When I was still in the planning stages of this year's series, I asked some of the Foodnatic Nation fans what kinds of recipes they'd like to see. A number of people just indicated their like or dislike of some of the options I gave them, but a couple folks volunteered some options that I hadn't considered seriously myself. The number 1 reason being....I wasn't a fan of it myself.
I'm not talking the cookie. We found a recipe for gingerbread cookies that we loved WAY back in the first year of the flogging magic. I've never replaced that recipe with another. If I ever do, you'll all be the first to know. But, this woman meant the gingerbread...as in the cake/quick bread. It is almost a given that some home you visit at Christmastime is going to have it. It has been a dreaded dessert for most folks in my age group, and I'll tell the folks from my momma's generation why.... It usually sucks. For whatever reason, the gingerbread the baby boomers had when THEY were growing up was indeed magical, but whatever recipe the baby boomers themSELVES were handed and led to believe was awesome and that it was "Grandma's exact recipe" was a total lie. It wasn't Grandma's cake...it was a recipe your mom got out of a magazine and gave to you to get you off of her back so you wouldn't ask for Grandma's recipe for the elventy billionth time. The dreamy, gingery warm and moist cake that my mom's generation knew and loved has long since been forgotten and replaced with food colored, marshmallow laden Corn Flake wreaths with cinnamon imperials. I was never a fan of those, but apparently they have a cult following.
The recipes I found to test out for this year's series weren't wildly different. There was ONE that was set apart from the rest just because it was peculiar. It reminded me of last year's series entry from Iceland...the ginger cookies with black pepper in them...yeah, those ones. Fabulous cookie! It also reminded me of a cake that I made for a friend when we were stationed in Ottawa..it used grated "sticky stem ginger". However, this year's recipe didn't use quite so much ginger as that previous cake did, so that was a plus right there. But what it had going for itself the most was that it was easy, and it seemed to sound to my own mother close enough to her Grandma's cake as it could get. Except for three things that truly make this cake stand out...stout, black pepper, and fresh grated ginger. Seriously...doesn't that sound so interesting, you just HAVE to make it...just once? Yes...that's what I thought as well. Quite...
3/4 c. stout (Guinness Stout) OR apple cider not from concentrate
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. light brown sugar
2/3 c. molasses (I always use Grandma's)
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
2 T. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 large eggs
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 T. fresh ginger, grated (I used Opie's Sticky Stem Ginger from Amazon.com)
Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch or 9 x 9 inch glass pan (I totally recommend glass over any kind of metal simply because glass has a more even heat disbursement and retention.) and line the bottom with parchment for extra insurance...there is a lot of sugar in this small cake. (An 8 x 8 will give you a seriously high cake that will seem almost like a double layer cake in thickness. After making an 8 x 8, I felt like slices of a 9 x 9 would have been just on the sane size of large.) Then, prepare a cake strip for the edge of your pan by taking a long sheet of tin foil (long enough to fit around the edge of your pan in one LONG strip) and fold it down into a strip. I added a long strip of wet paper towel to the inside of my foil strip for some steaming action as well. Wet heat helps a cake rise better than a dry heat.
What you do is simply wrap this strip of foil (with or without the wet paper towel inside) around the edges of the pan. It won't be hard to secure the foil to itself as long as you made a bit of an overlap for the foil. If you've ever made gingerbread and had it cave in on you right in the middle, this is what the foil is for. Trust me. Either that, or you'll be baking your gingerbread in a bundt pan for the rest of your life lol...
Bring the stout or cider to a boil over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Off of the heat, stir in the baking soda. When the foaming stops stir in the brown sugar, molasses, and white sugar until dissolved and set the pan aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper and set it aside.
Add eggs, oil, and grated ginger to the wet mixture and then turn the wet mixture out of the saucepan and into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients in THREE additions, do not add it all at once. Stir quickly after each addition...you don't have to be gentle with this batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap it gently on your counter to release air bubbles. Bake it until the top of the cake is firm to the touch and toothpick clean. This will take somewhere between 35 and 45 minutes. Make sure you rotate the cake 180 degrees half way through the baking.
Now, my momma and my Auntie Tari both remember this cake at my Great Grandma Alverna's house baking WHILE Christmas dinner was being eaten and then, quite magically, it was done just as they were finishing the main course. It was served warm with lemon sauce (not lemon curd...big difference!) and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. They'd have me believe it was Heaven on Earth. Growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota, I bet that it was.
This version of gingerbread was a home run with everyone that chanced to try it. My little family, my in laws, and the people who happened to be at my physical therapy clinic that night. It was thoroughly enjoyed. If this version of gingerbread cake is what my momma was talking about when she reminisced about gingerbread from her childhood, then sign me up! I truly loved it. It tasted best to ME the day after. Most desserts that are harvest spiced like this do taste better a day or two after they've been made. I call it "maturing". This, just a day old with a loverly dollop of sweetened whipped cream is a fabulous dessert option for any Christmas get together. I hope you'll give this one a whirl. You'll be the most popular person at the party!