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gingerbread cake

February 2, 2011
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A week or two back, my section had a potluck. Back-story: because of my commute, I haven’t been to a single after-hours section event since probably the first week of classes/orientation. Bad section member! However, it was hard for me to ignore the call of homemade foodstuff for this one. Also, I’d already made plans to crash with one of my lovely group-mates that night, so I decided to live it up as a real, live, on-campus student.

The problem was that I had many many things to do on the night before the potluck, and I didn’t want to have to lug all my gear in to make something after class on the day of, so I knew I needed to make something that would keep for two days and would survive the mayhem that is public transportation. I made a thorough, careful investigation into which recipe I should use to most impress my classmates (and by that, I mean I looked through all my most recently-saved cake recipes to find something for which I already had all the ingredients) and came up with this loveliness.

Okay, so I was kind of a fail-face on the “ingredients we already have” front; Chris had to pick me up a bottle of stout on his way home, and as it turned out, we only had, um, 1/4 cup of molasses. And oh, we also only had about 1/4 cup brown sugar (the first recommended substitute for molasses) left after I used up the rest for the remainder of the recipe. And not enough honey to fill out the full quantity, either. So in the end, I used a strange mixture of molasses, honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup in place of just straight molasses. But you know what? I think it turned out okay. The cake was super-moist (no, really, I was almost afraid it wasn’t cooked through at first) and super-flavorful, and it had a nice spicy kick to it that kept it from being too cloyingly sweet. In fact, after my mom tried a piece, she made it again that same weekend when we had guests over for dinner. (And actually, she used all molasses and claims she liked my version better because it was moister. I’m not sure I agree with her, but her cake was definitely a bit fluffier than mine. Either way, it’s hard to lose.)

Ugh, sub-par “after” photo…sorry, I snapped it at 6am before I left the house and I’m not convinced I was fully conscious at that point…
And now, a word from the fancypants pepper grinder my dad got my mom for Christmas:

Electric grinding with adjustable fineness? Eh, I’ve seen it all before.

BOOM! Flashlight.

Gingerbread Cake
1 1/2 cups stout, such as Guinness
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups mild molasses [or any combination of molasses, honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar that you happen to have on hand, if you, like me, believe in breaking the rules]
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
4 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. Bring stout to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam vigorously [I got all excited thinking it would go all Mt. Vesuvius on me, but alas, it’s nothing that dramatic]). When foaming subsides, stir in molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until dissolved; set mixture aside. Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper together in large bowl; set aside.
3. Transfer stout mixture to large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil, and grated ginger until combined. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture in thirds, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition. [The batter will be super, super liquidy. As in, “Am I supposed to bake this or drink it?” liquidy. Never fear! And never drink it. Trust me.]
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles. Bake until top of cake is just firm to touch [it won’t bounce right back like a normal cake would] and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack, about 1 1/2 hours. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

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