Gingerbread. Why something so delicious is relegated to a seasonal treat is beyond me because it deserves a spot in the dessert hall of fame, right up there with chocolate cake, apple pie and ice cream.
To be clear, depending on your heritage or what country you may be visiting, gingerbread can be either a cookie (think gingersnaps or gingerbread men/women) or a cake. In the U.S., we generally refer to gingerbread as a cookie, and if meaning the cake version, we specifically say gingerbread cake.
Throughout Europe, gingerbread, in its may forms and under many names, is a confection associated with religious holidays, national customs and numerous festive occasions, most of which occur during the cold late fall through winter months. It’s no wonder then that, even in our country, gingerbread is enjoyed mostly from October through late winter.
Personally, while I love gingersnap cookies with a glass of ice-cold milk (I confess, I’m a dunker), what really excites me is something you see much less, and that’s gingerbread cake.
I LOVE gingerbread cake! You rarely, if ever, see it on dessert menus and just as rarely as a prepared cake in grocery stores. About the only place you’ll likely see it (unless you make it from scratch) is in a boxed cake mix.
So I got to thinking of gingerbread cake the other day and thought it about time to share a simple recipe I’ve used over the years.
Before you begin, here are some additional thoughts:
This is a VERY simple recipe, tried and true, but there are some variables.
For one, you can substitute beer for the water. It is not too uncommon, and it gives your gingerbread a very pleasing taste you may enjoy a lot more than water. Second, if you want to dress up your cake, grind a couple of tablespoons of crystallized ginger. Add one tablespoon to the batter and save the other one to sprinkle on afterwards.
A couple of other things to remember: You MUST use baking soda, NOT baking powder, in this recipe. Also, light-brown sugar may be used instead of the dark. The only difference will be that the finished cake will have a bit less molasses background taste.
Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cake
Makes 1 9-inch square cake.
1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
2 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp Ground Cloves
½ Stick Butter, Softened
2/3 cup Dark-Brown Sugar
2/3 cup Unsulfured Molasses
2/3 cup Boiling Water
1 Extra-Large Egg
1 Egg Yolk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray, and then dust the inside with flour and shake off the excess.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a bowl and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine butter, dark-brown sugar, molasses and boiling water (or beer). Whisk until butter is melted. Then, when mixture is cooled to just warm, whisk in the egg.
- Add the combined dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and whisk until just combined and lump free.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until the edges look dark and the middle springs back when depressed.
- Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool until just warm.
Personally, I love gingerbread cake served warm with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream or a good vanilla ice cream. When I’ve served this cake for a dinner party, I often poach a half pear in white wine (with a little sugar added) and serve it alongside the cake.
The two flavors go SO well together.
If you’re into the cookie side of gingerbread, I also have tips and a recipe for making your own gingerbread house this holiday season! They’re fun and another great project for the kids to enjoy!