Gingerbread, in its simplest terms, is a cake flavored with ginger and often molasses. In the Middle Ages, the cake was ornately decorated and even designed with gold leaf. That helps to explain why gingerbread also means elaborate and gaudy decoration.
Today, we think of gingerbread as either a thick, dense cake flavored with ground ginger and molasses or a cookie shaped like a man with royal icing.
It’s always a challenge to find a modern version of wonderful classic recipes like gingerbread cake. I have made numerous gingerbread recipes and always found them just too heavy. I love this Bundt cake recipe from Cake Simple, by Christie Matheson (Chronicle Books, 2011). I usually recommend simple glazes on Bundt cakes; with this cake, though, Matheson likes the counterpoint of orange-scented cream-cheese frosting. It’s an excellent choice; the frosting stands up to the spices nicely.
Gingerbread With Orange Cream-Cheese Frosting
Serves 12 to 14
Melted butter for greasing the pan
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour,
plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsulphured molasses
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon baking soda
2/3 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
3 large eggs, beaten
Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan thoroughly with the melted butter, and dust it lightly with flour. (Use a pastry brush to help distribute the flour and tap out any excess.)
Whisk together the flour with the cinnamon, cloves, pepper and salt in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. In another large bowl, whisk together the molasses with the sugar and the oil.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove the water from the heat as soon as it starts boiling, and stir in the baking soda. Whisk the water-baking soda mixture into the molasses mixture; then stir in the fresh ginger. Add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture in four increments, stirring well after each addition to make sure the flour has been absorbed. Whisk in the eggs.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 1 hour, then invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely. Spread a generous amount of frosting over the cooled cake.
Orange Cream-Cheese Frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, chilled
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sour cream
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the butter until thoroughly combined. Beat in the sugar; then beat in the orange peel, vanilla and sour cream. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before using to frost the cake. The frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including Seriously Simple Holidays, and is also a James Beard award-winning radio-show host. Contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.