photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 9 servings.

1 cup buttermilk
½ cup molasses
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¾ cup butter (1½ sticks), softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Pear-Ginger Bourbon Sauce:
2 ripe pears, peeled and cored
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup ginger-infused bourbon

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with a light coating of butter and a dusting of flour. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, molasses, and baking soda; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, ginger, and cardamom; set aside.

Beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until creamy and sugar is incorporated. Add egg and beat until blended. Slowly add buttermilk mixture to butter mixture; beat 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until just combined. Fold in crystallized ginger. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched in center. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For the sauce, coarsely chop pears and place in a saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Sauce may be served over gingerbread, on the side, or pooled on the plate, topped with gingerbread and whipped cream (if desired).

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.