Demon Cake

December 26, 2019
13 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Drew Aichele. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes one 9-inch cake
Author Notes

This is a dense, heavily spiced, gingered cake, sweetened with dark, treacly molasses and apples. Not for the faint of heart (though the title could tell you as much); serious ginger and gingerbread lovers will rejoice, however. The recipe comes from an old cookbook that was found by archaeologists in the Hendrick I. Lott House, "a living capsule of Gotham history," in Brooklyn, New York. The final measurements and directions below are Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen's interpretation of one of the cookbook's faded, handwritten pages, which had multiple missing parts. Mostly, we loved the title and wanted to honor it with a cake that matched its name. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons brandy
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 60 grams finely julienned crystallized ginger (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 apples, cored, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Powdered sugar, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease one 9-inch cake pan, and line it with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), cream together the butter and sugar. Add the molasses, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, egg, and brandy and mix to combine.
  3. Add the flour, folding with a rubber spatula until it just begins to come together. The dough will be thick.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the baking soda and baking powder with the milk. Add this mixture to the batter and fold to combine. Finally, fold in the crystallized ginger and diced apples.
  5. Spread the batter into the cake pan. The batter will be stiff, but you should be able to smooth it out with an offset spatula. (Some pieces of apple may be peeking out of the top of your batter—this is fine.) Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until you are able to insert a cake tester and it comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Marlee Craig
    Marlee Craig
  • Steven Wilson
    Steven Wilson
  • Angela Haas
    Angela Haas
  • johnaka

11 Reviews

Marlee C. February 21, 2020
I love this cake. Some of the ingredients are not what I am used to but it came to together wonderfully, and was frickin amazing. I too was intrigued by the history and was curious to know what a cake from way back when would taste like. I made two last week. I gave one to a friend and of course kept one for us. It was beautiful, everyone loved it. I am totally hooked on this amazing cake, it is a gorgeous medley of flavors and it is dense and moist yum. I am making another one today. I found my new go to cake. If I were able to submit my picture with this review I would.
johnaka February 17, 2020
This was delicious for a cocktail birthday party and later with afternoon tea. I did not peel the apples, and cut into 1/2" cubes. This gave a nice textural contrast to the crumb. Mine turned out a bit dry, but that may have been because convection was on. Also there should be instructions on how and when to remove the cake from the pan. I let it rest 5 minutes and then removed from the pan and placed upside down on a rack. Last but not least, I used stem ginger, which gave it that bite 9and possibly reduced the sugar a tad). Definitely a good companion to the super sugary and light angel food cake. I think a bit of cayenne would not be a bad thing, to really push the concept of demon.
Steven W. January 25, 2020
I saw this recipe when it was first published, and immediately wanted to try it. Today, the stars aligned and I had all of the required ingredients, so I made it. I made the recipe as written with no modifications.

While it was cooking, the house smelled wonderfully of gingerbread. When it was done, it looked beautiful, came out of the cake pan easily (with only the bottom lined), and tasted absolutely wonderful!

I didn’t find the cake to be overly dense - in fact, we thought it was rather light. The apples were a delicious addition, and you can certainly taste the candied ginger in the cake.

This recipe is definitely a keeper for me!
EllieH January 20, 2020
This is a nice alternative to tradition yellow or chocolate cake. I halved the ingredients (except the egg), used a 6 inch pans and added raisins that were soaked in brandy. I didn’t have candied ginger so used fresh. It was moist, quite light, and not too sweet. I’m on the fence about the apples but I will definitely make this again.
tia January 6, 2020
I made this cake last weekend and it was delicious (I have some left that I'm eating with yogurt for breakfast). The apple bits get soft and make for nice little pockets of texture. I didn't find it particularly dense, or sticky. It is a nice, moist gingerbread type cake, which I suppose is denser than a lot of other cakes. I did feel that the flavor was best after it had sat for a bit; it was good straight out of the oven (don't judge, it smells amazing) but the flavors got more intense as it sat.

I made a couple of minor tweaks. I misread the recipe and added 2 tablespoons of brandy (I used apple, since that's what I had) and I used water, not milk (I was out) to mix the baking soda and powder. It seems to have turned out fine. I will probably add more crystallized ginger next time, though. It's one of my favorite things and I never think there's enough.
gandalf December 28, 2019
I'll show my ignorance and lack of comprehension here: What do you mean when you write, "line [the cake pan] with a circle of parchment paper" in Step 1? Do you line the bottom of the cake pan? The sides? Both? And, if you are already greasing the cake pan, why do you need parchment paper on top of the greased pan?

Thanks in advance for clearing these points up for me.
Angela H. December 28, 2019
I lightly grease the bottom and sides of the pan first. Then I cut parchment for the bottom and sides and line the pan. By adding the butter before the parchment you will have an easier removal from the pan.
Neo December 28, 2019
Just an added precaution to avoid the cake sticking. A circle in the base and you can line the sides if you wish. If this is a sticky cake you may need both. Hope this helps Gandalf.
gandalf December 28, 2019
Thanks to you both!
tia January 6, 2020
I made this cake this weekend and only put parchment on the bottom of the pan. I didn't have any problem getting it out of the pan, but I did use a springform pan, because that's the 9" pan I have. The cake didn't seem inclined to stick, though.
Leslie V. January 19, 2020
I was thinking spring form too, tia. I may have to do some HA adjustments...but will try and report back. Hubby loves am sure this will be a winner.