I really like gingerbread. I just don’t have a favorite recipe yet. So, since I’m at my parents’ house for the holidays and have ample time for experimentation, I made two kinds. This one is from the ever-trustworthy Cook’s Illustrated back-catalogue.
I’m probably going to treat myself to an online subscription to Cook’s Illustrated when I get home again, but my parents have bound hard copies of the past two decades. So I searched the site for gingerbread and then tracked down the recipe in an issue from 2011.
The benefit of Cook’s Illustrated is that they test their recipes. They test and test and test until they get it how they want it. This author bemoans the typical gooey center of a gingerbread cake and sought to correct that problem. She succeeded! The texture of this cake is great.
That being said, my mom only had blackstrap molasses, and I probably should have waited until I could run to the store for milder stuff – since that’s explicitly what the recipe calls for. Consequently, my version ended up with a darker and heavier flavor than I really liked even though I cut the blackstrap with dark corn syrup. (I did learn that you can sub dark corn syrup or honey for molasses in a pinch, but it’ll obviously have significant effects on flavor – and I would not recommend it in this case).
So! I may try this again at some point with the correct ingredients – though it calls for stout beer, which I don’t really ever have on hand. But it’s still in the running, and I’d definitely recommend it to those of you for whom a pint of Guinness isn’t such a foreign fridge/pantry object.
Classic Gingerbread Cake from Cook’s Illustrated (by Yvonne Ruperti)
Grade: A- (when made with substitutions)
- 3/4 cup stout (they suggest Guinness)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2/3 cup mild molasses (the mild is important)
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 Tbs ground ginger (though they say to cut it in half if you’re sensitive to spice)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbs finely grated fresh ginger
Preheat oven to 350°, grease and flour an 8-inch square pan. (Just using cooking spray will not suffice in this case – as I learned)
Bring stout to boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (which will foam up a bit). After foaming dies down, stir in the molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until dissolved. Set this aside to cool a bit.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper.
Pour stout mixture into another large bowl, then whisk in the eggs, oil, and grated ginger. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients a third at a time, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.
Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap against the counter to dislodge any large air bubbles. Bake until top of the cake is just firm to touch and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (35-45 mins). *The author strongly suggests avoiding opening the oven until at least 35 mins have elapsed.
Let it cool at least an hour and a half, then serve warm or room temp. Is great plain or with lightly sweetened whip cream.