We are in full Christmas swing, friends. The tree is trimmed, the halls are decked, I’ve had about three gallons of seasonal lattes, I’ve already indulged in a little wassailing (hello, amaretto) and my “Hot Toddy Holiday Mix” is steady on repeat.
Time for gingerbread!
Gingerbread cookies are delicious, and everybody can agree on the weirdly cannibalistic pleasure of chomping off crisp little gingerbread heads and arms and legs. (Or maybe that’s just me.) But this year, I wanted cake. Old-fashioned, mahogany-dark, gingerbread cake. Tender and sweetly spicy, dusted just so with an elegant snow shower of powdered sugar.
Which is what I wanted the day before yesterday, when I destroyed my kitchen (I was tired, and any “clean as you go” ethos was well out the window) only to produce a flat, gummy, sad-sack version of said gingerbread. (I took one bite and quel dommage, threw the entire batch into the compost. Not worth the calories.)
Maybe it was the recipe, but given my frame of mind it was probably me. In any case, I scrapped that first recipe in favor of this one from the Silver Palate Cookbook, with lovely results. It’s exactly what I was looking for: a light-textured cake, spiced for the season with ginger and cinnamon and molasses. (If I were a gingerbread man, I’d want a king-sized slice to sleep on, with a marshmallow for a pillow and whipped cream for a blanket. And I’d sleep with one tiny little candy eye wide open.)
There is a rather strange bit to this recipe: adding boiling water to the batter at the last minute. I’m not embarrassed to tell you I have absolutely no idea why or how this works, but it does. I thought about researching it for us (yes, Virginia, there is a chemical reaction) but just this once we’ll chalk it up to that old Christmas magic.
Speaking of which, can I borrow some elves to clean up my kitchen?
adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook; serves 9-12
- butter (for greasing the pan)
- 1 2/3 C all-purpose flour (plus more for flouring the pan)
- 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg, lightly beater
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/2 C mild or robust molasses
- 1/2 C boiling water
- 1/2 C vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9″ square cake pan. (An 8″ round pan will work just as well if that’s all you have.)
In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Put on a small saucepan of water to boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the molasses, vegetable oil, sugar and egg. With a spatula, add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture and stir to combine. (It will look like more like a cookie dough at this stage.) Measure out the 1/2 C of water (careful not to scald yourself) and stir into the batter, switching back to the whisk to combine.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until the top springs back when touched and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.