Apr 212013

Ginger-stout (little) cakes

Yes, I have posted a gingerbread recipe on here before. But by the time you try this for yourself, I’m sure that you’ll forgive me for the quasi-repeat, especially once you realize that the similarities between this gingerbread and that gingerbread stop with the name.

The recipe that I’ve posted before (from my grandmother) is a wonderful treat that is pleasant all-around, with a delicious, mild, warm spice flavor and a soft, crumbly texture. But this cake? This cake will sucker-punch you if you’re not paying attention. And that’s a good thing. It’s chewy, it’s boldly flavored, and there is a completely nil chance of this cake lasting the night when you serve it to friends.

The big difference is that this cake includes two over-the-top (in the flavor department) ingredients: ginger (obviously) — and lots of it, both fresh and ground — and stout beer (not so obvious). You combine these power-houses with a uncommonly vigorous mixing method (for cakes, anyway) and you have a fool-proof crowd-pleaser.

Ginger-stout (little) cakes

I first came across this recipe just before St. Patrick’s Day this year and was simultaneously excited by 1) the beer content and 2) the non-dairy-ness of it all. (Do you know how insanely difficult it is to find a dessert recipe that is dairy-free without modifications?) This immediately shot to the top of the recipe-queue and found its way to the table on March 17th. It also disappeared from the table that same night, and that had absolutely nothing to do with impaired judgment: it was just that good.

I made it yet again when Mrs. Cheeseburger in Glacial Ice came to visit this month. There being only two of us (and fearing that an entire cake would disappear between us if we didn’t force the cake into some easily-put-away-able/-freezeable portions), we made it in standard-size muffin-tins. And let me tell you, if you’re the type of person who always hoards the corner pieces in a tray of brownies, this method is for you. (But if you eschew chewiness, fear not: the cake-pan method has plenty of love for you.)

I suppose you could sweeten it a bit with a glaze or icing, but in my opinion, that would really reign in the ginger, and what would be the point of that? If that’s your goal, then you should really just make a different recipe entirely, because this stuff? It’s delicious, it’s ginger-tastic, and it is not the eensiest bit apologetic about it.

Ginger-stout (little) cakes

Ginger-Stout Cake
From America’s Test Kitchen
Makes one 8-inch square cake or 12-18 tall or short cupcakes, serving 8 to 10

For easy fresh-ginger-grating: peel the ginger with a spoon and then place it in the for about half an hour or so. Grating it is simple once it’s frozen.
This cake packs potent yet well-balanced, fragrant, spicy heat. If you are particularly sensitive to spice, you can decrease the amount of dried ginger to 1 tablespoon.
If you’re not sure how old your ground ginger is or if you suspect it is beginning to lose potency, buy a new jar. It’s well worth it in this recipe.
Most cake batters require a gentle touch to avoid developing glutens in the flour and, thus, a tough crumb. But vigorous stirring actually gave our super-wet gingerbread batter the structure necessary to keep the center from collapsing.
Serve the gingerbread plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
3/4 cup stout or porter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup mild molasses
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
2 tablespoons ground ginger (see note)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (see note)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square baking pan (preferably glass) or standard-size muffin tin.
Bring beer to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam vigorously). When foaming subsides, stir in molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until dissolved; set mixture aside. Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper together in large bowl; set aside.
Transfer stout mixture to large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil, and grated ginger until combined. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture in thirds, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.
Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles. Bake until top of cake is just firm to touch and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes (or about twenty minutes for cupcakes). Cool cake in pan on wire rack, about 1 1/2 hours. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

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