This afternoon while the light was bright and the wind was brittle, I went for a small walk around the neighbourhood and it started snowing. Just a few, dusty flakes, and not the first snowfall of its kind, but it still stirred in me that childlike excitement at the prospect of the first real snow. Now, I know November’s not everyone’s favourite month, with the wind beginning to sting, and more often than not a slate-coloured sky, but let’s agree that it too has its moments.
Besides, the weather’s the perfect excuse to start making gingerbread. And I’m not referring to the tooth-breaking cookie kind, either. Oh, no. I’m talking about an earthy, sweet, molasses cake that will melt your heart when you smell it baking in the oven. Honestly, this gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting is nothing short of perfection — and it’s highly adaptable from the most casual to the most formal occasions.
Yield: 1 8-inch square or 9-inch round single layer cake
Serving Size: 6-8
This recipe is for an 8-inch square or 9-inch round single layer cake. For instructions on how to make it a layer cake (as shown in the photos) or a bundt cake, see the notes below.
For the cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup boiling (or very hot) water
1/2 cup canola/sunflower/safflower oil
(Optional) For the lemon glaze:
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbs icing sugar/maple syrup/honey
(Optional) for the cream cheese frosting:
1/2 block (125g) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
zest of 1 lemon
1-3 cups of sifted icing sugar
pinch of salt
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F and generously grease and flour your 8- or 9-inch baking pan + line the bottom with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Add the egg and molasses, and mix well.
Pour the hot water and oil over the batter, and stir until smooth.
Pour batter into your prepared pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
For the lemon glaze (optional)
Whisk the lemon juice and sweetener together in a bowl and brush over the cake while still warm. This will give the cake a delicious stickiness akin to an English-style 'pudding' cake.
For the cream cheese frosting (optional)
Beat together the room temperature cream cheese and butter, as well as the lemon zest, until fluffy and light. With your mixer on low speed, add 1 cup of the sifted icing sugar. Continue adding sugar in 1/2 cup increments until you reach your desired frosting consistency -- a little on the soft side is nice if you are just topping a single-layer cake, and on the stiffer side is better for frosting a multi-layered cake (see notes below).
Beat frosting together until smooth, then slather across the top of the cake after it has fully cooled.
*To make this recipe in a bundt or tube pan, double the amount of cake batter and bake for longer -- roughly 45-50 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. If desired, you can add the lemon glaze to the bottom of the cake while it cools in the pan.
*To make this recipe a two-layer cake, double the batter amount above and divide into two greased + floured + lined 9-inch round pans. Skip the glaze and double the frosting recipe as well, adding enough sugar for a stiffer consistency to support the cake. The frosting should be enough to frost a cake with 'naked' sides, but if you want to frost it fully, I'd quadruple the frosting recipe.