Author Notes: One winter, I made gingerbread nearly every week. Come Thursday afternoon, I'd haul out the spices and Laurie Colwin's delightful book, Home Cooking, and whip up a batch of her spicy gingerbread. I did not grow up with gingerbread; my mother's honey cake, with its mellow flavors and hints of orange and spice, was what I was accustomed to. But they are part of the same family of spicy baked treats--kissing cousins, you might say. This cake is a hybrid: I based my recipe partly on Laurie's gingerbread, partly on my mother's cake. I subbed Lyle's Golden Syrup for the molasses/honey component, because I am an avowed Anglophile and because I like the tin it comes in. I included the fragrant orange zest of my mother's honey cake, added a hit of diced crystallized ginger, and subbed a dark malty Porter or a stout for the more usual liquids (buttermilk in the case of gingerbread, brewed strong coffee in the case of honey cake). Adding an extra egg yolk made for a more moist and tender result. The cake improves in flavor after a day, at which point it seems to want a creamy finish. You could serve it with whipped cream or the frosting I devised below, a blend of cream cheese and crème frâiche, which is very soft and flowy. You can spread it on top of the cake and let billow gently over the edges for a homey, sweet confection. - creamtea
Makes one 9-inch cake
For the Cake
- 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1 pinch fine sea salt
- 6-12 half-grinds black pepper--just a pinch
- 1/2 cup (1 cube) butter
- 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
- 2 large eggs plus one yolk
- 1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
- 1/2 cup stout or porter--Oatmeal Stout by Samuel Smith works particularly well
- Grated zest of one large orange (about 1 tablespoon)
- 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, the non-uniform type coated in granulated sugar, cut into small dice and tossed with a little flour to prevent sinking
- Preheat oven to 350º and butter and flour a 9" round cake pan. Line the pan with baking parchment--else the crystallized ginger will bond with the pan like crazy glue. Butter and flour the parchment for good measure.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the golden syrup. Stir in the orange zest.
- Alternately add the dry ingredients and the porter in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating after each until just combined; do not over-beat or cake will be tough. Stir in diced ginger.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth with a rubber scraper, and rotate back and forth briskly a few times to settle the batter in the pan. Place on rack in center of oven. Bake 20 to 35 minutes or just until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool cake on a rack 10 minutes, run a sharp knife around edge and invert onto rack to cool completely. Remove parchment.
- Serve with whipped cream or with the following frosting.
For the frosting
- 1 8 oz. block of neufchatel cheese or cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3 heaping tablespoons crème frâiche
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, (more or less), measured and then sifted
- Combine the creme cheese, butter and crème frâiche in a medium bowl and beat with electric mixer until combined. Beat in Golden Syrup, then confectioner's sugar by the tablespoon, tasting as you go. When it tastes right, it's done. You may need to chill the frosting in the fridge for an hour or so to firm it up; it will be pretty soft.
- Frost the top of the cake generously. There will likely be enough left over for you to store in a monkey dish in the fridge and spoon out when no one is looking.
- Put the kettle on, make a cup of coffee or two, and cut a couple of fat slices of cake, one for you, one for a friend.