Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Soft Gingerbread

This is the very first cake I attempted to make without eggs, and it’s still one of my favorites.  I adapted the recipe from a cookbook I picked up at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield Mass.  The Shakers were one of the more influential religious organizations of their time.  They were responsible for numerous inventions: the clothes pin, the flat broom, and the circular saw.  Borden went to a Shaker village to see their evaporator when he was attempting to invent evaporated milk.  They were also the first to grow and sell seeds in paper packets.  Their furniture designs are beautiful in their simplicity.  Maybe all that creativity was a result of the celibacy thing....
The book I bought is called Sister Jennie’s Shaker Desserts.  The author’s father was given a small leather bound notebook, by Sister Jennie Wells, that contained her favorite recipes.  These desserts were taken from that notebook.  I love that the original, handwritten recipe is on one side of the page and the author’s adaptation is on the other side.  You can see that I’ve used this recipe many times. 

I had to cut the recipe by 1/4 because every time I made it as written it would overflow the pan.
This gingerbread is rich and moist and can easily stand on it’s own.  I don’t ever frost it.  I love the simplicity of the cake, which I decorated with powdered sugar.

Soft Gingerbread

Makes one nine inch round cake - Use organic ingredients whenever possible (I’m sure the Shakers did)

1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in...
3/4 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups unbleached white flour
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons Earth Balance Butter Substitute (or butter)
3/4 cup sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
3/4 cup molasses
Preheat your oven to 350˚
Dissolve the baking soda into the boiled water and allow it to cool.
Mix or sift the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together.
Cream the butter, using a stand mixer or hand beater.
Add the sugar, a little at a time, creaming well after each addition.
Add molasses slowly as you continue beating, until mixture is light and creamy.
Add about 1/4th of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir by hand.
Add about 1/4 of a cup of the cooled water/soda mixture and stir.
Continue adding flour mixture and water mixture (ending with flour) stirring after each addition.
Pour batter into a greased and floured pan.
Spread the batter to the edges of the pan so it’s a little thicker at the edges than in the center.
Drop the filled pan a few times, lightly, on the work surface to remove any air pockets.
Bake for 40-45 minutes.  The cake should be drawn away from the sides of the pan.
Decorate with powdered sugar.

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