This is dark and sticky and chewy and heavy and spicy and a zillion other adjectives that end in y that are so overused, they border on hackneyed, but you know what? It is not this cake’s fault. It can’t help being awesome, and fragrant (our living room smells like Christmas), attention-grabbing (nobody puts it in the corner) and totally respecting of your busy schedule (because it tastes even better on days two and three than it did out of the oven).
It took me 32 years to make gingerbread but I got lucky on the first try with this one. It doesn’t hurt that this is from one of the only chefs I break my no-fawning-over-chefs-rule for: Claudia Fleming, back when she was at Gramercy Tavern, one of the only restaurants I break my no-restaurant-worshiping rule over. (These days, she’s at the North Fork Table & Inn, making delicious breakfast scones among other things.) Things just seem to taste better when she baked them first.
I hope that whereever you are, your break is both merry and bright and filled with homemade deliciousness, the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas Album, argyle sweaters, egg nog, lasagne and gingerbread houses, or you know, Chinese and a movie. Whatever your version of a perfect Christmas is, I hope you get it.
Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread
[New note, Christmas 2015: This cake gets an update as a Gingerbread Layer Cake with Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Sugared Cranberries — check it out.]
Just to note, this is no Starbucks gingerbread loaf. It is not mild or docile in any way; this is for that family member who loves old-school, intense gingerbread cakes and complains that they don’t make them like they use to. Or, it’s for people like me, who didn’t even know she liked gingerbread before trying it.
The only snafu I ran into with this recipe is that the cake sunk a bit. Since it was in a bundt pan (flipped upside-down for serving) no one will be the wiser, but I suspect if the problem is anything like the sinking honey cake, there might be too much baking powder in it. You’ll only want to consider dialing it back a pinch if you are subdividing it into a pan that you won’t serve upside down.
Speaking of, I have successfully divided bundt pan recipes into two full-sized loaves before, but haven’t tested it with this recipe yet. If you do, let us know.
1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Accompaniment: Unsweetened whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess. (She is not kidding about this. I used a nonstick pan with a butter/flour spray and still lost a chunk of cake. I will be more generous next time.)
Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
Pour batter into bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.
Serve cake, dusted with confectioners sugar, with whipped cream.
Do ahead: This gingerbread is better if made a day ahead. It will keep 3 days, covered, at room temperature. I am sure it will keep well-wrapped in the freezer even longer.