Gingerbread Cake

(jump to recipe)

Gingerbread is one of them Christmastime/December rituals, something you make when you are invited to a holiday party, or throw one. It’s a purely seasonal event – both it’s making and consumption. And usually if someone asks me to make Gingerbread in any of the remaining 11 months of the year, I politely decline and make something else instead. I’m very much like Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper that way; he has a clear rule about these type of things, in that he only drinks Hot Cocoa in months that have “R” in them. Take a minute to see that it makes total sense.

Gingerbread is only for December, only when it’s cold out, and you are enjoying it with a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate or mulled wine, doing absolutely nothing. The ultimate year end treat. Second only to Black Forest Cake, Gingerbread is one of the best things to come from Germany.

I’ve made Smitten Kitchen’s Gramercy Tavern aka “Not your Mama’s” Gingerbread more than a dozen times over the years (at least once per December, sometimes twice); it is big, bold, and the ginger+molasses hit you like a brick! The cake keeps for several days (better for gifting; not that it would ever last several days in my house) and only gets better and better as the days go by.

But I’m really glad that the blogosphere, specifically Smitten Kitchen, made a more streamlined, “snacking”, sheet pan version of it because many, many times, no matter how well you grease the bundt cake pan and how perfect it’s nonstick coating is, the cake would stick (all that sugar!) and I would lose small chunks of it. Thanks to a confectioners’ sugar snow shower no one was ever the wiser, and I highly doubt if anyone else noticed or cared, but it’s annoying when (possibly) the last bake of the year results in picking up large chunks of cake out of the pan and reassembling it, or better yet, converting it into a trifle with whipped cream (not a soul complained and why would they).

Like all things Martha Stewart, enter: the streamlined, easier version of the cake with a very curious way of assembly – the cake batter comes together entirely in a saucepan!

I would frequently adapt the Gramercy Tavern gingerbread recipe to substitute coffee for the oatmeal stout to keep it alcohol-free, so used the same trick here. Also, tried to keep things dairy-free by using a dairy-free, plant-based butter (I used Country Crock). Up until this cake, I had only cooked with it, but now I know it works really well with baking too!

The verdict is in: Country Crock Plant-based butters are incredible for baking!

Grab your hot cocoa and let us make this gingerbread cake. We’ll start by gathering all the ingredients!

L to R: baking soda, coffee, dairy-free butter, dark brown sugar, molasses, eggs, all-purpose flour, spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves), baking powder, salt, confectioners’s sugar for dusting later.

Prepare your cake pan by greasing the bottom of a 9×13 inch cake pan with dairy-free butter, then lining it with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Butter then line with parchment then butter again.

We start by bring a cup of coffee to a full boil in a large saucepan. Use a pan that’s big enough to hold your cake yet light enough to easily swirl around or tip. Once it is boiling (and only when its boiling) add baking soda. The mixture will foam a bit, then settle in a minute or two.

Coffee and baking soda mixture

Once it is settled, whisk in the butter while the mixture is still hot. Then whisk in the brown sugar and molasses, and let the mixture cool. If whisked long enough the mixture will cool really fast. Once the mixture is almost completely cooled, whisk in the eggs. Place all the dry ingredients in a sieve, sifter or fine mesh strainer.

Then sift the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients in the saucepan. Mix well with a whisk at first, and then a spatula, until no dry streaks remain, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Sift the dry ingredients over the wet, right in the saucepan.
Whisk well, and your batter is ready! Pour into prepared pan.
Into a 350 degree F oven it goes for 30 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes until cake tester (thin knife or toothpick or skewer) comes out clean, and then transfer cake in pan to a cooling rack, letting it cool all the way in the pan itself.

Comes out looking like a total stud.

Dust with confectioners sugar.

You can make some paper cutouts of snowflakes or snowmen or jingle bells or Christmas trees (as I have) and place them on the cake, and dust over them. Keep it simple.

Serve warm with barely sweetened whipped cream (I usually go with 1 tablespoon of confectioners sugar per cup of heavy whipping cream, beaten till soft).

If you can’t plant ’em, draw ’em?
Everything got a bit of snow here.

Enjoy warm or cold with delicious hot beverages and good company! And finally, let it snow!

• Recipe •

Gingerbread Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart 

Makes 1 9×13 inch sheet cake

8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces or 115 grams) dairy-free unsalted butter, such as Country Crock, cut into 1/4 inch chunks, plus more for greasing pan, at room temperature
1 cup black coffee (made with 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon instant coffee), warm
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup (150 grams) packed dark-brown sugar, fluffed with a fork, dry/hard bits removed
1 cup (350 grams) molasses
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly whisked with a fork
2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring pan
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

For serving
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting finished cake
Lightly sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees or 180 degrees C. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan (or 2 8-inch square pans, or 2 9-inch round pans) with parchment/butter paper. Butter and flour parchment/butter paper and sides of cake pan.

Bring coffee to a boil in a large saucepan (one large enough to hold your cake batter, but still light to carry with one hand!) and add baking soda. It will foam a bit, let stand for 2-3 minutes until settled.

While still warm, stir in butter until completely melted by swirling the pan around, then whisk in dark brown sugar and molasses. Whisk for a few seconds to help cool the mixture. Set it aside on a cool surface for 10 to 15 minutes to cool further before using. You can also use the refrigerator to expedite this process. When the molasses mixture has cooled, whisk in eggs until just combined.

In a fine-mesh strainer or sifter, place flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder, and sift dry ingredients over the wet in the saucepan. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together using a whisk until just combined. Switch to a spatula to make sure there is no flour at the bottom. Do not over mix. Batter will be thin, almost pancake batter-like.

Pour batter into prepared pan; bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted slanted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer cake in pan onto a cooling rack and let cool completely in the pan. Once fully cooled, loosen the cake with a knife or offset spatula and flip onto your serving plate (this is optional; you could also serve it straight out of the pan), discard parchment/butter paper.

To serve
Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream, if using.

To store
If making the cake for a later time, keep well wrapped at room temperature for 3-4 days before dusting with confectioners’ sugar. You can cut and dust it a piece at a time as you serve.

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