Before I go on about how delicious this gingerbread is I want you to do one thing for me-remove the image of what is familiar to you about quick breads from your head. Pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, sweet potato bread even muffins. Because, you see, this gingerbread does not belong in the quick bread category. This is a cake no question about it. Fluffy and incredibly moist cake. I am not sure if all gingerbread fall into this I’m-not- really-a- quick bread-but cake-category, but this one surely does. The moment I tasted it I knew there was something special about it. The first bite was a revelation. Richly flavored dark molasses with the exotic aromas of cinnamon, ginger and cloves wafting throughout. In fact after that first bite I imagined it not in a square baking tin with a dusting of powdery confectioners sugar but as a lovely triple layered cake with maple buttercream frosting infused with bourbon.
Although I am fully convinced that this gingerbread should be adorned with all the pomp and circumstance of a multi layered cake, I have yet to do so and I have made this cake (ahem) gingerbread many times. I suspect the reason I am unwilling to give in is comfort. As cake I would probably only make this for birthdays and special occasions. I don’t see myself once a month whipping up cake batter and then taking my time and carefully, perfectly frosting each layer. As a gingerbread this is comfort food. To be sliced into perfect squares and eaten with a huge dollop of freshly whipped cream while snug and safe on the couch and watching your favorite scandalous reality show all while the cold wind whips and whirls outside. Cake is for special occasions. Gingerbread is comfort food.
I know a lot of you do not like to bake. I know sometimes it is hard for me to convince some of you to step away from the boxed cake isle and head on over to where the flour and sugar are located so that you can spend an hour or so in the kitchen making a cake from scratch. So I am fully aware that you will be cursing me and calling me all sorts of names when you are doing the hardest part of this recipe which is grating the fresh ginger. There is a whopping three tablespoons of it in this recipe. Those of you who are familiar with this tedious task are already about to click off this post while simultaneously mumbling she must be out of her mind. Please come back and no I am not. The naive among you are shrugging it off like three tablespoons are no big deal. Please keep that positive attitude. I want you to make this cake so badly I’m giving this heads up before you start. I promise it will be worth your effort. While grating three tablespoons of ginger is not the hardest thing you’ll ever do in life it ain’t fun. Oh and did I tell you that you’ll need a micro-plane grater? You’ll need one of those because mincing won’t do neither will a run through the food processor, unless you are making batches of grated ginger which I don’t suggest you do. Ginger is a tough old root with stringy fibers running throughout. The best parts of ginger are clinging to those tough old fibers. So your job is to get to the good stuff and the ginger juice and leave the bad stuff (fibers) behind.
I’ve come across and tasted gingerbread that have no business being called “ginger” anything. So-so tasting cakes that are so overwhelming with a mixture of spices they should be labeled as spice cakes. Obviously you want ginger to be the dominant taste in gingerbread without overpowering. If you were to use only powdered ginger in this recipe it would probably turn out ok but adding the fresh ginger elevates the flavor so the cake rightfully earns its name.
Oh and did I mention the walnuts studded throughout this big-crumbed cake? Not just any walnuts. Walnuts coated with brown sugar and sticky molasses. Here’s a suggestion: make the walnuts first then as you are grating all that ginger reward yourself every tablespoon or so that you complete with a walnut or two (or three) and then continue on with the tiresome task. That should ease the pain a little. But be warned these walnuts are highly addictive-this post was in danger of just being called gingerbread.
Every year during the holidays and the colder months I make gingerbread because it is so warm and comforting. This cake is more richly flavored with ginger than my gingerbread snacking cake. This gingerbread I will definitely be making into a layered cake as it is sturdy enough to hold up to a buttercream frosting
Happy Birthday to the best big brother ever! ❤
Gingerbread with sticky molasses walnuts adapted from The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helm Sinsky
Sticky molasses walnuts
2 cups raw walnut halves, skins removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
For the walnuts:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the walnuts with the olive oil and stir until the walnuts are coated with the oil. Add the molasses, brown sugar and salt until thoroughly coated.
Warm a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat about 3 minutes. Add the walnut mixture to the warmed skillet, being sure to scrape every bit into the skillet. And stir for about 1 1/2 minutes until the walnuts are fragrant.
Transfer the walnuts to a parchment lined baking sheet and spread out well to separate. Set aside to cool.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger with juice but without the tough fibers
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour an 8-cup loaf pan or 9-inch square baking pan. Set aside until ready to use.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the grated fresh ginger and beat well for 15 seconds. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Combine the flour through salt in a small bowl. Whisk the molasses with the buttermilk together in a small pitcher or measuring cup.
Add the flour mixture and the molasses mixture alternately in two parts to the butter mixture. Mix after each addition until the ingredients are uniformly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, scrape the bowl well, and bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan to warm on a cake rack and then turn out onto a plate. Flip the cake over so the rounded top is up to serve. Once cooled dust over confectioners sugar and/or serve with freshly whipped cream.