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Calling All Gingerbread Detectives


Just look at it. It’s the Holy Grail of gingerbread. The benchmark. The bar, raised really, really high. Moist. Dark. Intensely flavored. It’s the gingerbread I bought from the Mennonites’ bakery stand at the Reading Terminal Market when I lived in Philly this summer. The bonneted one wouldn’t give me the recipe. So I’m sending out an S.O.S. to all our jellypress readers. I must find a recipe for this wonderful stuff.  I found two that seemed promising. I made both. Here’s a picture of them:

On the left: “Grandma Lindner’s Favorite Gingerbread Cake” from Gingerbread (Andrews McMeel, 2009) which required 13 ingredients and exacting, time-consuming steps. On the right: “Molasses Cake” from The Amish Cook’s Baking Book(Chronicle, 2009) which was ready to bake in a minute, all seven ingredients mixed at once in one bowl. Nope. Neither one is the one. Not dark enough. Not fragrant enough. Not intense enough. Not . . . well, it. Can you help? If you can, use the comments link above to send me a recipe or a lead to a recipe and I will pursue it and make it. Send in your best, and watch for future posts to see how the search unfolds. To be continued . . .and in the meantime, if you like a plain molasses cake, perfect for children especially, or a lighter version of spice-y gingerbread that is delicious in its own right, here’s the recipes for the ones I made:

Grandmom Lindner’s Favorite Gingerbread Cake
adapted from Gingerbread by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn (Chronicle, 2009)
makes 1 8-cup bundt
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses (I used original but you could try robust or blackstrap)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup hot water
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Butter the cake pan and set aside.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients. Cream butter with brown sugar until fluffy. Beat egg and add a little at a time. (If the mixture curdles, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and melt some of the butter. Then whisk in the egg until it’s smooth and shiny.) Add vanilla.
3. Combine hot water and molasses. Add molasses and flour to mixture by alternating wet and dry ingredients (begin with 1/3 of flour mixture, then half of molasses/water, then 1/3 more of flour, then 1/2 of water/molasses, then the rest of the flour.) Do not overmix. The batter will be very wet and thin.
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 - 45 mins.

Molasses Cake
adapted from The Amish Cook’s Baking Book by Lorina Eicher with Kevin Williams (Andrews McMeel, 2009.)
Makes one 9 x 13 inch cake
2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cups molasses
1/4 cup sugar
2 t. baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup hot water
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Butter the cake pan and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Do not overmix. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Want to see my final favorite gingerbread right now? Click here.

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I was just in william sonoma tonight and had my hands on the Gingerbread book, thinking I wanted to make this very cake. Please post the recipe.  I’ll add more molasses or fragrance.  Want to make this before Christmas!

    –  (December 22 2009 at 10:14)

Hi! I do love Laurie Colwin’s gingerbread recipe from “Home Cooking,” but I *suspect* it might not achieve the intensity you’re after. Anyway, here’s a link to a page that includes the recipe: http://www.labellecuisine.com/features/How to Make Gingerbread.htm

    – Liz (December 22 2009 at 11:03)

I did a search for dark molasses gingerbread and came up with a couple of recipes you could try.
> This one calls for less molasses, but more ginger and even suggests
> grating fresh ginger for more of a kick.
> http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/recipes/dessert_gingerbread.shtml

Let us know the results of your search!

    –  (December 24 2009 at 1:46)

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