This candy cane brownie cake has everything one could want in a dessert– sweet chocolate flavor, moist cake texture, a layer of chocolate frosting, and a sprinkling of crushed candy canes. It is also a very pretty dessert, with its bright red and white flecks of candy cane against the dark of the chocolate. If you are looking for a festive holiday or winter dessert, this is a great one.
Place a piece of this rich, moist gingerbread cake on a layer of tangy-sweet lemon sauce, top it with a dollop of whipped cream, and you have an iconic, heart-warming holiday dessert!
Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit like gingerbread. Whether it’s decorating gingerbread cookies or breathing in the comforting aroma of gingerbread as it bakes, I don’t feel quite right in December until I have made something with gingerbread. This feeling goes way back to my childhood, and I associate the incredible smell of baking gingerbread with warmth and comfort against the backdrop of December’s cold, dark mornings and nights.
This chocolate tea bark is made with melted semi-sweet chocolate topped with leaves of delicate black tea flavored with bergamot, orange and lemon. Some fresh orange zest gives it additional color and flavor. Super-easy to make, this chocolate tea bark makes a subtly elegant and delicious after-dinner treat, snack, or a sweet homemade gift!
Bark is a festive winter dessert because it is fun to make, and has so many variations. In this version, I use my favorite tea–called Lady in Waiting–from Wilkinson’s of Norwich, a coffee and tea shop in the village of Norwich, in the east of England. My cousin moved to the Norwich area a few years ago, and she often brings me a bag of this wonderful tea when she comes back to visit. It is a version of Earl Grey tea, and it has such a delicate yet powerful flavor. You can use any type of loose leaf tea you wish in this bark, though I am partial to the bergamot/citrus notes in the Earl Grey or Lady Grey types of teas.
I added some orange zest because I cannot resist the flavors of chocolate and orange together, and with the citrus notes already present in this tea, the orange zest goes perfectly. The quality of the chocolate also makes an impact, I have found. Spending a bit more on good chocolate is worth it when making bark. The flavors of the tea leaves and orange zest are subtle, and they look so pretty! It is well-known that both chocolate and tea have lots of health benefits, especially for the health of the soul. 🙂 I find both chocolate and tea especially good for the soul in the winter, when we seem to feel all pleasant things more intensely due to the challenges of the cold weather and long stretches of darkness.
The winter solstice is tomorrow, and it feels every bit of winter here today. We have plenty of snow on the ground and a cold wind is blowing. Our dog has taken to spending time next to the heat vent in the kitchen, and the kids don’t want to get out of their warm beds on these cold, dark mornings. This year, I am especially enjoying our Christmas tree lights and the colorful lights out on the porch as they cast such a warm and cozy glow. We are trying to remember to eat dinner by candlelight, even when it is a dinner thrown together at the last minute.
We are entering the peak of the holiday season, such a special and gracious time of year. Yes, it is a hectic and sometimes stressful time. But also, I hope we all will have some time not only to reach out to those around us, but to sit quietly and contemplate. My yoga instructor shared a famous Mother Teresa quote with us in class yesterday: “Peace begins with a smile.” This chocolate tea bark definitely makes me smile, and I hope it does you too. Peace and Happy Holidays!
Chocolate Tea Bark
Servings: the equivalent of two large chocolate bars
2-3 teaspoons of Earl Grey, Lady Grey, or Lady in Waiting Tea, in leaf form
2 teaspoons of orange zest
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest your orange peel and measure out your tea leaves.
Break the chocolate into pieces. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or if you don’t have a double boiler, heat a couple of inches of water in a saucepan over low heat. Place a heat-proof glass bowl over the saucepan (but don’t let the bowl touch the water). Put the chocolate in the glass bowl and allow it to melt, stirring often. When the chocolate is melted and shiny, pour it onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and shape it into a rectangle with a spatula, so the chocolate is about 1/4 of an inch thick. (You may make it thicker or thinner, if you prefer). Sprinkle the tea leaves and orange zest evenly over the melted chocolate, pressing the leaves into the chocolate a tiny bit. Let the chocolate cool and harden, about 2 hours, or if you are in a hurry, you can put the baking sheet in the freezer for about a half hour. When the chocolate is cool and hardened, break it into pieces. Enjoy!
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