Happy Halloween, everyone! For our post today, we’re going to make gingerbread. Not the cookies, but real gingerbread, or, perhaps, it should be more accurately called gingercake. It’s really more like a spicy-molasses cake than a bread. And, don’t worry, even though the title and photos show us making mini-muffins, you can go easy-peasy and bake this as a cake. We’ll tell you how.
First up, though: we give credit to Beatrice A. Ojakangas and her great little book, Quick Breads. She has some real winning recipes in there — we’ve not had a bad one — and this is almost one of them. Her recipe was for a blueberry gingerbread, which does sound delicious, but, alas, we had no blueberries. So plain gingerbread it is.
Please note that we made these for a crowd, so the photos show twice what you’ll get from the given recipe. Also, we list the ingredients by weight. Trust us; for measuring sticky molasses, it’s much easier to pour it into the mix until you reach the correct amount than it is to pour into a measuring cup, scrape out of a measuring cup, get sticky molasses on everything, clean another couple of items, etc., all for the same result.
An important thing to note is that this recipe uses baking soda for leavening, not baking powder. That means the buttermilk is needed to react with the baking soda to get this cake to rise, so it’s important to use it and not ordinary milk (you can use the trick of adding 1 tsp of lemon juice to the milk for a quick buttermilk, or you can make your own cultured buttermilk at home. It’s easy).
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. If you want to go the simplest route possible for this gingerbread, butter a 9×9 inch cake pan. If you’re going with the mini-muffins, as we did, place mini-muffin liners in a mini-muffin pan.
Mix dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Make sure to whisk everything completely. You want all the baking soda well distributed. Once whisked, set aside for now.
Mix oil, sugar, and egg. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, and egg. Keep whisking until it’s smooth and no lumps of sugar remain, about a minute. It’ll be thick, and a bit hard to whisk, but you can do it. Of course you can use the whisk that you used for the dry ingredients to save on cleanup! We did.
Add molasses. Here’s where a scale is really handy. Set the bowl, whisk and all, on a digital scale. Press the tare button to zero the scale, and start pouring in molasses right from the bottle, while you watch the scale. As you approach 150 grams, slow the pouring. After you’ve done this a few times, you can stop right at the correct amount. Don’t worry if you don’t get it exact; you’ll still be closer than if you used a measuring cup. Once you add the molasses, whisk it in until the mixture looks vaguely like caramel sauce.
Add dry ingredients and buttermilk. We’ll add the flour mixture and buttermilk in two alternating additions: half the flour, half the buttermilk, remaining flour, remaining buttermilk, stirring long enough to incorporate everything after each. Naturally, you don’t have to get the ingredients split exactly in half; just estimate, and you’ll be fine.
Pipe. If you’re going for the cake, simply scrape the batter into your prepared pan. For the mini-muffins, we strongly recommend transferring the batter to a disposable piping bag with the tip cut off to make a 1/4 inch nozzle. (You can also use a freezer bag with the corner of the bag cut off). We’re suggesting that you not use a piping tip, allowing you to squeeze the nozzle closed with your finger and thumb after filling each paper cup. For these, you want to fill each cup about halfway.
Bake. For a 9×9 inch cake, bake for about 45-50 minutes. For the mini-muffins, bake about 16-18 minutes. Either way, you test to see if it’s done the same way: insert a skewer into the center and check to see if it comes out clean. If so, done!
Cool. Let the gingerbread cool before serving. You can serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, a scoop of ice cream (Triple Vanilla, of course), or top with a batch of vanilla-flavored Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. You could probably eat it plain, too.
We only had a few of these, as we made them for coffee hour (topped with Swiss Meringue Buttercream tinted orange for Halloween). We really liked them: spicy, sweet, nice molasses flavor, and very moist. Everyone else did, too, as there were no leftovers, which to our minds warrants five stars.