Saturday, December 20, 2008

Kids Make Gingerbread Cake

The aroma of old-fashioned gingerbread baking in the oven automatically signals the arrival of Christmas. With its strange mix of molasses, cloves, nutmeg and other spices, gingerbread is an anachronism. Yet somehow it has maintained its grip on the holiday tradition.

Personally, I don't care much for gingerbread cookies or the stuff that gingerbread houses are made of. But this cake has a wonderful moistness to go with its heft and spiciness. There's nothing difficult about it once you have all the ingredients assembled. And that's part of the fun making it with children--all those ingredients arrayed on the counter top and the extra time and care it takes to mix them all together.

The original recipe calls for mixing first the wet ingredients, then the final batter with an electric mixer. But we found that mixing with a hand whisk worked just as well and was more fun. The original recipe also calls for baking the cake in an 11 by 7-inch baking pan. But our pan was a little smaller and square: 8 1/2 by 8/12 inches. This increased our baking time from the suggested 40 minutes to 52 minutes. The key to doneness is that the cake should be fully risen in the center and should bounce back when pressed with a finger. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. In a smaller pan, this may mean that the finished cake is a little crispier around the edges, which cook first.

Try serving this cake with plain yogurt or even a dollop of sour cream to cut the sweetness.

2 1/4 cups sifted (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/8 cup molasses
3/8 cup dark Karo syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg

Place oven rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of an 11 by 7-inch baking dish and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Or spray with Baker's Joy.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cocoa in a medium bowl.

Beat butter, molasses, sugar, buttermilk, milk and egg in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients and beat until batter is smooth and thick, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. (This should take about a minute with an electric mixer, longer if done by hand.) Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface as needed.

Place baking dish in oven and bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and edges have pulled away from the pan sides, about 40 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Sheetal Kiran said...

Your house must smell divine while baking this! Im going to try this soon!

Ed Bruske said...

Sheetal, that is one of the best reasons to make gingerbread, the aroma that infuses the whole house.