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