gorgonzola and Winter Pear Pizza, Salted Bourbon Pecan Pie, and Vanilla Gingerbread Stout Cake (see recipe below). Options for galettes, frittatas, popovers, and muffins mean the baking extends beyond dessert into breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
“In my savoury recipes I love using fresh winter greens and hearty root vegetables,” DiLonardo says when asked how to feature local flavors in winter.
Drawing on her Italian heritage, DiLonardo has modernized rustic favorites while working to beautify some of the simpler dishes from her childhood. Her stunning photography illustrates these flavorful combinations in a simple but elegant style.
We dipped into our favorites from Bake the Seasons to share them just in time for the holidays. As DiLonardo notes, baking takes on new significance this year.
“Baking a treat for someone you won’t be able to spend the holidays with is a lovely edible gift to give. A lot of time and love goes into baking from scratch. I also love how baking brings families together over the holiday season.”
All recipes excerpted from Bake the Seasons: Sweet and Savoury Dishes to Enjoy Throughout the Year by Marcella DiLonardo. Copyright © 2019 Marcella DiLonardo. Published by Penguin an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Peppermint Bark Blondies
Dark Chocolate Peppermint Blondies
2 large eggs
2 cups (500 mL) turbinado sugar
1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons (30 mL) molasses
2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons (10 mL) peppermint extract
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 mL) fine salt
½ teaspoon (2 mL) baking powder
6 ounces (170 g) quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (125 mL) crushed candy canes, for topping
White Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces (225 g) quality white chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons (30 mL) heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking dish.
- To make the Dark Chocolate Peppermint Blondies, in a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, sugar, butter, molasses, vanilla and peppermint extract. Beat until smooth.
- Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Fold in the dark chocolate chunks.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges have browned and the centre is slightly soft. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely in the pan.
- To make the White Chocolate Ganache, in a medium microwave-safe bowl combine the white chocolate and cream. Melt in the micro-wave in 30-second increments, stirring after each increment, until fully melted. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- Remove blondies from the pan. Spread the ganache evenly over the top and sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before slicing.
Vanilla Gingerbread Stout Cake
Vanilla Gingerbread Cake
4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour
3½ teaspoons (17 mL) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 mL) fine salt
1 tablespoon (15 mL) ground ginger
2 teaspoons (10 mL) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cloves
½ teaspoon (2 mL) nutmeg
¼ teaspoon (1 mL) pepper
¾ cup (175 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup (60 mL) canola oil
2½ cups (625 mL) turbinado sugar
6 large eggs
¾ cup (175 mL) molasses
2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500 mL) stout beer, such as Guinness
½ cup (125 mL) + 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar, divided
½ cup (125 mL) water4 cups (1 L) fresh cranberries
3 ½ cups vanilla buttercream frosting
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease three 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.
- To make the Gingerbread Stout Cake, in a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nut-meg and pepper. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, oil and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl before the next addition. Add the molasses and vanilla and beat until smooth.
- Stir in the flour mixture alternately with the dark stout, making 1/3 additions of flour mixture and 1/3 additions of stout, mixing until fully incorporated before each addition. Once all the ingredients have been added, beat for an additional 60 seconds.
- Evenly divide the batter among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the centres bounce back when touched or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to racks and let cool completely before removing the cakes from the pans.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the Sugared Cranberries. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine ½ cup (125 mL) of the sugar and the water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and stir to coat. Spread on a rack set over a baking sheet and let sit for 1 hour or until dry. In a large mixing bowl toss the cranberries with the remaining 1 cup (250 mL) sugar. Spread on the rack and let sit for an additional hour.
- Using a long, serrated knife, level the top of each cake, if necessary. Place 1 cake layer trimmed side up on a cake stand or cake turntable and dollop approximately ¾ cup (175 mL) Vanilla Buttercream onto the middle. Using an offset spatula, smooth the frosting flat, spreading it to the edges. Place a second cake layer on top and gently press down to stabilize it. Spread another ¾ cup (175 mL) frosting over the top and smooth flat. Top with the final layer of cake and gently press down to stabilize and level it. Dollop 2 cups (500 mL) frosting onto the top and use the offset spatula to gently work the frosting evenly over the top and down the sides. Be sure to coat every inch of the cake with frosting.
- For a “naked” finish, hold the edge of the offset spatula or a bench scraper against the cake and slowly turn the cake, scraping away the frosting to expose the layers of cake. Wipe the edge of the spatula clean of frosting as you go. This will result in a beautiful naked cake.
- Before serving, top the cake with the Sugared Cranberries, stacking them higher in the centre. Store in the refrigerator uncovered for up to 24 hours or until ready to serve.