Faith Durand's Dark Molasses Gingerbread Cake

By Sarah Jampel
November 23, 2014
69 Comments


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

Ingredients

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

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

Directions

For the cake:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. Using a dry whisk, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a large bowl.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. Slowly add the whipped, softened cream cheese, beating constantly. Add the vanilla and continue to whip until the mixture is smooth and silky.
  5. 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.

More Great Recipes:
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Reviews (69) Questions (3)

69 Comments

millie December 27, 2017
Made this for the holidays--- was a huge hit!!! But I thought that the amount of molasses would make the flavor of the cake too overpowering, so I made a lot of modifications-- risky, but it worked out wonderfully. I used 1 cup of molasses instead of 1 and 1/2. I also used a combination of backstrap and regular molasses just because backstrap is so strong. I added two extra tablespoons of brown sugar and two extra of white sugar. Also added an extra tablespoon of milk to compensate for the decreased amount of liquid, and added 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg for perks. Also recommend adding an extra teaspoon of unsweetened chocolate - really brings out the flavor! :)
 
Natalie W. December 24, 2017
I've made this recipe several times and adore it. Since my partner and I are both not big cream cheese frosting fans, we've made it with a whipped meringue frosting (my fave is https://www.marthastewart.com/892738/meringue-frosting). The cake recipe is 100% amazing, though, and I don't change anything with it, though I saw someone mention putting cayenne and/or black pepper in, and I am so on board with that idea. <3
 
Maura December 17, 2017
We found this molasses flavor to be overly strong and bitter. I am wondering if I could substitute regular molasses and get a lighter flavor and a bit more sweetness. I used the 2 - 9 inch cake pans and it baked beautifully. The flavor was disappointing.
 
MaryGee December 14, 2017
May this be prepared in a bundt pan?!
 
Leah P. December 14, 2017
The cook time is definitely off! I used a springform pan and am at sea level and it took me 80 minutes to bake it, and it still was a little underbaked and started to smell burnt. I’ve made thousands of cakes and the timing definitely seems off. Hopefully I can just cut off the underdone part.
 
Heather P. December 7, 2017
I also opted to go with the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread Cake on epicurious, but this was after I had already made the frosting. This was for a party and I got a bit nervous that the flavor might not go over well. I put the frosting in the middle of the bundt cake once it was done and it was a HUGE hit. It got the point people just started to put the icing on all of the other sweets. It is ridiculously good and I look forward to trying it with this cake.
 
Amy D. December 3, 2017
This gingerbread is absolutely delicious. I thjust no next time I need to line my pans with parchment though. It didn’t come willingly out of the pan.
 
Elizabeth December 12, 2016
This always turns out wonderfully. In the UK I tend to use Lyle's black treacle (cheaper and easier to find here than products branded as molasses) which works very well. Halving the recipe is effective; it fit one 8" round cake tin perfectly.
 
DandeDandelion November 18, 2016
I made this cake today, substituting molasses with jaggery (as its a local product in Sri Lanka). I must say the taste is devine, really enjoyed a few pieces with a warm light custard. Thank you for the recipe, I feel its going to be a seasonal hit!
 
Siobhan December 2, 2015
What about using cardamom in this cake?
 
Taylor S. November 12, 2015
OH MY GOD this is so crazy good and beautiful and most and delicious! I couldn't stop eating it! I didn't make the frosting, just a simple cinnamon-apple compote to top it off instead.
 
mainecook61 February 15, 2015
This gingerbread, an Edna Lewis recipe adapted in the NY Times, is so much better. Keeps well too. http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1012460-dark-molasses-gingerbread-with-whipped-cream
 
Maguerita Z. September 4, 2016
Aaah This lady calls it a CAKE and somehow I feel there MUST needs be a difference between a ginger bread and a ginger cake. I think here we have a beautiful cake. I'm going to make it just like this.
 
Nancy Y. February 10, 2015
I don't know about anyone else but this cake was waaaaay too strongly flavored of molasses. I'm a little sad that I wasted so much expensive organic blackstrap molasses on this. The texture came out good but the flavor was undeniably bold. I ended up throwing out the cake.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 10, 2015
So sorry to hear that Nancy! I love the cake, but I understand that the flavor is a bit divisive.
 
rob W. January 28, 2015
not a bit of pepper or cayenne?
 
Jamillah January 6, 2015
Has anybody tried to halve this recipe? Turns out not everyone loves it like me and I always have a ton left over, which is not a bad thing, but I'd still like to make a smaller version.
 
linklau January 1, 2015
This cake was a hit for my Christmas dinner! Everyone from great grandma to my 13 month old loved it. First bite kicks you in the teeth with the strong molasses, but each bite after that tastes better & better. Will be making this again for sure.
 
Eric S. December 31, 2014
OMG! This is the most AMAZING cake. So easy to follow recipe and the frosting - I have no words. Seeing the New Year in with this cake.. @FOOD52 i will post the pick of my instagram... @ericscotphoto
 
Eve B. December 30, 2014
I, too, am baking this cake in a 10" springform and it is taking much longer than estimated in the recipe.
 
Lisa D. December 30, 2014
I'm baking this cake now. I have it in a 10" spring form pan. I'm 65 minutes in and it's still not done!! Seems like it will be at least another 10 minutes. That's 20-25 minutes past stated baking time. I checked it at 40 (as recipe instructs) and it was very gooey. Not close to done at 50 either. Anybody else have this problem? My oven is fine. Baked something else yesterday with no problem. I'm making the cake for an event today and worried that it's not going to be right. My bad for trying something new before testing it, but I'm frustrated by the recipe too.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. December 30, 2014
Hi Lisa,<br />I haven't heard of anyone having that problem, but it does seem like every oven is different even if we are used to our own. I don't think you'll ruin it by keeping it in until a tester in the center comes out clean. If you're worried the edges are getting overdone, cover them with a ring of aluminum foil.
 
Maguerita Z. September 4, 2016
I think it may have to do something with how high or low you are at sea level. I once wrote to Yorkshire to ask why my yorkshire puddings flop and apparently I was way to high above sea level and then they told me how to adapt it for that. Sounds whacky but since then I've taken it into account also with boiling eggs. Cheers
 
Leah P. December 14, 2017
Mine took almost 80 minutes before I finally took it out and it still was a little gooey. But it started to smell burnt
 
Stephanie G. December 29, 2014
I'm obviously in the minority, but this was way too strong. We like the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread recipe on Epicurious, and I thought this would be a nice change for us. If you are considering making it, but you have reservations about the blackstrap molasses, you should find another recipe.
 
CindiB December 3, 2017
I love the blackstrap version, but the family prefers regular ol’ molasses instead. So I make two lol