March 9, 2011

The best gingerbread cake

Today woke up dreary and grey with rain steady from the sky.  It was the perfect day for gingerbread.  I had 1/3 of a cup of molasses left, and the recipe for an awesome gingerbread cake in my newest edition of Cooks Illustrated, it couldn't have worked out better.  As I started to bake, mixing the beer, sugar and molasses, I began to swoon, and by the time it hit the oven I already knew it was the best gingerbread I'd ever smelled.  The only hurdle to overcome was the dreaded collapsed center but the article promised a sturdy middle and it delivered.  The cake came out perfect.

I went for my daily walk and come back an hour later fully soaked and cold to the bone, the smell hit me once I opened the door.  I hung my coat to dry and turned on the kettle.  Before I knew it I was blissfully consuming a large slice of cake topped with a soft, unsweetened whipped cream and a big mug of tea.  You might think "whipped cream on gingerbread cake? Weird."  But no, not weird.  The word you are looking for is, awesome.  Whipped cream on gingerbread cake is awesome.  The end.

The Best Gingerbread Ever Created

This recipe is slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated.

I made half this recipe in a 9x5 inch pan and it worked wonderfully.  It still took 40 minutes to cook.

3/4 c stout beer, I used Guinness which CI recommends
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 c mild molasses
150 g (3/4 c) light brown sugar
50 g (1/4 c) sugar
180 g (1 1/2 c) flour
2 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 eggs
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger

With rack in middle of the oven, preheat to 350 F.  Grease a 8x8 inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. (Important, mine stuck.)  Bring the beer to a boil in a medium saucepan.  When it boils remove from heat and stir in baking soda.  After it foams vigorously, stir in molasses and sugars until dissolved; set mixture aside.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and spices together in a large bowl.

Transfer the molasses mixture to a large bowl.  Whisk in eggs, oil and grated ginger.  Combine wet ingredients with dry ones in three additions, whisking vigorously between each, until completely smooth.  There is no risk of over mixing, in fact the batter needs to be beaten really well to keep from sinking when it bakes.

Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan and tap against the counter a few times to shake and large air bubbles loose.  Bake until the cake top is just firm to touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, 1 1/2 hours.  Serve the cake with whipped cream and enjoy.

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