When I was in college, I had a craving for my grandma's molasses cake so I called her up to get the recipe. After telling me the ingredients, she (a woman who had learned to cook on wood stove) said, "And then you bake it."
"At what temperature, grandma?" I asked.
"In a moderate oven," was her reply (with a hint of impatience).
"Um, what temperature is that, though?"
Very impatient now: "About 350."
"Okay," I say, "How long do I bake it for?"
Her (perfect) response? "Until it's done."
Grandma left school after the eighth grade, so she never had much confidence writing or reading, and I never saw her with a cookbook or written recipe, even though she was an amazing cook and baker. Now that she's gone, I've realized that this may be the only recipe of hers that's been written down and saved. I make it for my uncle (her son) every year at Christmas, since it's also one of his favorites.
I also like it as a holiday dessert/gift because it's only sweetened with molasses and is a nice departure from rich sugar and butter cookies. —doctorbaker
Test Kitchen Notes
This cake is perfect. Rich with molasses and lightly spiced, it's a nice alternative to the cloyingly sweet cakes found at popular coffee shops. Pair it with homemade whipped cream for dessert, or even better, alongside a strong cup of coffee at breakfast. I baked it in an 8 by 8-inch Pyrex dish; it took 40 minutes and came out dense with a moist crumb. —whitneygerhard
2 1/2 cups
1 1/2 teaspoons
Wet Ingredients (at room temperature)
In This Recipe
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9 x 9-inch pan or coat with baking spray. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients and set aside.
Cream butter in a large bowl, then add molasses and beat for another minute. Beat in egg.
Mix in flour mixture, just until incorporated.
While mixing on lowest speed, pour hot water into batter in a steady stream. Stop mixing as soon as the water is mixed in.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Cake can be eaten warm (but not hot) or at room temperature, and it keeps for several days. Serve with unsweetened or sweetened whipped cream.