For enduring my ramblings, I will bestow unto you two baking projects bound by a shared frosting.  So you get two and a half recipes for the price of one!  You can’t afford NOT to read this!

I love Christmas.  It is essential to note, however, that I use “Christmas” as a lump term meaning “celebration on or near the winter solstice involving lights, singing, feasts, and acts of generosity and kindness.”  It is a socially expedient shorthand, though I understand if other non-Christians choose to call their particular celebrations by other, more precise names.

What is hard for me to understand is people who hate the holidays in their entirety: the Grinches, Scrooges, and Burgermeister Meisterburgers of the world.  A lot of people are disappointed as they grow up and find that a cold, aphotic December can come and go without Christmas magically sweeping them up in merriment and joy.  In this regard, I come from a place of privilege.  My parents also love Christmas immensely, and by way of teaching my brother and I to love Christmas, they also showed us how to MAKE Christmas, because the making is the most important part.  It’s the point.

The universe is much like a northern winter.  It is overwhelmingly vast, dark, hard, and uncaring.  Life is an act of audacity.  Abstractions like hope, joy, and love are even more so.  They do not exist on their own.  They exist because we make them.  The most perfect encapsulation I’ve found of this idea is in Terry Pratchett’s “The Hogfather”, in a conversation between Death and his grand-daughter, Susan.

Saturnalia/Yule/Christmas/etc. are about magic: the amazing act of making light in the longest night.  The joy of Christmas is not a thing that happens to us.  It is a thing we bring into being, an attempt to be the best of all of our ideals, in spite of everything.

Be the spark in the darkness.

Anyway, for less abstract values of “making”, this post I bring you a cake, some cookies, and a wonderful frosting for both that also stands on its own as an insanely buttery fudge.

Once upon a time, I was in Latin Club.  I was looking for a dessert to bring to a JCL Saturnalia party in high school, and stumbled upon a recipe called “Cassata Siciliana”.  Aside from normally being an Easter dessert, traditional cassata calls for candied fruit, and an almost meringue-ish frosting.  I have completely abandoned those elements, and replaced them with chocolate, and this corruption has become one of our family Christmas traditions.  Unfortunately, that leaves me with the conundrum of What To Call This Recipe.  And so, I issue a challenge/opportunity to all readers:

NAME THIS CAKE!   If you come up with a cool, quippy, awesome thing that I can call this ricotta and liquor soaked slice of gluttony, *please* suggest it in the comments, and in addition to changing the name of the cake, I will give you a shout-out, and say nice things about you in public.

Temporarily Anonymous Cake!

Unfrosted and frosted, for looking-at-dripping-chocolate purposes.

Unfrosted and frosted, for looking-at-dripping-chocolate purposes.

pound cake  (I cheat and use a box mix, but if you want to make one from scratch, I won’t tell you no)
1 lb ricotta cheese
1.5 oz Grand Marnier (about 1 nip)
4 oz sugar
8 oz semisweet mini morsels

  • Make cake.
  • During baking and cooling time, mix ricotta, sugar, Grand Marnier, fold in chocolate, and set in fridge.
  • Slice cake into 3/8″ horizontal slices
  • Put slice back into cake pan, spread with ricotta mix.  Keep layering cake and mix, finishing with cake.
  • Refrigerate overnight to solidify and let flavors mix
  • Frost with SuperFudgy Frosting

This will almost certainly produce too much ricotta filling, but that’s okay, because you can just save it in the original ricotta tub and use it to fill some breakfast crepes on some morning when you want a fancy breakfast.  Like, y’know, maybe Christmas morning.

Cinnamocha Cookies

Creatively arranged butter and sugar, basically.

Creatively arranged butter and sugar, basically.

2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 lb flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 oz unsalted butter
4 oz shortening (or CBG, in which case omit the salt)
4 oz sugar
4 oz brown sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp espresso or very strong coffee, cooled

  • On a double boiler, melt the unsweetened chocolate
  • Stir together dry ingredients (flour, salt, cinnamon)
  • Cream butter and shortening with sugars, then add egg, coffee, and melted chocolate, mix well.  Then integrate flour mix and beat until well blended.
  • Cover and refrigerate about 1 hr.  Remove, halve and shape into two 8″ long rolls on wax paper, wrap and refrigerate overnight, or until firm.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Cut dough rolls into 1/4″ slices, lay on ungreased cookie sheet, and bake until cookies have firmed edges, about 12 minutes.

Finally, the frosting.  I once used a batch of this as barter with a local artist for a painting.  It’s soooo rich.  But with this ingredient list, it couldn’t really be anything else.

SuperFudgy Frosting

You guys, this fudge.  This fudge, you guys, oh my god.

You guys, this fudge. This fudge, you guys, oh my god.

3/4 c. espresso or VERY strong coffee (think rocketfuel)
16 oz (1 lb) semisweet chocolate
8 oz unsalted butter, chilled and cut into Tbsp size chunks

  • In the double boiler, melt chocolate with espresso, stirring to integrate.
  • Add the butter two chunks at a time, stirring to melt in.
  • Let cool slightly before using to frost cakes and cookies.  I always store the excess to use as fudge, or reheat and put on ice cream.

Happy Holidays to all, and good eating!