pretzel bites.

pretzel bites.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

gingerbread cake for warmth

i've been thinking a lot about ginger recently. i think maybe it's the cold weather. i love just about anything ginger related when it comes to baking. gingersnaps, ginger and fruit cakes, ginger cheesecake, ginger donuts. (the word ginger just lost meaning to me because i typed it and said it in my head so many times.) but my favorite ginger confection of all is plain old fashioned gingerbread cake, which i discovered at marvelous market, a terrific gourmet food chain in the DC area that sells all sorts of breads and pastries and cheeses and dips and olives. and cake. gingerbread cake. i actually consider myself quite the expert on the deliciousness of marvelous market's food because i worked at a small suburban outpost during a few college breaks where i was instructed to put out samples of the different breads and dips for customers to try. well, sometimes it was really slow. and the samples looked lonely. so i ate them. a lot of them. and that's what happened.

but i actually think the first time i tried the gingerbread cake it was a mistake. in fact, i'm sure i thought it was a giant piece of chocolate cake and i have to say that the surprising, rich, spicy, soothing complexity of the molasses and ginger is probably the only thing that wouldn't make me sad to mistakenly bite into thinking it was chocolate. it was a very fortunate mistake. it quickly became one of my favorite treats.

i never put out samples of the gingerbread cake. because that would have been a problem. 

cold weather makes me think about this wonderful cake because the very idea of it warms me up, and i've needed a little warming up over the past few days because i just got back from a vacation in california where i sat by a pool in the hot desert sun and now the real feel temperature outside is 3 degrees F, which i find particularly painful because in addition to going from summer weather to winter weather in the course of a plane ride, i'm also back at work. and those two things combined = i needed gingerbread cake.

i decided to make it on monday for three reasons:
1. my need for comfort on my last day of vacation.
2. josh decided to clean out The Big Scary Closet and the only way i could get out of participating was by baking.
3. a cousin and an aunt were visiting from israel and a cousin and an aunt were visiting from DC and everyone was going to convene for dinner at my grandparents' apartment to celebrate all the things there are to celebrate, including the 60th birthday of one of my aunts!

so of course i had to bake. but here's the thing. the birthday aunt doesn't really eat flour or sugar. baking without flour. i've done that. but baking without sugar??? a challenge. but not one ginger could't overcome.

ingredients for the almost sugar-free, almost flour-free gingerbread cake:
3/4 cup stout 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup splenda granulated sugar*
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup almond flour*
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp black pepper*
2 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger*

*i'd never baked with either splenda granulated sugar or almond flour before but i just kind of went for it. because why not? and... it worked! i bought the splenda granulated sugar the grocery store and was astonished by how light the box was. i'm not sure if the ginger just overpowered the taste or if splenda granulated sugar is just a magical substance.
i made the almond flour by food-processing the heck out of slivered almonds, and since it's denser than all-purpose flour i added a whole teaspoon of baking powder.
the cake was really wonderfully gingery spicy, but i can see how some people might be overwhelmed by the ginger heat, in which case you should just skip the fresh grated ginger and the black pepper.
to make the gingerbread cake:
1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour an 8x8 baking pan.
2. heat the stout in a medium pot over medium heat and stir it occasionally. when it starts to boil remove it from the heat and stir in the baking soda and watch it get all weird and foamy. when it stops foaming, add the speldna granulated sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, and maple syrup and then set it aside.
3. whisk the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper together in a big bowl and set it aside, too.
4. pour the stout mixture into a bowl and whisk in the eggs, applesauce, and granulated ginger, and then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture in thirds, whisking until combined after every addition. it'll look a little grainy because of the almond flour.
5. pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35 minutes (or until it's firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean).
6. when the cake is cool cut it up into squares and enjoy! one way to make it pretty is with a dusting of powdered sugar.

i also added another little touch--i heated water and sugar and ginger powder in a saucepan and when it started to reduce i added almond slivers, which got nice and sticky and caramelized. when they cooled i broke them up and fancified the cake with them. oh, and also we ate it with ice cream. we were celebrating a birthday, after all.

stay warm out there!!!!!