Just to warn you, this might be a tear jerker post.
My parents have lived in the same house for over 25 years. It’s a ranch, initially had 3 bedrooms, we built a 4th when my younger sister came along, with a backyard filled with hills that made for some of the best suicide runs during the sledding season. I learned how to ride my bike in the driveway, and nail the mailbox in the process. 10 years later I learned how to drive there, took out the passenger’s side mirror with the side of the garage. Its backyard was a place to stargaze and watch meteor showers curled up with my sister in the freezing cold.
We’ve raised and lost 3 dogs there. We’ve had a chinchilla and 20+ fish before giving up with the tank. One goldfish lived for 3 years. There was even a litter of 4 rabbits in my first garden by the kitchen window. (Couldn’t managing growing much more then.)
Its kitchen was the one I first learned to cook in. Every year in December we’d fill it with countless baked goods to give to neighbors, coworkers, and family. We’ve thrown birthday parties, Christmas parties, Halloween parties, baby showers, wedding showers, bachelorette parties, football watching events, all of them in the same kitchen. Sure, it’s changed colors and flooring and counter-tops and appliances over the years, but’s its warm bones remain the same. I discovered how to bake gluten free there, and how to do it successfully.
My first garden was there, and my first raised beds. We let strawberries run wild on the side of the garage and reap the rewards of how they flourish on their on in Ohio. They’ve died off now, they only really last 4-5 years. My raised beds are gone now too. Their last perennial occupants sub-coming to a harsh summer my parent’s lack of urge to weed.
This autumn my parents sold the house. It was an expected change. The opportunity to move and build a new home versus heavy renovation. I can’t say I blame them, having moved from my husband’s first start home to our dream home which we built last year. There is an appeal to starting fresh and getting the chance to make new memories. Two out of three of us kids are married now. As my sister’s husband said this past Sunday “in this new home we’ll all have the same memories.”
I can’t help but feel a little sad losing the place I spent most of my childhood (and post college) days. You think your parents and your childhood home would stay that way forever. I didn’t even get the chance to really cherish our last Christmas there. I never expected it would be the last one there. But I’m also reminded that home is where your family is. We still have a tight bond. My parent’s house won’t be done until late April. They’re staying with my sister and her husband while my brother comes and stays with my husband, Ben and I. This new togetherness will have its challenges, but I feel it will bring us closer together too.
To commemorate our last Sunday Family Dinner we cooked Thanksgiving style with turkey, gravy, potatoes, rolls, you name it. I had the opportunity to provide dessert one more time for the place. Since Mom felt “fall’d out” from the recent fall themed wedding and flavors, she requested a more Christmas style cake, but she also likes chocolate. It doesn’t quite feel like peppermint season just yet so I opted to go with a transitional flavor: gingerbread. Yes, gingerbread is generally a Christmas flavor but many of the spices used in gingerbread are also part of the pumpkin spice flavor. I opted to pair a chocolate cake with fresh gingerbread buttercream and a coat of chocolate ganache.
Gingerbread buttercream is wonderful. It’s not just your basic buttercream with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg thrown it. It actually has brown sugar instead of white sugar for the meringue base. This adds the warm flavor of molasses without compromising the consistency. (Too much liquid can make a mess of a good meringue!) Once made it keeps well in an airtight container for a few days or in the fridge and freezer for much longer. This batch got use to coat a 3-tier 6-inch cake. And once it set, a coated it with a layer of ganache and added some gingerbread house elements for decoration. It might look a bit silly but it was a small homage to a cake celebrating the transition of a home from one 25-year-old house to the next one!
Gingerbread ButtercreamPrint Recipe
- 150 ml egg whites (about 5 large egg whites)
- 250 grams light brown sugar
- 4 stickss unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- A pinch of ground nutmeg
- A pinch of ground cloves
Whisk together egg whites and brown sugar in your mixing bowl. Set over a pan of simmering water, and whisk periodically. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. When the mixture reaches 160 degrees remove from heat. Return mixer bowl to stand.
With the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture on high speed for 8-10 minutes until cooled and stiff peaks have formed.
Swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment. With the speed set at medium-low, add the butter in 1 tablespoons increments a few at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Beat in vanilla and spices.
Turn mixer speed up to medium-high and beat for about 5 minutes until fluffy.
Buttercream can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, preferably in the fridge or frozen for up to 1 month; bring to room temperature before using from the fridge or freezer and beat on low speed until smooth.
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart. I don't know what she was baking but I didn't need THAT much.