Prime real estate: Under such delicious conditions, you'll be happy to eat this investment. (Photo by Bill Hogan)

5 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup regular molasses
1 cup whole milk

Whisk together flour, ginger, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda in a mixing bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in another bowl, using an electric mixer, until fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time; beat fluffy. Beat in molasses and milk.

Scatter on dry ingredients and mix to combine.

Scrape into a 9-inch square cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick poked in center comes out clean, 25 minutes for small cakes, 50 for large. Cool slightly. Unmold. Cool.

Cut the cake into 3-by-3-inch cubes (house bases) and triangles (roofs). Hold everything together with whipped cream. Decorate extravagantly with royal icing and candy, or simply with a shake of powdered sugar.

Individual gingerbread houses make a charming holiday tablescape. Before dinner they can serve as placecards. After dinner, doused with lemon sauce and accompanied by whipped cream, they can serve as dessert.

Lemon sauce:
Whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, zest and juice of 2 lemons, zest and juice of 1 orange, and 3 egg yolks in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until hot, frothy and thickened, 10 minutes. Stir in 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed. Strain. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor. Contact her at