Christmas in Hong Kong is a different species—think of it as New Year’s Day with gifts. In the public places, the glittering lights and artificial trees are oversized, and there’s a gleeful energy from everyone rushing about with bags of presents. The high sport of shopping, which normally requires aerobic energy, suddenly shifts up to an Olympic event.
When I was growing up, however, my family had its own interpretation of the holiday tradition that it shared with other Chinese–Christmas Eve Balls at glamorous hotels. It was all about Christmas dinner as a bad translation of the Western dishes, listening to syrupy versions of carols, and waiting for the clock to strike midnight to ring in Christmas Day. For my family, that was it, no tree and no presents—that part was too foreign. Growing up, I had little enthusiasm for the holiday.
When I got my first New York apartment, I embraced Christmas American style. I schlepped a tree for blocks from a corner vendor, bought too many ornaments to actually use, and very carefully wrapped presents to put under the tree. Every night, I turned off the apartment lights and to better see the twinkling lights of what I thought was the most beautiful tree ever. Yet, it still didn’t feel like a true Christmas.
As excited as I was, I didn’t have friends and family in New York with whom I could celebrate. The few friends that I had back then all travelled to their families, and I couldn’t take off enough time to go back to Hong Kong to visit my family. The Christmas I wanted wasn’t there, anyway.
Fast forward to the last decade—M and I have either spent Christmas with my family or travelled in Asia for quiet getaways. Though it’s not exactly a traditional Christmas celebration, being with family and M was all I needed. I’ve come to realize that I don’t need a holiday to feel the joy and love—Ali I need are M, friends and family. I guess it doesn’t hurt that M and I exchange Chrismukkah presents, too.
Pomegranate Chocolate Bundt Cake
yield: one 8-inch cake
1/3 cup (1-3/8 ounces) dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/4 cup hot water
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (3-3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons (6 ounces/1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate syrup
1/4 brandy or rum
1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Grease one 8-inch round/6-cup bundt pan, set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together cocoa powder, espresso powder, hot water, whisk to combine. Cool slightly, then add eggs and vanilla, stir to combine, set aside.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
4. In the bowl of standing mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-low speed until sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add egg mixture in two additions, beat until combined.
5. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, beat in each addition until barely combined. Add chopped chocolate and mix until evenly distributed. Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top with spatula and baked until toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.
6. While cake is baking, stir pomegranate syrup and brandy together in a measuring cup,
7. Remove cake from oven and set on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Using a long wooden skewer, poke several deep holes all over the top of the cake. Slowly spoon a small amount of syrup over the cake. Let set for a few minutes and repeat until you use up all the syrup. (It might seems soggy, but the cake will eventually absorb it all and leave a glossy surface.)
8. Allow cake to cool completely in pan for at least 2 hours. Turn the cake out onto a cake stand or serving platter.
Pomegranite chocolate cake
2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pomegranite seeds (optional)
White chocolate cereal crunchies (optional)
1. Combine white chocolate and heavy cream in a glass bowl, melt mixture in either microwave, 30 sec intervals, or double boiler. Cool mixture until thickened.
2. Pour or spoon white chocolate over bundt cake and decorate with pomegranate seeds and crunchies (if use)
Recipe Note – Serve now or be good and wait for 24-48 hours to get an even tastier cake.