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Author Notes: This is gingerbread how gingerbread should be. You don't have to rifle through your cabinet for a million spices and you don't have to run to the store to buy Guinness or stout. The incredible richness and complexity is thanks to blackstrap molasses, which is powerful enough to mellow out the shrillness of ginger and to impart an earthy, caramelly flavor to the cake.
And please, make the frosting. Everything about it is spectacular, and the process of making it is a magical experiment (the baker's version of a baking soda and vinegar volcano). Yes, it's a little bit of work, but the cake itself comes together so easily that you'll have enough time to get out the stand mixer.
This recipe is very slightly adapted from Faith Durand at The Kitchn via The Splendid Table. —Sarah Jampel
Serves 10 to 12
For the cake:
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) blackstrap molasses (you can find it at health foods stores)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly butter or grease a 10-inch round springform pan, two standard loaf pans, or two 9-inch round cake pans.
- Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the molasses, add the sugars, and whisk as the butter melts. When the butter is completely melted and the sugar has dissolved so that it's no longer grainy, give the mixture a final stir, then take it off the heat and allow to cool. (The molasses will separate from the butter -- do not panic.)
- Using a dry whisk, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a large bowl.
- Add the vanilla, eggs, and milk into the saucepan with the molasses and melted butter and whisk to combine. Slowly pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients.
- Whisk to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Then, pour the batter into your prepared pans and bake for 45 to 50 minutes (this will vary depend on what pans you're using -- be sure to start checking around 40 minutes and to monitor the cake closely), until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes, then run a thin knife around the inside of the pan to help the edges release. Remove from the pan and let it cool completely before icing.
For the cooked cream cheese frosting:
- 16 ounces (2 bars) full-fat cream cheese, left at room temperature for at least 1 hour
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Using a stand mixer or a hand-held electric mixer, whip the cream cheese on high speed for several minutes, until it's completely smooth. Scoop it into a separate bowl and set it aside.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and add the milk, whisking constantly. Whisk vigorously, smoothing out the lumps, to create a smooth paste. Continue to whisk as the mixture comes to a simmer; the mixture will thicken quickly and dramatically when as it comes to a boil (this is cool -- prepare to be amazed).
- Simmer the mixture for a full minute, then turn off the heat. Scrape the flour and milk paste into the mixer bowl and whip for 10 minutes, until lightened and lukewarm (or cooler).
- Slowly add the whipped, softened cream cheese, beating constantly. Add the vanilla and continue to whip until the mixture is smooth and silky.
- Let the icing firm up in the refrigerator before re-whipping it briefly on high and using it to frost the completely cooled cake. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, and it can also be frozen -- just let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!