And yet. Here I am making a gingerbread cake because it was all I could think about when I finished reading Delicious! by Ruth Reichl.
This book you guys.
I couldn’t put it down. It was the perfect book for me. BOOKS AND FOOD. And mystery! Intrigue! It was just fantastic. I can’t gush about it enough. It was about a young woman who moves to New York, drops out of college to work at a food magazine, and then who discovers a scavenger hunt of sorts made up of letters written during WWII. It was absolutely fascinating. And yes – it did employ several tropes and cliches… but you know what? I like those in a good story. I know what to expect and exactly what I’m getting and I end up with a face that hurts because I’ve been smiling so danged hard.
This book made my face hurt.
And the CAKE. The cake was marvelous. The batter was this airy, wonderful delight unlike anything I’d ever seen. The aroma that came out of my oven was absolutely sinful.
And yet, I still fretted.
You see, I am not much of a baker. I can cook. But baking? That’s a whole different story. Cakes and I do not get along. I was stoked by how well my cookies came out this past Christmas. The last time I made a cake, it came out dry and crumbly and it just wasn’t pretty.
But I had to make this cake. This gingerbread cake is virtually its own character in Delicious! You can’t read this book and not want to make this cake. Or at the very least, eat this cake. And then – there was the recipe right there in the back of the book.
So I made a cake. A gingerbread cake. When I don’t like ginger.
And I’ll be damned if this wasn’t one of the best things that has ever come out of my kitchen.
I’m fairly certain I screwed up the glaze. I think I didn’t use enough powdered sugar, so it was too thin. Instead of settling on top of the cake the way a glaze should, it simply soaked right into the cake.
This wasn’t a bad thing, per se. Just unintentional. Just be aware that if your glaze is too thin, it’ll soak right in and give you this delicious, sugary moistness that maybe wasn’t supposed to be there – but you won’t complain about it. (Editor’s note: While adding the recipe below I realized that I did indeed use too much liquid. I used 5 tablespoons of juice, rather than 5 teaspoons!).
- Whole black peppercorns (or 1/4 tsp ground pepper)
- Whole cloves (or 1/4 tsp ground cloves)
- Whole cardamom (or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom)
- 1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (6 ounces)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large pieces fresh ginger root (1/4 cup peeled, finely grated & tightly packed)
- Zest from 2-3 oranges (1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated)
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted or put through a strainer
- 5 teaspoons orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350 and butter and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan.
- Grind your peppercorns, cloves and cardamom and measure out 1/4 teaspoon of each. You can use pre-ground spices, but you’ll lose some flavor.Grind your cinnamon stick and measure out 1 teaspoon.
- Whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk into the sour cream. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until the mixture is light, fluffy and almost white. This should take about 3 minutes.
- Grate the orange zest and ginger root — this is a lot of ginger (you’ve been warned). Add them to the butter/sugar mixture.
- Alternate the sour cream and egg and the flour mixture into the butter until each addition is incorporated. Alternate between the two, the batter should be luxurious as mousse.
- Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until cake is golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean.
- Remove to a rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- While the cake cools in its pan, simmer the bourbon and the sugar in a small pot for about 4 minutes. It should reduce to about 1/3 cup.
- While the cake is still in the pan, brush half the bourbon mixture onto it’s exposed surface (the bottom of the cake) with a pastry brush. Let the syrup soak in for a few minutes, then turn the cake out onto a cake plate. If you put it on a rack then the entire bottom with the bourbon soak will stick to the rack. Gently brush the remaining mixture all of the cake.
- Once the cake is cooled mix the sugar with the orange juice and either drizzle the glaze randomly over the cake or put it into a squeeze bottle and do a controlled drizzle.
- You can use pre-ground spices instead of grinding your own, but it will, of course, taste better if you do the grinding yourself.