Dark Molasses Gingerbread Cake

When I stumbled upon a link to a Buzzfeed list entitled “15 Unusual Cakes You Need To Make Right Now” on Facebook, of course I had to click. And — good news — the list doesn’t disappoint, including recipes like Jelly Donut Cake and cakes that incorporate condensed tomato soup and mashed potatoes (not in the same cake, however).

Part of me wants to give all these cakes a try, but since you have to start somewhere I opted to start at the very beginning — a very good place to start. (Sorry — couldn’t resist.) This first cake — a gingerbread cake recipe from Food52 that gets its unique flavor from blackstrap molasses — seemed especially appropriate for this holiday season, after all. (Plus, it sounded amazingly delicious.)

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When I went to my local Whole Foods on the hunt for blackstrap molasses, which I had never heard of before, the item was labeled a “Foodie Find” on the shelf. I was interested to learn more about this new (to me) molasses. Turns out, it’s made of the syrup produced when a sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar, and it’s been getting lots of buzz of late for its health benefits, ranging from being rich in iron to acting as a great sweetener for diabetics to enhancing the health of hair. Interesting, for sure!

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I’ll have to trust the experts on the nutritional wonders of blackstrap molasses, but after having made this cake I can comment on its taste and let you know it’s really, really good. It adds a wonderful complexity to this cake, giving it a distinct and sophisticated flavor. The cake is dense and delightful, while the frosting (I’d never made frosting with flour in it before!) is the perfect balance. You must make this frosting.

I opted to bake this cake in loaf pans rather than a traditional cake pan to make it more sharable and easy to slice, but it would do well in many forms (two 8-inch baking pans, loaf pans, a springform pan, etc.).

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Ingredients (for cake)

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups blackstrap molasses
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk

Ingredients (for frosting)

  • 16 ounces (2 bars) full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions (for cake)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 10-inch round springform pan, two standard loaf pans, or two 8-inch round cake pans. (I used four loaf pans total — all smaller than standard.)
  • Place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the molasses, add both sugars, and whisk until butter melts and sugars have dissolved completely. Remove from heat to cool. (The molasses will begin to separate from the butter.)
  • Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the vanilla, eggs, and milk into the saucepan with the molasses mixture and whisk to combine. Slowly pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients.
  • Whisk wet and dry ingredients together to combine, making sure there aren’t any lumps in the batter.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans (fill a little more than halfway) and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Note: Baking times will differ based on the size and type of pans you used.)
  • Let cake(s) cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from the pan. Let cool completely before frosting.

Directions (for frosting) (This stuff is GOOD!)

  • Using a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese on high speed for several minutes, until it’s completely smooth. Scoop into a separate bowl and set aside.
  • Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and add the milk, whisking constantly, to create a smooth paste. Continue to whisk as the mixture comes to a simmer. The mixture will thicken quickly and very noticeably as it comes to a boil, so be on the lookout for that to happen.
  • Simmer the mixture for a minute, then remove from heat and place the flour mixture into the mixer bowl.
  • Whip for 10 minutes.
  • Add whipped cream cheese, beating at medium speed.
  • Add vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and silky.
  • Let the frosting cool in the fridge for a few minutes before using it to frost the completely cooled cake(s).

Now that I’ve made this cake, which one from the Buzzfeed list should I tackle next? (I’m particularly intrigued by this mashed potato cake. Thoughts?)

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