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Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

One of my favorite flavors of the holiday season is gingerbread. I love its moist crumb and dark spiciness. Warm from the oven, dusted with powdered sugar and glazed or topped with sweetened whipped cream it can't help but hint of holiday magic. The spicy fragrance reminds me of warm hours spent in the kitchen baking for family and friends. Each mouthful lingers like a memory and the dense texture has a palpable old world charm.

Over the years I have looked for a perfect gingerbread recipe. I have one or two that I like but either has room for improvement in my book, either in the blend of spices, the texture or the ease of preparation. So, when I saw Ina Garten bake Old Fashioned Gingerbread while watching the food network I knew I wanted to give her recipe a try.

Despite my aversion to raisins, I was feeling adventurous and followed her recipe carefully. The recipe calls for white raisins, which are often plumper than dark ones, and are somewhat more to my liking. What's more, the recipe calls for the raisins to be soaked in rum and that seemed like an intriguing addition to an ordinary gingerbread cake. The recipe also calls for candied ginger and I had a bag on hand that I had picked up at a local Asian market.

This gingerbread turned out great. I extended the baking time by about ten minutes before it tested done. The result was perhaps a little dry but still quite delicious. I shared it with friends and it got good reviews. The rum soaked raisins did add an exotic flavor that many people liked. I agreed, and yet the texture sort of bothered me. I was reminded that I really don't care for raisins in cakes, even when they have a nice flavor, so I decided to modify the recipe and try again.

On my second try I consulted a few other recipes I have used before and made quite a few modifications. I increased the amount of finely chopped candied ginger and used part whole wheat flour instead of just white. As I often do in recipes I doubled the spices for a deeper flavor and I added cocoa powder and a pinch of ground chili powder to the blend. I was also careful not to let the cake overbake.

The result was a delicious dark, spicy gingerbread. This is a comfort food in my book. Each spicy mouthful, hints of festive flavors from holidays past and its moist dense texture is packed with old-fashioned appeal. To me it is a perfect ending to a casual holiday meal and is even better served beside a crackling fire.

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup unsulphured molasses
1 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup minced dried crystallized ginger
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

In a small saucepan, bring butter and molasses to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool for five minutes.

Add the sour cream and orange zest to the butter and molasses and mix until combined.

Mix together the flours, baking soda, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, chile powder and salt by sifting or stirring. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture just until incorporated.

Stir in the crystallized ginger.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool the cake on a wire rack. Remove from pan.

Glaze, if desired, by mixing together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice until thoroughly combined and then drizzling it over the cake, letting the glaze drip down the sides. Or simply serve the gingerbread warm and topped with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.



Anonymous said...

That looks just fabulous. I've never actually made real gingerbread, but I know I will just love it! And the addition of the chile powder is a great idea.

Stef said...

I can almost smell it! Yum! One thing that I have been wondering about is why gingerbread houses are made with graham crackers and and not gingerbread. While your gingerbread looks fantastic, it doesn't look like it could work as a house.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Lisa, gingerbread is a special favorite of mine, as well. There are few things that go into an oven that can beat its aroma. I love your recipe. Thanks for sharing.

pam said...

Yum! I love your modifications to it! Gingerbread is one of my favorite things about the season.

grace said...

now that's what i call moist! the smell of gingerbread is so inviting, and the glaze is the kicker--there's no way i could resist eating a huge hunk of this.

Anonymous said...

Yum! What a festive looking cake!

Robin Sue said...

I have only had gingerbread cookies but never the cake. I bet it is so delicious with a cup of tea on a cold day. I can almost smell it!

Bunny said...

I've never made a ginger cake before but the way you described this makes me want to make one! tHIS IS MY FIRST TIME HERE, GREAT BLOG!

Anonymous said...

Gingerbread Houses are not made of Graham Crackers just as pizza is not made of English muffins or pita bread. A real Gingerbread house is an amazing smelling home made of a thick cookie like dough. It is not good to eat but wonderful to smell and decorate. Also, when puting a gingerbread house together it is critical to use "Royal Icing", not icing from a can. Royal Icing is a concoction of whipped egg whites with powdered sugar and does not taste very good but it is incredibley strong when it has dried. A great building tool.

Nic said...

I am a ginger fan and I would love a small slice. Well, ok, a big slice for me please!

Ivy said...

Sometimes I think of gingerbread as being dry YET, yours looks so lovely and moist. It really looks so beautiful! :)