I have one dessert that I turn to when I need something that isn’t cookies. By that I mean something that demonstrates a little more effort put forth. Or is a little showier, perhaps, or that I can take to someone’s house and not seem like I stopped at Albertson’s. Hello, gingerbread. Humble, classic, dresses up beautifully. I’ve made this gingerbread for just eatin’, and I’ve frosted it for a birthday cake. My favorite version, my company version, is sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar using a stencil I got years ago in a Martha Stewart Living Magazine ad mailer. That was one great free-gift-inside.
This gingerbread and I have been through all kinds of war stories. Like the time the oven was accidentally shut off for a full half hour in the middle of baking, turned back on, with a result that was as moist and delicious as ever. The birthday party after an emergency hand injury. This cake is the friend you call in a crisis, the back-up squad car, the smart bomb. Add it to your arsenal and I promise you’ll be ready for any battle.
My recipe comes from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 13th edition, edited by Marion Cunningham. I’ve really not changed it much at all, except that I cook mine in a round pan rather than a square one. No need to mess with a good thing. If your ginger has been hanging around in the cupboard for more than a year, indulge in a new jar. The fresher the ground ginger, the more intense the ginger flavor will be.
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch round (or 8-inch square) cake pan.
Cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat together until light.
Add the eggs and beat well. Add the molasses, then the boiling water and blend.
Add the flour, soda, salt, and ginger to the batter and blend until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Invert onto a cake rack.
Cool another few minutes before sprinkling with sugar. Begin with a light coating of powdered sugar, sprinkled through a fine-mesh sieve.
Place a stencil over the cake and sprinkle heavily through the cuts.
Serve warm with lightly sweetened and softly whipped heavy cream, and grate a little dark chocolate on top.
I’d go up against almost any dessert with this baby in my holster.