Last December, we invited my parents, in-laws, and my brother and his family over for an early Christmas get-together. Despite the fact that our table is not large enough to seat everyone, coupled with the startling realization that I did not own a ladle in order to serve my soup, and the only Christmas decor we have is a 4-feet tall, bright pink Christmas tree, it was so wonderful to gather everyone together. I loved planning the menu and choosing recipes that everyone would enjoy and that would allow me to enjoy their company, and not the company of the stovetop. For dessert, I chose a classic gingerbread cake. It had both fresh and dried ginger, and was perfect with just a dusting of powdered sugar before serving. This year, I am taking my beloved recipe and amping it up a bit, with a simple addition that makes big impact. To add more texture and spice, I chopped up one of my favorite treats: crystalized ginger. This was an easy way to update a classic recipe. Served with a dollop of whipped cream, it remains the same comforting dessert that people love, with enough interest to lure in any newcomers.
Around this time of year, everyone always talks about how busy the days can be. And it’s true; there are places to go and people to see. Gingerbread seems to understand the hustle and bustle and is very accommodating to your schedule. This cake has the unique ability of coming together very quickly, requiring just a few minutes to melt some butter and whisk together the dry ingredients, before baking and serving, but it also tastes better one, even two days, after it is baked. The molasses flavor deepens and the spices get even more complex as it sits. I know last year I was grateful for being able to bake the cake the day before everyone arrived, rather than worrying about it the day of.
With the fresh ginger, this cake definitely has a spicy kick. If you think that will be too much ginger for you, you can always leave it out; but if you’ve never tried fresh ginger in a cake, please give it a try. It really makes this cake extra special and different from other gingerbreads. This recipe makes enough for two 8-inch round layers, one for you and your family, and another that you can give away to brighten someone’s day. Growing up, my mom and I baked treats for our neighbors around Christmas and it’s a tradition I am carrying on with my own daughter. Last year, we baked cinnamon pull-apart bread and this year, I think this ginger cake will be a perfect gift, maybe baked in mini loaf pans, for easy delivery.
- 1 c water
- 1 stick of butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups of molasses (a 12 oz bottle)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup crystalized ginger, roughly chopped
- Fresh whipped cream, for serving
- Powdered sugar, for serving
- Preheat oven to 350 and butter two 8" cake pans, or one 9x13 pan.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the butter, allowing the butter to melt. Add the eggs, molasses, and fresh ginger.
- In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients (reserving the crystalized ginger). Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk until combined. Stir in the crystalized ginger. The batter will be rather thin.
- Divide evenly into cake pans (or pour into the larger pan) and bake for 35-40 minutes. The cake is done with a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. This is a moist cake and may *feel* under-baked, but go by the toothpick test.
- Serve warm, with unsweetened whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. Or, allow to cool, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for one or two days. The flavors only get better as it sits, so make this in advance, if you can.