For some people, their favorite kitchen scent is onions and garlic sauteing in a hot pan.
For others, it’s that yeasty smell of fresh bread baking in the oven.
For me? It’s that intoxicating fragrance of warm winter spices — cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Loads of ginger.
That’s why this cake had me at first smell and at first bite.
“Ginger Molasses Cake” is from the new “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It’s written by Claire Ptak, a former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, who moved to London to open her Violet Bakery in 2010. Jamie Oliver has called her “my favourite cake maker in the whole world.” So you know she has it going on.
The recipes in this lovely cookbook are arranged by time of day with treats such as “Yellow Peach Crumb Bun” for morning, “Olive Oil Sweet Wine Cake” for the afternoon, and “Chocolate, Prune, and Whiskey Cake” for the evening.
As you can tell, these are baked goods that don’t try too hard. They aren’t complicated with loads of unusual ingredients. They don’t take and arm and a leg, and a whole day to make. Instead, they tantalize with their homespun yet precise character.
This ginger cake is made with all fresh ginger, not powdered. As a result, the ginger taste is cleaner and brighter, and not over the top. The molasses adds a fuller and classic old-fashioned flavor.
The lemon glaze adds a top note of subtle tang and sweetness. The only change I made was to add more lemon juice, as I found it too thick without a few more teaspoons stirred in.
This cake is wonderfully moist. And yes, it sure does make the kitchen smell heavenly as it bakes.
It’s featured in the “Afternoon” part of the book. But I could eat this morning, noon or night. I’m betting you could, too.
Ginger Molasses Cake
(Makes one 9-inch cake or two 6-inch cakes, serving 8 to 10)
For the sponge:
150g (5 ounces) fresh ginger
300g (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
200g (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) vegetable oil
250g (3/4 cup) molasses
225g (1 cup) boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
Butter, for greasing the pan
For the lemon glaze:
250g (1 3/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
3 to 6 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan (or two 6-inch layer pans) and line with parchment paper.
Peel the ginger and cut into 1/16-inch slices. Pulverize the ginger in a food processor and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, and cloves. Whisk and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine sugar, oil, and molasses, and whisk well.
Pour the boiling water into a glass jug and stir in the baking soda. Pour this into the sugar mixture and whisk well (the mixture should start to get foamy on top). Add the ginger and mix until evenly combined. Add the flour mixture, making sure you mix in the same direction (e.g., clockwise) the entire time. Don’t change direction or you will get flour lumps. Don’t overmix or the cake will be tough and dense.
Whisk the eggs in a separate, clean bowl and add to the cake batter until just combined. Pour into your prepared cake pan (or pans) and bake for about 1 hour, until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the top of the cake springs back to the touch. Leave to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 3 to 6 teaspoons of lemon juice until smooth and drizzle over the top. This cake keeps well for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Adapted From “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” by Claire Ptak
More Gingery Goodness: Gingerbread with Warm Apples and Cider Sabayon
And: Ginger Scones