Zingerman’s Gingerbread Coffee Cake

The ultimate gingerbread cake.
The ultimate gingerbread cake.

It may be called “Gingerbread Coffee Cake,” but it boasts no mountain of crunchy streusel on top like you might imagine.

Instead, this coffee cake actually has brewed coffee in it.

Along with a bountiful array of invigorating spices.

So much so, you won’t even miss the absence of a crumb topping.

This cake is so extraordinary that when Zingerman’s Bakery made the decision not to include it in its first cookbook, “Zingerman’s Bakehouse” (Chronicle Books, 2017), regulars were aghast.

Fortunately, the beloved 30-year-oled, Ann Arbor, MI bakery rectified that omission by featuring it in its newest cookbook, “Zingerman’s Bakehouse’s Celebrate Every Day” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

The book is a collaborative project by the team at Zingerman’s that includes managing partner Amy Emberling, marketer Lindsay-Jean Hard, editor Lee Vedder, and marketing manager and food photographer Corynn Coscia.

The idea for this cookbook grew out of the pandemic, when people were eating out less, and desiring to cook and bake more at home. The Zingerman’s staff used that time to write down more of its best-loved recipes to share.

In this cookbook, you’ll find 75 recipes for Zingerman specialties such as “Zinglish Muffins,” “Maize and Blue Cobbler,” “Bumble Honey Rye Cake,” and “Creamy Cremini Turnovers.”

This gingerbread cake features ground ginger, of course. But there’s also a bevy of other spices that harmonize to create a deep gusto of warming flavors. They include cloves, cinnamon, and even dry mustard.

Dried long pepper.
Dried long pepper.

What’s more, there’s something called Indian long pepper in it, too. Long and nubby, this dried spice has a black pepper-like taste, but one that’s more woodsy, and even somewhat sweeter, almost as if a drop of molasses had hit it.

The long pepper is optional in this recipe, but it will add another layer of flavor to the cake. Find it in Indian grocery stores or on Amazon. You’ll have to use a spice grinder to pulverize it into a powder for this recipe. Maybe my long peppers were, ahem, more on the short side, since the recipe stated about 3 peppers would equal the 3/4 teaspoon powdered needed for this recipe, and I found I needed more like a dozen of the peppers.

Speaking of molasses, there is a full cup of it in the batter, which imparts that characteristic color and flavor of gingerbread. The brewed coffee marries so well with it, amplifying the caramel-toffee notes of both with their pleasant subtle bitterness.

A generous amount of molasses, spices, and coffee flavor this bountiful cake.
A generous amount of molasses, spices, and coffee flavor this bountiful cake.

The batter also has chopped crystalized ginger folded into it. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of it. I used a heaping measurement. But truthfully, you could easily double that original amount if you are a candied ginger lover, because this is a big cake.

The baking pan gets coated in baking spray and then sprinkled with demerara sugar, if you like. I didn’t have that on hand, so opted to sprinkle a little sparkling sugar around the pan instead. Like the demerara, it added pops here and there of crunchy sugar on the cake exterior.

As the cake bakes, don’t be surprised if you start imagining that you’re living inside a giant gingerbread house because the aroma is just that intoxicating.

It looks plain but it has a complex taste.
It looks plain but it has a complex taste.

Serve the cake dusted with powdered sugar. Or with lightly whipped cream. Or ice cream.

This cake is very moist with a light crumb. It is peppy and peppery, with a complex, warm spiced flavor that extends deep and wide.

It’s a gingerbread cake that transcends.

It looks plain but it has a complex taste.
It looks plain but it has a complex taste.

Zingerman’s Gingerbread Coffee Cake

(Makes one large Bundt cake)

1/2 cup (110 grams) demerara sugar for preparing the baking pan (optional)

2 3/4 cups (385 grams) all-purpose flour

1 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon ground long pepper (about 3 to 12 peppers, depending on their size; optional, see Note)

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (215 grams) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (110 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (100 grams) canola oil

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (360 grams) molasses

1/2 cup (110 grams) orange juice, room temperature

1/2 cup (110 grams) brewed coffee, room temperature

1/4 cup (45 grams) crystalized ginger (or more, if you like), chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place a rack in the middle position of the oven. Thoroughly coat a 10-cup Bunt pan with nonstick cooking spray, then coat the inside well with demerara sugar (if using). Pour out the excess sugar. If you don’t have demerara sugar or prefer not to use it, coat the pan with flour after spraying.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground spices, and mustard until combined. Set aside.

In another medium mixing bowl, stir together the sugar and butter with a wooden spoon. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and cream for 4 minutes on medium speed. It will be fairly dry. Drizzle in the oil and mix until light and smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a bowl scraper of spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until well combined. Scrape the bowl well. Add the molasses and mix on medium speed until there are no streaks of color. Scrape the bowl well.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the orange juice and coffee. On low speed, add one-third of the mixture to the batter and mix together well. Then, add one-third of the sifted dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Continue alternating the addition of wet and dry ingredients to the batter until everything is incorporated. Stir in the crystallized ginger and scrape the bowl well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.

Bake for 65 minutes, or until a tester or toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean and the top of the cake springs back when you press it gently with your fingers.

Cool for 15 minutes in the pan before carefully removing the cake from the pan onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store the cake wrapped in plastic at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Note: Long pepper looks like tiny, bumpy cattail, but there’s nothing small about its flavor profile. It’s deep and complex, walking the line between pepper heat, warm earthiness, and floral sweetness. Look for it in spice shops, whether brick and mortar or online. We think it makes this cake a touch more special. If you can’t find it, you’ll still have a great dessert.

Adapted from “Zingerman’s Bakehouse Celebrate Every Day” by Amy Emberling, Lindsay-Jean Hard, Lee Vedder and Corynn Coscia

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  • I baked this recipe yesterday, carefully following all instructions, including the ground long pepper . It was an excellent gingerbread. Our friends had a Zingerman’s ginger bread cake recently delivered so we compared my result with the actual Zingerman version. The zingerman cake was MUCH denser than what I baked and seemed more intensely gingery than mine. Sort of like the difference between a fudgy and a cakey brownie. The crunchy Demerara coating was terrific!
    Any suggestions on increasing the density of the gingerbread? Where might I have gone wrong, assuming this recipe is the authentic Zingerman’s recipe. (I am an experienced baker).

  • Hi Eli: That’s so interesting about the difference. Do you know if the delivered cake was frozen for shipping? I know that whenever I bake cakes, then freeze some to enjoy later, the crumb compacts more and does get denser. Other than that, I Googled around, and did find these tips that might work for making the cake denser: https://food52.com/blog/28024-the-absolute-best-way-to-make-box-cake Hope that helps!

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