How to Make Spicy Gingerbread (RECIPE)

December 22, 2010 § 6 Comments

My first memory of gingerbread: eating brunch in the West Village when we lived in New York City. I don’t remember what else we ate or the name of the spot, but I remember the setting. A red rooster painted on the steamy window greeted us as we walked in from the snowy cold to meet two friends. A crush of people were smashed together at tiny tables, giving us that sensation of eating in intimate proximity with strangers that’s so familiar in Manhattan. At 2:00 p.m., hunger rumbled in the belly I hadn’t fed since 9:30 the night before.

Someone suggested ordering the gingerbread appetizer to share. The waitress placed a blunt white plate on the table, covered almost entirely with a thick, fresh-from-the-oven slice of gingerbread. The scent of its spices wafted into our nostrils. It was deeply hued, festooned with a lopsided cap of whipped cream. A moist, cakey inside was enveloped in a faintly crispy crust. That first bite turned me into a gingerbread lover.

I made my first gingerbread three years ago. As you may have read about in my last post here about my relationship with baking, that first gingerbread came out a bit burned. Since then, I’ve tried other recipes and taken full advantage of my oven thermometer to regulate heat. Baking our own gingerbread has become a nascent holiday tradition, something I make every December before we join the traveling hordes flying to relatives’ for Christmas.

Following is the recipe my husband and I like best so far. Enjoy!



adapted from the Joy of Cooking recipe

Yields: 1 9-inch round cake or 2 loaves

Planning Notes: You can make this a day in advance of serving and keep, covered tightly, on the counter.

Your gingerbread ingredients


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons dried ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

1/4 cup dark molasses (such as blackstrap)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

1/2 cup sugar

4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

Cooking Instructions

1 — Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line bottom of baking pan(s) with parchment paper.

2 — Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and salt and whisk together thoroughly.

Your dry ingredients

3 — Put the hot water in a small bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add molasses, maple syrup and honey and whisk together thoroughly.

Your liquid ingredients

4 — Put butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low speed until butter and sugar are combined.

5 — Break egg into small bowl; make sure the egg is good and there aren’t any shell shards. Slip the egg into the stand mixer bowl; whisk on low speed until combined with butter and sugar.

6 — Add half of dry ingredients to stand mixer bowl. Whisk on low speed until flour is incorporated, then whisk on medium speed to fully combine.

7 — Add half of water-molasses-syrup-honey liquid to stand mixer bowl. Whisk on low speed until incorporated, then whisk on medium speed to fully combine.

8 — Repeat steps 5 and 6 with remaining dry ingredients then liquid.

9 — Remove bowl from stand mixer. Stir in chopped ginger with a rubber spatula (which you can use to scrape the batter out of the bowl into the pan).

Your chopped crystallized ginger

10 — Pour batter (which will be fairly thin and may have some bubbles — don’t worry about it) into prepared pan(s). Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If you’re using 1 9-inch round pan, it’ll take about 45 minutes (may take up to an hour). If you’re using 2 loaf pans, it’ll take about 35 minutes (may take up to 45). Cool 10 minutes in the pan on top of a rack before digging in!

Your batter ready to be baked

Serving Notes

Serve warm, dusted with powdered sugar or capped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Your gingerbread dusted with powdered sugar

Notes on the Recipe

We like a spicy cake and love the bits of crystallized ginger. If you want a milder cake, cut the amount of ginger, cinnamon and allspice in half. If you don’t like spicy, chewy bits of ginger in your cake, you can omit those.

The type of honey you use will affect the flavor. If you want neutral sweetness, stick to a plain clover honey. If you like a stronger, more complex honey, by all means, use it.

Finally, you don’t need to use a stand mixer; it’s just easier and faster. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer or a plain old whisk and bowl.


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