My earliest encounter with a really dark, fresh ginger cake like this was at my first baking job, at Summer Kitchen in Berkeley. The owner, Charlene, was a former Chez Panisse pastry chef, and even though my stint at Summer Kitchen was pretty short (she encouraged me to go chase my dream job baking bread, thank you Charlene!) I learned a handful of techniques and recipes that really stuck with me. I’ll never zest a lemon any other way than how Charlene taught me, and I’ll always sift my cake dries three times. And I will make fresh ginger cake every year.
Unfortunately, I didn’t save the exact recipe. Thankfully, there are a few great ginger cake recipes out there. I’ve referenced David Lebovitz’s, figuring that since he worked at Chez too, maybe it’s a similar recipe. There’s also a great one by Claudia Fleming that uses beer (I vaguely remember using beer at Summer Kitchen- although I could be wrong – so maybe it was that one? There was also, of course, a really good one at Tartine done in a single-serving round cake form.
Regardless, the trickiest thing about this cake is getting all that fresh ginger chopped up small enough. We used to use the food processor at Summer Kitchen, but my home processor is too leaky and didn’t work for that. So I decided to use the blender. And then I just added the next ingredient… and the next one… until I made the whole cake batter in the blender. And it comes out great. Thinking of trying blender chocolate cake next…
*kitchen note: I thankfully can usually find fresh young ginger this time of year, which is much juicier and has less dried-out skin. It’s worth asking around to see if you can find some- Asian grocery stores are a good resource. Any ginger root will, of course, work.
This is a great cake to make gluten-free, since it doesn’t rely on the flour much for structure. You can use any gluten-free substitute flour, like cup-for-cup, or blend your own. Try brown rice flour and buckwheat and let me know how it goes.
120 grams fresh (young, if possible) ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Cup boiling water
2 tsp baking soda
240 ml / 1 cup sunflower oil
240 ml / 1 cup dark molasses
200 g / 1 cup cane sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, room temperature
280 g / 2 cups Edison white wheat, other soft wheat, or gluten-free flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
Few cracks fresh black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch cake pan and lightly oil the sides. Have a sheet tray handy to put the pan on (the batter is super liquid and may leak a a little.)
2. Measure all the ingredients out so you can just add it all as you go.
3. In a blender, combine boiling water and ginger. Blend until smooth.
4. Add baking soda, blend for a sec
5. Add sunflower oil, molasses and sugar, blend until combined. Add salt, blend a sec
6. Add eggs, blend on low for a sec
7. Stir the flour and the spices together, add to blender. Blend on med until combined. Scrape sides if needed and blend for a sec
8. Pour batter into cake pan, place cake pan on sheet tray, bake at 350 for about an hour, until the cake feels set in the center when you tap it lightly. Enjoy the good smells. A cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center may come out with some crumbs stuck to it, but shouldn’t be coated in raw batter.
9. Let cool one hour, un-mold and eat. Good alone, also good with crème fraîche ice cream (my favorite) or vanilla, or a little whipped cream.