Spicy Chocolate Ginger Cake

February 12, 2012

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

I’ve loved gingerbread ever since I discovered Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking. I love how you can throw it together in a short time, and that you can vary the spices according to your taste. I love how it can be shallow and dense and chewy or light and fluffy. This cake is a cross between gingerbread and chocolate spice cake.
The cake uses three kinds of ginger--freshly grated (I used a microplane, a snap when the ginger is frozen), ground spice, and candied. It also contains Chinese five-spice powder and black pepper. You don’t taste the pepper; there’s just an undertone of heat.

Unlike a lot of cakes, it is even good warm out of the oven. And the flavors develop as it cools. Perfect for when your best friend pops over for coffee.


Food52 Review: This cake delivered everything it promised; a hybrid of gingerbread and chocolate spice cake. Spice notes were subtle, not "in your face." I especially loved the 5-spice powder. Very sophisticated, mellow flavor, not too sweet, perfect texture. The only change I will make when I make this again (and I will), would be to reduce the salt in the topping; the 1 tsp was a little too much for me, but go by your own taste preferences there. Tarragon

Makes: 1 8" square cake


  • For the Dry Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. Other salts are more salty. Use less.)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • For the Wet Ingredients:
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from about a 2 inch long piece)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • For the topping:
  • 2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 2-3 large pieces candied ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In This Recipe


  1. Heat oven to 350 and generously butter an 8 inch square cake pan. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and cocoa.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the butter, yogurt, milk, brown sugar, molasses, grated fresh ginger and eggs. Whisk till thoroughly blended. Pour into bowl with flour mixture and gently fold until completely combined. The batter will be thick like brownie batter. Scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  4. Combine the turbinado sugar, chopped candied ginger, salt, allspice and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the top of the cake. Bake for 40-50 minutes till a tester comes out clean. Eat it warm or at room temperature.

More Great Recipes:
Cake|Chocolate|Ginger|Milk/Cream|Molasses|Christmas|Fall|Thanksgiving|Valentine's Day|Winter

Reviews (19) Questions (1)

19 Reviews

Melanie September 24, 2015
Made this tonight. Delicious! Love, love, love the crunchy topping. What a great idea. It's a great boost of spiciness! I served it with softly whipped cream.
Author Comment
drbabs September 25, 2015
I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for letting me know.
tota March 12, 2012
Bingo! I think your comment on the varied salts might be the key to our slight differences. I did use Mortons, I have so many various sea salts but that is the kosher on hand, so it may have been this. But don't think for a minute the cake did not get eaten and enjoyed! Thanks.
Author Comment
drbabs March 12, 2012
I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks.
tota March 12, 2012
made this last week and it was excellent...a grown up cake, not too sweet and interesting spices but..have to agree with the comment about salt (and I am a huge salt fan) I cut back a bit on topping but still found it a teensy bit oversalted. Though the chococlate-seasalt thing does work nicely! so would still keep it, just reduce amount. <br />
Author Comment
drbabs March 12, 2012
Hi--this is the 2nd comment about the topping being salty, and I think it may be that we used different salts. I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, which is somewhat less salty than Morton's or regular salt. See this discussion: http://www.food52.com/hotline/12970-salt-ratio-in-cookies-to-other-ingredients-is-there-a-standrd-ratio
Author Comment
drbabs March 12, 2012
That said, i'll be more specific in the recipe.
Jessica T. March 1, 2012
This looks absolutely incredible -- added to my to do list, thank you!
Author Comment
drbabs March 2, 2012
Thanks. It's really easy and good. One of my favorite things that I made this year so far!
Author Comment
drbabs February 17, 2012
Thanks, mrslarkin.
mrslarkin February 17, 2012
Sounds so good, drbabs. Gingerbread is the perfect vehicle for chocolate and spice! I use the frozen ginger trick, too - it's so great.
AntoniaJames February 15, 2012
Oh, this does sound lovely. Thanks for the tip about grating the ginger with a microplane while frozen! I like your use of the three gingers + allspice (an under-appreciated spice, to my mind). What a great idea, too, to put the allspice on the very top, where you can smell it while taking a bite. Mmmmmmmm. ;o)
Author Comment
drbabs February 15, 2012
Thanks for your sweet comments. Please come for coffee and cake any time.
hardlikearmour February 14, 2012
Okay, this sounds beyond fantastic! I love the use of the 5-spice. I'd come over for coffee and this cake any time!
Author Comment
drbabs February 15, 2012
Let me know when you're in NY and I'll make it for you!
aargersi February 14, 2012
I heart this a LOT! I am coming over when Liz does, K??
Author Comment
drbabs February 15, 2012
Anytime! You're always welcome.
Lizthechef February 12, 2012
Oh, I love this! I'm a huge fan of ginger and Laurie Colwin. Can I be your best friends and come for coffee and cake ;)
Author Comment
drbabs February 12, 2012
Thanks! It would be my honor to have you as my best friend. :)