Saturday, December 5, 2015

Gingerbread Cakes Grandma Would Be Proud Of

My memories of gingerbread cakes are of a moist, dark cake with a perfect crumb and a lot of flavorful spices. I've posted a recipe previously and while it's not bad, it still wasn't my ideal cake. So this year I set off to make a really great gingerbread cake that anyone's grandma would be proud of.

As it turns out, most Americans don't really seem to know what gingerbread is supposed to taste like anymore. Most seem to think of cinnamon and nutmeg, but we aren't making a pumpkin latte here, but rather a rich, delicious, spicy cake that is loaded with flavor yet still has the perfect cake crumb. While the ginger is the headline ingredient, I've found the real key to great gingerbread is using molasses, or if you're British, treacle. I like a mix of dark (robust) and light (golden) molasses, and since I usually have both on the shelf I do that. But you can do either one alone. The dark will give you a somewhat darker cake with more robust flavor but even the all light molasses version will be delicious.

Scooping into Paper Liners
Gingerbread, as we know it today, descends from Medieval Europe and the cakes we enjoy are largely a British custom during the holidays. So for that reason, I turned to a English friend for a bit of taste testing and came up with this wonderful recipe which I think you and yours will very much enjoy.

Today I'm making gingerbread cupcakes, but this recipe works equally well for a traditional square cake. I've doubled the recipe to make two dozen cupcakes but if you want to double it for a larger cake, you can do that, but it's best to make them in two separate nine inch square baking pans (rather than one larger pan.) This helps the cakes bake more evenly.

Julian Frosting Gingerbread Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes or a 9 inch square cake

Pecan Frosting
1 1/4 cups boiling water
6 ounces molasses (3/4 cup) dark or golden
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg (room temperature)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line cupcake molds with paper liners or spray baking cups or pan with food release (Pam) or butter them lightly.

Bring water to a boil.  Off heat add the molasses and baking soda. Stir together and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, flour, baking powder, salt).

In a mixer, whip the butter until softened and distributed. On low speed, stir in the brown sugar. Increase speed to medium and mix until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat the egg with a fork and with the mixer running, add the egg to the butter/sugar mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and pour in the room temperature molasses mixture. Remove the mixing bowl and fold in the dry ingredients. The mixer will be loose, like a cake batter.

If using cupcake/muffin tin, scoop in about 1/4 cup into each mold to distribute the batter evenly. If making a single cake, pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

If you are going to serve this slightly warm from the oven, really no topping at all is necessary, but a good whipped cream will nicely complement the flavors. As you can see in the photos, I've topped my cupcakes 4 ways: cinnamon cream cheese frosting, pecan frosting, chopped pecan and crystal of sugar.

Cream Cheese Frosting with Cinnamon Whipped In


  1. Let me know what she thinks of them. I make them every Christmas.