We were talking over lunch last week about my failed trip to India last winter. It was only the second time I planned an elaborate trip to Northern India, the first having been cancelled by a certain Icelandic eruption. Long story short, the second trip never set sail either, so instead of landing in New Deli this time last year, I touched down in Amsterdam instead. After a beautiful week with my best friend Lindsay, I booked myself a short flight to Budapest. Why I chose to go North instead of South to Morocco, Greece, or Turkey will remain a mystery. At any rate, I travelled by way of the lovely Frankfurt airport (in which I spent a grueling 12 hours waiting for 1 inch of snow to be cleared from the runway) and, on arriving in Budapest, was greeted by the freak European snow blizzard of 2010. It was a memorable trip to say the least.
I bring this up because my luck [not] travelling to India has closely paralleled my luck [not] baking delicious gingerbread lately. A series of unfortunate events, you might say. Indeed, this was the third gingerbread cake to come out of my kitchen last week.
Gingerbreads can generally be assigned one of two categories: the brown and the black. Brown cakes are close cousins of the honey cake – softly spiced and lightly scented with molasses. Black cakes are dense, serious cakes laden with molasses and full with spice. The brown version I think I’ve got covered, but it’s the black where thing start falling apart. There’s a fine line between a moist cake and a downright dense cake, and it would seem cakes in my kitchen like to cross it. What was promised to be “sticky” all too often winds up tasting under-baked and all wrong.
Which is why I’d like to introduce you to this little number. Finally, a gingerbread cake I can get behind. Drum roll please: the recipe has been waiting patiently for me all these years in my very own recipe box. (I’ll skip the goldilocks life lesson metaphor here, but don’t think it’s not crossing my mind.) A slight modification of a recipe I jotted down from my Dad years ago, this cake is richly fragrant with ginger, cinnamon, molasses and just a touch of espresso and cocoa. It is dark (albeit not quite black) and the perfectly dense. I topped things off with a glaze version of classic Christmas hard sauce – the kind of thing served alongside Christmas pudding once upon a time. True to its name, the sauce is hard in the “spiked with alcohol” sense as well as the “not liquid at room temperature” sense. Be sure to keep it in a warm place until you are ready to glaze the cake.
Happy New Year Everyone!
One Year Ago: Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows.
Makes one 10 inch bundt which serves 8-10
- ½ cup / 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup unsulfured molasses
- ½ cup honey
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1tbsp instant espresso powder
- 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest
- 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 cup bundt pan or 9 by 9 square baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar and egg. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, cocoa, and salt. Finally, in another bowl, combine the molasses, honey, water, espresso powder, orange zest, and fresh ginger. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the molasses mixture to the butter and sugar. Stir well to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake springs back when touches and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool slightly.
Hard Sauce Glaze
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tbsp brandy or whisky
Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Store in a warm place (like the back of the stove) until ready to use. If the glaze hardens before you use it, microwave or place in a warm oven a few seconds until softened.
While the cake is still warm, drizzle the glaze over using a spoon. Allow to set and then dust in powdered sugar and serve.