Dark, spicy gingerbread

December 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Cake, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Fall recipes, Winter recipes)

I’ve been making this gingerbread recipe for years, but somehow I never got around to blogging about it.  But I made it last night to take to a holiday party, and someone explicitly asked me for the recipe.  It seemed a good time to finally add it to the blog.  I haven’t tried many different gingerbread recipes, so I can’t argue that this one is best.  But it makes a dark, moist, deeply flavored, very gingery cake. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, but note that it’s no longer on their website.  They just published a new gingerbread recipe, which is totally different than this one.  It calls for stout, oil instead of butter, and omits the crystallized ginger, the buttermilk, and most of the spices.  The new recipe doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the old one, and  the old one no longer seems to be available on their website.


  • 2 1/4 cups sifted (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbs. minced crystallized ginger
  • 3 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup mild or light molasses [I use a darker molasses]
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. Melt 8 Tbs. butter in large bowl or pot (large enough for all the batter).  Set the butter aside to cool.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F. Grease bottom and sides of 11″ by 7″ baking pan; dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
  3. Whisk together flour, ginger, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
  4. Add the molasses and sugar to the bowl with the butter.  Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in egg until incorporated. Gradually add buttermilk and milk until combined.   [Note:  it’s important to add the sugar and molasses before the cold ingredients.]
  5. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as needed (Do not overmix). Scrape batter into prepared pan.
  6. Bake until top springs back when lightly touched & edges pull away from pan, about 40 minutes. Set pan on wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Gingerbread can be wrapped in plastic, then foil, and refrigerated up to 5 days).

Note: If you don’t have fresh or crystallized ginger you can substitute 1 tsp. ground ginger.  Use 2 tsp. ground ginger if you don’t have either.  If you don’t own an 11″ by 7″ pan (which holds about 6 cups), you can bake the batter in a 9″ square pan (which holds 8-10 cups).  This recipe serves 8.

My notes:

I don’t have an 11×7 pan, plus I wanted to make more than 8 servings, so I made 1.5 times the recipe, and cooked the cake in a 10-12 cup bundt pan.  According to the Joy of Baking pan size conversion webpage results in less evaporation and cause the batter to take longer to cook, so I should have lengthened the baking time and lowered the baking time slightly.  But I wasn’t sure whether this rule-of-thumb holds for a bundt pan, which (compared to a rectangular pan) has less open air area, but more pan surface area.  In the end, I didn’t change the oven temperature, and I cooked the cake for 45 minutes.  I pulled the cake out at 40 minutes but I wasn’t sure whether it was done, so I left it in for the extra 5 minutes to be on the safe side.  Derek thought I should have pulled it out then, however.  Indeed, he was right, as the cake ended up just a tad drier than I would have liked.  I like a very moist, almost gooey gingerbread, and this one was moist in the center (but nowhere near gooey) and a tad dry around the outside.

When I made the cake I made two mistakes.  First, I added the cold eggs and dairy to the melted butter before adding the sugar and molasses.  As a result, the butter solidified again, but in tiny bits this time.  Second, I completely forgot to add the sugar.  I was getting ready to add the batter to the pan, when Derek popped into the kitchen to steal a taste.  He said it didn’t taste as good as normal.  I tasted it and immediately realized I forgot the sugar.   But the cake was surprisingly sweet.  Derek, for example, just knew it tasted off, but didn’t know why.  I guess all that molasses sweetens the batter quite a bit.  I wonder if it’s possible to make a gingerbread with no white sugar, just molasses.  Or at least 1 cup molasses and maybe just 1/4 cup of white sugar.

I let the cake cool in the pan, and then inverted it onto a plate.  It came right out (probably because I buttered and flour the pan).  I dusted it with a little powdered sugar for appearances, but Derek said next time I should make some kind of a boozy glaze.  If I do that maybe I should reduce the sugar slightly, so the cake doesn’t end up too sweet.

The cake seemed to be a hit at the party.  Several people told me they liked it, and one person asked for the recipe.  One non-lover of ginger said it was too gingery for him, and the bits of crystallized ginger in particular burned his mouth.  So if you’re not a fan of ginger, this probably isn’t the recipe for you.  Personally, I thought it could have used even more ginger!  In the 1.5x recipe I made, I added 4.5 Tbs. each of crystallized and fresh ginger.  Maybe next time I’ll try 1/3 cup each, or 5 1/3 Tbs.

Rating: A-

Derek: B (maybe higher if I hadn’t overbaked it)

Some additions / variations / alternatives:

Variation: Fold 3/4 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped prunes into the finished batter

For a prettier cake try making the recipe in a small (7-1/2 inch) bundt pan or make an apple or pear upside-down gingerbread:


For the apple topping: Grease sides (but not bottom) of 11-by-7-by-1 1/2-inch metal pan. Pour 4 Tbs melted unsalted butter into pan; spread 3/4 cup light brown sugar evenly over pan bottom. Peel, halve, core, and slice thin three tart baking apples (Granny Smith or Jonathan). Arrange slices, overlapping slightly upon brown sugar mixture.

For the gingerbread: Follow basic recipe, pouring batter over apple slices. Increase baking time to 50 to 60 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 5 minutes, invert onto serving plate, cut into squares, and serve.

Five different gingerbread recipes can be found on the “no special effects” blog.

If you like gingerbread, also check out these ginger snaps.

1 Comment

  1. Greyt Vegan Life said,

    This sounds *heavenly*! The man is a ginger *fiend*, so I know that it won’t be too “gingery” for him!

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