This is an easy cake to make, but it looks super impressive + packs serious flavor. The cake itself originally came from a recipe card written by my great-grandma - it's a super intense molasses cake with deep ginger notes. It's not too sweet - and is also great baked in loaf pans or as a big bundt cake finished with just powdered sugar or served with whipped cream. But to dress it up, I made it into a layer cake filled and finished with a thin layer of dulce de leche. The creamy sweetness of the caramel is the perfect with the darkness of the cake. Plus, it's easy to decorate because you can use pre-made dulce (or DIY - more power to ya!) and the dense cake rises perfectly flat so no leveling is required. I sometimes ginger brittle for another caramel + ginger burst. It looks fancy, too - but is only 3 ingredients and minimal effort! But the cake is great without it, and wonderfully unexpected! —Erin McDowell
one 9 inch two-layer cake
(227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups
(298 g) granulated sugar
cups (975 g) molasses (not blackstrap + Steen's is my favorite brand))
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans (at least 2 1/2 inches tall - springform pans work too!).
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter + sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.With the mixer running, gradually stream in the molasses, and mix until well combined, 1-2 minutes more. Scrape the mixer well.
Add the egg and mix well to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt to combine.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixer and mix on low speed to combine. Add half of the milk and mix to combine. Continue alternating the two until both are fully combined and the batter is smooth. Do not overmix.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. The cake should rise flat with no noticeable dome.
Let the cakes cool inside the pans for 20 minutes, then unmold onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
To finish the cake, place one layer on a cake stand or platter, and frost the surface with a thin layer of dulce de leche. Place the other layer on top, and frost the sides and top of the cake with dulce de leche - just sort of slap it on and leave it all swirly.
To make the optional brittle, heat a medium pot over medium low heat until nice and hot. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the sugar over the base of the pot, and let melt (reduce heat to low if the mixture begins to brown). Sprinkle another 1/3 of the sugar evenly over the base of the pan, and let it melt the same way - stir gently if needed, but only to combine the sugar into the syrup - do not stir if the mixture is bubbling. Add the remaining 1/3 of the sugar and combine the same way. Continue to cook until the mixture bubbles - once it bubbles watch it carefully until it caramelizes to a golden amber color. Remove from the heat and stir in the diced candied ginger, then pour the mixture into a thin, even layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or greased parchment paper. Let cool completely, then break into bite size pieces and use to decorate the cake!
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.