The Gingeriest Gingerbread

December 20, 2018
10 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Makes 1 cake
Author Notes

The Last Course by Claudia Fleming—the award-winning pastry chef who worked at Gramercy Tavern for nearly a decade—was first published in 2001. Since then, it turned into, as The New York Times' Julia Moskin puts it, "a cult classic among pastry chefs." As she wrote in a recent feature: "The original edition has become a precious rarity; copies that occasionally pop up on eBay sell for as much as $200." It was only a matter of time before the cookbook was rereleased—and so it was last month.

I first heard about The Last Course when I was working as a professional baker at Scratch Baking in North Carolina. How every recipe was liquid gold but, more specifically, how Fleming's "Guinness Stour Ginger Cake" was the gingerbread to end all gingerbreads. The recipe we made every winter was inspired by hers, with a crumb so moist and tender, it was practically steamed pudding.

Fleming's recipe, which became a seasonal classic at Gramercy Tavern, was actually inspired by another eatery—the since-closed Bright Food Shop in Chelsea from Dona Abramson and Stuart Tarabout. "I've made a few adaptations and embellished a bit," she writes in the headnote.

In this recipe, I do the same. When I set out testing, there was one big question I wanted to answer: Just how gingery can gingerbread get?

So I swapped out the stout beer for ginger beer—just make sure you find one that is sharp and strong, like Reed's (ginger ale is too sweet and mild). Then I doubled (yep, doubled) both the ground and grated fresh ginger. The result? I loved it even more.

In addition to those adjustments, I made a few other small tweaks. I added salt (which the original doesn't include), freshly ground black pepper (for even more heat), and lime zest (to balance all the molasses and sugar).

I like sprinkling this with confectioners’ sugar and dolloping barely-sweetened, ginger-spiced sour cream on top—but it’s just as great sliced plain and served with coffee, as a cozy breakfast or afternoon snack. —Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
The Gingeriest Gingerbread
  • Gingerbread Bundt
  • 1 cup strong ginger beer (such as Reed’s)
  • 1 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Microplaned (or finely grated) peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 lime, zest of
  • Sour cream topping
  • 1 pound sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Combine the ginger beer and molasses in a large saucepan (about twice as large as seems necessary). Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the baking soda. It will fizz and fuzz—this is why we’re using the large saucepan! Let cool—stirring to release steam every so often—while you prepare the rest of the cake batter.
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Place on a rimmed sheet pan.
  3. Combine the flour, ginger, salt, black pepper, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Combine the sugars, oil, eggs, ginger, and lime zest in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add a small splash of the ginger beer–molasses mixture. Whisk. Add another small splash. Whisk. Repeat this until you’ve added about half. (This tempers the eggs, so they don’t scramble.) Add the rest and whisk.
  5. Add half the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients. Whisk until smooth. Add the rest of the liquid mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour into the prepared Bundt pan.
  6. Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a long, thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cool in the pan until you can touch the pan without burning yourself. Turn out the cake onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. Meanwhile, make the sour cream topping: Mix all the ingredients together and keep in the fridge until serving.
  9. Just before serving the Bundt cake, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice and serve with dollops of gingery sour cream.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Doug Oldiges
    Doug Oldiges
  • SophieL
  • K.V.
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

11 Reviews

Doug O. December 25, 2020
I made this for Christmas 2020 and it was really great and a hit with everyone. For the most part, I followed the recipe but with a couple minor adjustments: I added 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, which I think added more depth and warmth to the flavor. I didn't have a lime handy so did a couple of swipes of my microplane over both an orange and a lemon. I baked it in a parchment-lined 9" springform pan for 68 minutes. I will definitely be adding this recipe as part of my regular rotation.
Katie W. December 22, 2020
This tastes fantastic, but instead of baking in a bundt pan, I used a rectangular loaf pan (this was meant to be a holiday gift before I absolutely wrecked it). About a quarter to a third of the cake boiled over the top onto the baking sheet below, and it later finished cooking with a massive slump in the middle.
Where did I go wrong here? The dark metal loaf pan? Baking at altitude (7000')?
I'll be trying again sometime, but man this was a sad one.
K.V. July 20, 2021
Perhaps the size of your loaf pan wasn't comparable to the bundt pan called for in the recipe. Sounds like there wasn't enough room for the cake to bake properly, hence it spilling over and the "slump in the middle". Modifications to pan and pan size can affect the end result.
SophieL February 4, 2020
I mistakenly bought "Ginger Brew" at Trader Joe's and afterwards learned that it was more of a non-alcoholic ginger ale than ginger beer. Went back to TJ's and found a "Gingerbread Stout" and because I didn't want to drive to another store, I bought this. Since this Gingerbread Stout had honey and spices, I reduced the molasses and two sugars by 3/4 and the ground and fresh gingers by half. Turned out great, especially on the second day.
With still half a bottle of Gingerbread Stout, I made a second cake. This time I used the full amount of molasses and granulated sugar, but had run out of brown sugar so I subbed half date sugar and half monkfruit golden sweetener. I also used the full amount of ground and fresh ginger. This cake wasn't as successful as the first, and I think it was because of my brown sugar substitutes. The cake was too gingery and was dried out by the third day; I think real brown sugar would have mellowed the gingers and added moisture to keep the cake fresher longer. Still, it's am pretty good holiday dessert.
Kandi K. November 29, 2022
I realize this is an old post but it caught my attention since it’s the holiday season and people may seek out this recipe so I thought I’d clarify; ginger beer ISN’T alcoholic. It’s an intense ginger ale so your first choice was correct. It’s not meant to made with a beverage containing alcohol.
SophieL November 29, 2022
Thank you SO much for the clarification!! I'm planning to make this cake soon so your input is much appreciated.
Sparkle22 December 16, 2019
Would like to try this! Is it ok to bake in two 8 in circular cake pans and make a layer cake - instead of Bundt cake?
Emma L. December 17, 2019
Hi! Yes, that should work. You'd just need to adjust the bake time (I'd start checking after 30 or so minutes, just to be safe).
Ali November 10, 2019
i used a golden syrup and honey combo instead of molasses, then used all dark brown sugar - it's INSANE. it's so crazy good i'm in genuine danger of eating the entire thing tonight, myself. i'll be making this one again!
etebb December 25, 2018
This cake was a last minute addition to our holiday meal, and it totally stole the show... a few of our friends gasped after a few bites- it really is that good. The sour cream dallop rounded it out perfectly.
Emma L. December 27, 2018
So happy to hear that—thank you!