Food + Travel Writing

Travel and food writing by Christina Crisostomo. New York/Toronto-based.

Recipe: The (Im)perfect Gingerbread

I readily admit to my cooking hubris. I will dive headfirst into a recipe if it sounds delicious, no matter how many comments I read warning of potential risks ahead. It’s not that I think of myself as an exceptionally skilled cook—I’m usually just hungry, and that’s enough to convince myself that the thing everyone said would go wrong couldn’t possibly go wrong when I do it.

Inevitably, the thing goes wrong, just like they said it would. And I never learn.

But sometimes the imperfections simply don’t matter because the end result is still impossibly perfect. This gingerbread from Gramercy Tavern is a prime example. Every single commenter raves about the flavor—but no one can get it out of the damn bundt pan.

Count me among them. 1/4 of my cake stayed inside the pan when I tried to turn it out, clinging to a gooey tar pit of sunken molasses. Nothing a little cake surgery (read: scraping bits off the bundt pan and smushing it back onto the cake) and a healthy dusting of powdered sugar couldn’t fix, because its craggy exterior contained the gingerbread of my dreams: boldly spiced, moist yet fluffy, dolloped with fresh whipped cream, and totally worth the risk. This is gingerbread as gingerbread should be.

Gingerbread (via Gramercy Tavern by way of Epicurious)
Yields 8-10 servings

1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout (I used Guinness)
1 cup molasses (Grandma brand worked just fine)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Unsweetened whipping cream for serving on the side

A 10-inch (10- to 12-cup) bundt pan

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. The original recipe says to “generously butter bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess” but there are a number of pan preparation tricks in the comments. (I tried using butter and flour AND sugar, but might test using just sugar next time.)
  2. Boil stout and molasses together in a medium/large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda and cool to room temperature.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk together eggs and sugars in a medium bowl (might be a little pasty, but it will thin out.) Whisk oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and rap pan on the counter to minimize air bubbles.
  6. Bake in middle of oven until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 50 minutes.
  7. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Some commenters swear by a longer cooling time, others insist that cooling only 5 minutes allows the cake to turn out. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.
  8. While the cake cools, whip unsweetened whipping cream in an electric mixer until peaks form. You can add a little spice (like nutmeg) or vanilla, but I liked it plain to contrast the sweetness and spice of the cake.
  9. Dust cake with confectioner's sugar, using a sifter for an even, snowy look. Serve with whipped cream.