The Comforting Taste of Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars

Gingerbread in May? Yes, please!
Gingerbread in May? Yes, please!

There are some who think gingerbread’s season ends after the holidays.

But why should something so fragrantly intoxicating and so nostalgically soothing have a yearly expiration date?

It shouldn’t, especially when the warmth of its spices enfolds us like a big hug. And who couldn’t use the comfort of an embrace like that right about now?

That’s why “Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars” hit the spot now — and anytime.

This easy, square-pan snack cake is from “The Joys of Baking: Recipes and Stories for a Sweet Life” (Running Press, 2019), of which I received a review copy. It’s by food writer and food editor Samantha Seneviratne, who has worked in the test kitchens of Good Housekeeping, Fine Cooking, and Martha Stewart Everyday Food. She’s also the creator of the blog, Love,Cake.

Given its title, it’s not surprising that the book was inspired, of course, by the iconic “The Joys of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer. Seneviratne’s is destined to be a classic, too. She invites you into her life, bravely opening up with personal stories, inspirations, and insights, and even about her brother’s death and her divorce from her husband.

“Baking is a choice,” she writes. “Baking is never a necessity. No one needs a chocolate cake to survive. Except, sometimes, a chocolate cake is exactly what you need to survive. Sometimes, a chocolate cake is the only thing you need in this world. This is a book about and for those times.”

Which, of course, makes it a book so well suited to this especially challenging time.

The 75 recipes comfort and lift you up with treats such as “Coconut and Passion Fruit Pound Cake,” “Sweet Potato Cinnamon Buns with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze,” “Strawberry Rhubarb Cake with Bay and Orange,” and “Coconut-Scented Vegan Graham Crackers.”

“Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars” doesn’t even require a mixer — just a whisk, spoon, and a couple of bowls. Line the pan with parchment, as directed, or use aluminum foil, as I did.

The main batter is suffused with ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and molasses. The secondary mascarpone batter is merely mascarpone stirred up with an egg, some sugar, and vanilla extract.

The two batters get swirled together in one pan.
The two batters get swirled together in one pan.

Dollop both batters in one pan, then swirl together with a knife. Don’t be alarmed that the mascarpone batter is thinner and far runnier than the thick, creamy gingerbread batter.

The warmth of gingerbread with cheesecake-like ripples throughout.
The warmth of gingerbread with cheesecake-like ripples throughout.

As it bakes, the kitchen transforms with the smell of Christmas Eve. The resulting cake is soft and moist, with almost cheesecake-like-tasting ripples running through it.

It’s gently spicy, with the unmistakable sweet, smokiness of molasses.

In short, it’s an irresistible bear hug of a cake.

Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars

(Serves 16)

For gingerbread batter:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

2 large eggs, at room temperature

For mascarpone batter:

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Prepare the gingerbread batter: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment with a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite corners.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and molasses, then whisk in the eggs. Add the flour mixture and fold to combine.

Prepare the mascarpone batter: In a small bowl, whisk the egg lightly. Add mascarpone, granulated sugar, and vanilla.

Add the gingerbread batter and the mascarpone batter in alternating scoops to the prepared pan, then use a butter knife to swirl the 2 mixtures together. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using the parchment overhang as handles, transfer the cake to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

From “The Joys of Baking” by Samantha Seneviratne

More To Satisfy That Gingerbread Craving: Gingerbread Pancakes

And: Gingerbread with Warm Apples and Cider Sabayon

And: Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

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