This cake sings with zing. It is bold. If you’re like me, and you ask for seconds and then thirds of the pickled ginger that accompanies your sushi order, you will love this cake. If you find ginger’s zip unappealing, then you can stop reading now…but I promise you’ll be missing out.
Oh, hello! I’m happy you’re still with me. This cake could very well be your new favorite. It is most certainly mine. I made it for Nattie and D’s second annual cioppino feast. The Plotkins are officially the finest cioppino a-fish-ionados I know. They are wizards at combining fresh crab, cod, lobster, clams and mussels in a spicy tomato broth. Everything was a bit better this year – the cioppino, the bread (two options – Tartine and Josey Baker), the wine, the spiced bourbon cider, the dessert, and our end-of-the-night, highly competitive, rousing game of Celebrity.
Plus, this year we had a sock swap. It was Pea’s idea because Nattie and D don’t wear shoes inside their apartment. No shoes? No problem. She implemented a sock solution. Pea was our secret santa of socks, assigning each of us a friend to buy socks for. I ended up with two pairs of socks from Nattie – little holiday booties with bows and non-stick nubbins on the bottom and crew socks covered with apples. So perfect.
For the second year in a row, I was in charge of dessert. I had tasted this ginger cake a few weeks before. Stevie left a giant wedge in our fridge. I was curious. I was only going to have a bite…I ended up eating at least two slices worth. When I got around to making the cake on cioppino feast day, it was later than I’d planned. I ended up strapping the big bowl of batter into my passenger seat and baking the cake in the Plotkins’ oven. I highly recommend the take ‘n bake method. A baking cake smells good and this little ginger wonder is no exception.
It’s easy to make – the finely chopped fresh ginger is the most time-consuming ingredient and you can expedite this by giving the ginger a quick whirl in the food processor. This cake strikes a perfect balance between spicy and sweet. A slice post-dinner lends balance, but it might be even better for breakfast. Serve it solo, with freshly whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla or pumpkin ice cream if you’re feeling fancy.
Fresh Ginger Cake
From David Lebovitz
4 ounces fresh ginger (about 3/4 cup, very finely chopped)
1 cup mild molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of salt
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature
Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 1/2 inch springform pan.
Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife, grater or whirl in the food processor. Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and salt.
Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 50 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed. (The original recipe says to bake this cake for “about an hour” but I think that’s too long. It’s better on the slightly rare side and will continue to firm up once removed from the oven.) If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.
Cool the cake in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan and flip onto a serving plate.