Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Snowy Day For Gingerbread Cake

I had already started on a post for today that was about food on your tropical vacations this winter, when we were hit with a snowstorm here in Chicago.  It's really the first significant snow we've had since I've been home from the Caribbean, and it put me immediately in the mood for something baking in the oven.  Just the forecast the night before made me stop at the market to get supplies to ensure I could bake today.



As it turns out, I settled on a Gingerbread cake.  I love the flavor of American Gingerbread and I use a recipe from Food Network that always comes out well.  I provide it for you below but the credit goes to the Food Network Kitchen Staff who no doubt tested it to perfection.  I use it as is and think you'll enjoy it too.

In the last paragraph I said "American gingerbread" and I don't say that to lay claim to Gingerbread for the Americas or create some food historian kerfuffle.   I say it this way simply to differentiate the flavor from Gingerbread of other countries, where different ingredients significantly change the taste, texture and shape.  When you order it abroad, you'll find it can be a bread, a cake or a cookie (crunchy or soft) that can range from light colored with just a touch of spice to dark colored and very spicy indeed.

In England and North America, we tend to make our Gingerbread with either treacle or molasses instead of the original honey and breadcrumbs, which is thought to have been used by the Greeks who have the first record of making this treat. The British favor treacle which has a much stronger taste and darker color than the milder tasting and lighter colored molasses we frequently use in America. Ground ginger is always present and in the US, ground cinnamon and ground cloves are regularly included.  You can see why it smells and tastes so good!



If you are only familiar with Gingerbread cookies or ginger snaps, then you haven't really enjoyed all this taste combination has to offer. This Gingerbread cake is moist and delicious as is, or served with a frosting, a light glaze (even a lemon glaze) or with whipped cream.   I like to make it all throughout the autumn and winter as it gives the house a lovely smell and tastes wonderful too.  If just the two of us are home, I cut the recipe in half (shown above) and it performs equally well.  I also use various pans including individual cake molds.  So as in all things on my blog, feel free to experiment.

Ingredients

Softened unsalted butter, as needed
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsulphured molasses (sometimes called light molasses)
1 to 2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger (great if you have it, but optional)
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten with a fork
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup water
1 tablespoon baking soda

Serving suggestions: Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Directions
Lightly butter a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, molasses, and crystallized ginger. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Whisk the molasses mixture into the flour mixture until evenly combined.

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Whisk the hot water into the batter until just combined. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake in the center of the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes (30 if you make half the batch). Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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