Piernik – a Polish Christmas Cake

Piernik means ‘gingerbread’ in Polish. Traditionally, this Christmas sweet is made not in the form of a cake but, rather, as a very dense and spicy bread. This is then layered with plum jam and left to ferment for a few weeks, so that the flavours have time to develop. Not wanting to wait weeks before trying it (and considering I already have a boozy British Christmas cake slowly maturing away in the spare room), I decided to opt for Edd Kimber’s cake adaptation of this recipe, which is just as good. I hope Polish traditionalists won’t hate me!

This cake is made with the melting method, which involves melting the fat and the sugar over a low heat in a pan and then, once cooled, combining them with the other ingredients. Usually, cakes made this way result in a moister, darker and softer crumb, much in the same way as my Guinness Cake. Another word of advice: do let the ganache set a little before trying to pour it over the cake. You do want to end up with a nicely thick chocolate layer on top, so the ganache needs to be firm enough to adhere to the cake surface when poured over. Also, you can try and experiment with different flavours of honey. Personally, I combined standard clear honey with a darker and woodier brown honey.

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 300g honey
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 365g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large eggs

Ingredients (for the filling and the ganache)

  • 250g plum jam
  • 225ml double cream
  • 140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 3 tbsp clear honey

Method

  1. Grease and line the base of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. In a saucepan, put the butter, honey and sugars, then cook over a medium heat until fully melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 140C.
  4. Sieve all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them together.
  5. Once the butter mixture has cooled, whisk in the eggs, then pour that into the flour and spice mixture and mix until fully combine. Careful not to overmix the mixture of you will end up with a dry cake. Pour into the cake tin and cook for about 1 hour. Check whether the cake is done with a skewer, then remove from the oven and let it cool completely.
  6. In the meantime, prepare your ganache by putting the chocolate, honey and cream into a saucepan and melting over medium heat, mixing to combine the ingredients together. Remove from the heat and let it cool and slightly thicken. Mix it from time to time.
  7. Once the sponges have cooled, use a serrated knife to slice the cake into three equal layers. Position the bottom layer on your a wire rack, then spread half of the jam on. Top with the second layer and cover that with the rest of the jam, then position the remaining layer on top.
  8. Put a sheet of baking parchment/foil under the wire rack, so that it collects any extra ganache which will drop off the cake. Once the chocolate ganache has reached a slightly denser consistency, pour that over the cake and let it completely drip down the sides, so that the whole cake is covered. Leave to cool and harden.
  9. When ready, use a palette knife to transfer the cake onto a serving dish/platter.

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