This is not a cake for the faint of heart. No, this stout ginger cake is bold, serious, intense, brooding. Yes, brooding. A cake can brood; this one does. Trust me. And if you’re the kind of person who only likes yellow cake (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love yellow cake myself) then this might give you pause. Because this is a cake for those who like their sweets scaled back. It balances bitter notes with the spices, and adds a doze of restrained (we like our sweets restrained), mature sweetness. It’s complex, yet comforting; dark, yet not heavy and, unlike its last year cousin which goes much better with tea, this Guinness ginger cake is the perfect candidate for your Christmas morning coffee, making it a perfect accompaniment to opening presents. Besides, if you make it the over Christmas eve, you’re in luck–the cake tastes better the day after you make it. And who doesn’t love a make-ahead cake?
This cake comes courtesy of Claudia Fleming, she of “The Last Course” fame, formerly of the Gramercy Tavern, and currently of The North Fork Table and Inn where she signed the her book for me while I stared at her in muted star-struck awe.
My coworkers proclaimed that this cake tasted like Christmas, my thoughts exactly, but don’t take it from this Hannukah-loyal (Christmas-jealous) household. They would know better than I. They’re a good and kind bunch at the office, dutifully consuming whatever baked good I bring from home; always, always an eager audience. They even didn’t mind that I brought them the “ugly” cousin of this cake because I got a little over-zealous with flouring my bundt, and what came out as a result was white-spot studded ginger cake. [Fun tip: instead of dusting the bundt pan with flour, use unsweetened cocoa powder instead!]
Which would have been fine had I not been making this for the Bon Appetit magazine bake-off party where the Bon Appetit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild and the one and only Francois Payard were two of the judges. At eleven o’clock at night, take two of the cake commenced and this time I was much smarter – instead of sprinkling the pan with flour, I used unsweetened cocoa powder thus avoiding any chances of white spots. Take two – great success. Take one was gleefully consumed by a new and very lovely friend Alice of Savory Sweet Life (have you seen her blog and stunning pictures?) and her husband Rob as well as my office mates.
And here we are less than two weeks away from Christmas, in the throes of Hannukah frenetically shopping for our nearest and dearest, planning our holiday parties, preparing for our vacations (Hello, Dominican Republic and that teeny tiny bikini!) that any cake that’s a cinch to make, tastes better the next day, and has the quiet sophistication of a navy cashmere sweater, has a gold star in my book. Serve with a poached pear compote and unsweetened whipped cream for a special holiday dessert, or just eat it plain accompanied by a cup of coffee. Because if there’s one thing we don’t get enough of this time of year, it’s that quiet moment at the table with coffee, a good book and some comforting, holiday-worthy cake. So let us eat cake, and let us be still for a moment – we’ve definitely earned it.
P.S. I like to serve this cake with this poached pear compote!
Guinness Stout Ginger Cake
Adapted from The Last Supper, by Claudia Fleming (with Melissa Clark)
1 cup (240 ml) stout beer, such as Guinness
1 cup (240 ml) unsulfured molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (110 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (180 ml) grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Butter a 7×5-inch (18 by 13 cm) loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment, and grease the parchment. Alternatively, butter and flour a 6-cup (1.4 liter) Bundt pan.
In a large saucepan set over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars. Whisk in the oil.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.
Combine the stout mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, half at a time. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done or the center may fall slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with the poached pear compote and unsweetened whipped cream.