My little girl's preschool was having an "International Dinner" where we were each supposed to bring in something from our heritage. Her school is riddled with people from every continent, so I knew it was going to be an interesting dinner and I didn't want to fail my heritage. But what should I make, I wondered. My heritage is basically Irish and French. Irish soda bread? No, it can be too hard. Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage? No, to cabbage-y, too hard to transport. French Crepes Suzettes? Too many flames. Chocolate mousse? Too typical French, I'd have to wear a beret and a striped tee-shirt while serving it. I had nowhere to go, pouring through magazines and cookbooks, everything was either too blah or too difficult.
So I relied on my American heritage...figured my clan has been here for just over 100 years, that has to count for something. By kizmet, I received my monthly email from David Lebovitz with a surprise addition: his most asked for recipe, the Fresh Ginger Cake. I had never made it before, and was weary that it called for oil instead of butter (I'm a firm believer that cake should be made with butter and butter alone). But I put away my petty butter prejudices and made the cake. It was easy as can be, and when I presented it on the table it was not only the prettiest dessert there, but it was gobbled up by the masses.
ONE WARNING: it is VERY gingery, this cake. Not for the weak of palate. At first I wasn't sure how much I liked it, but smothering it with fresh, homemade whipped cream did take a little of the ginger bite away. I had one piece left over and ate it for breakfast the next day (breakfast of Champions). By then, the ginger seemed to have mellowed a bit. So I recommend making this the day before you need it.
Some people serve it with whipped cream, like I did. Others use a caramel sauce or lemon curd. All in all, I do think it does need something "on the side", as only Sally Albright could order it....
Fresh Ginger Cake from David Lebovitz's Room For Dessert
One 9-inch cake; 10 to 12 servings
4 ounce (120 g) knob fresh ginger
1 cup (250 ml) mild molasses (sometimes called 'light' molasses)
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) vegetable oil, preferably peanut or colza (I used canola)
2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup (250 ml) water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line a 9 by 3-inch (23 by 6-cm) round cake pan or a 9 1/2-inch (23 cm) springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife or food processor.
3. Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper.
4. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
5. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the cake pan and peel off the parchment paper.