Thanks to Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef, I learned of the writing of Laurie Colwin. I got these wonderful books used, and I’m so glad I got them.
Laurie Colwin was a great food writer, with a lovely voice, and an encouraging, anything but snobby personality, who unfortunately is no longer with us. These books are collections of her essays that she wrote for Gourmet magazine, and are great bedside reading. It’s amazing how forward looking she was, mentioning the importance of knowing where your food comes from, how much better organic chickens taste, and skepticism of agribusiness in 1987.
This weekend, while breezing through Home Cooking, I re-read the Gingerbread essay. I was hooked. I’m quite partial to those molasses/ginger/allspice flavors from my New England childhood, which included gingerbread, Indian Pudding, and baked beans. Laurie discusses English recipes for gingerbread, and cites Steen Cane Syrup from Louisiana as the King of Molasses in the United States. Crosby’s Molasses was the brand of my childhood in Maine. We didn’t bother getting it in the little jars. We always had a gallon of it in the cupboard. Crosby’s is a Canadian brand, so I’ve provided a link for people in the USA. I can get neither without the aid of UPS here in Minnesota, but at least I can find jars in the stores. This was not so easy when I lived in Colorado.
Laurie Colwin’s Gingerbread recipe makes a single nine inch cake. I doubled the recipe, and used a Kugelhopf pan (made by NordicWare, of Minneapolis, MN) that I got at my local Ace hardware store. I didn’t bother icing mine (Laurie provides a couple icing recipes). I’d rather have mine with whipped cream. This recipe is the original, for a nine inch cake pan. I’ll let you do the doubling yourself. Laurie would probably not use an electric mixer to make this cake, but do it with a bowl and spoon, which is perfectly good exercise for your forearms.
- nine inch round cake pan
- mixing bowl
- spoon (or electric mixer)
- rubber spatula
- measuring cups (liquid and dry)
- measuring spoons
- cooling rack
- oven mitts or potholders
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted (sweet) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract or lemon brandy (lemon extract WON’T DO)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbsp. ground ginger (Laurie calls for a very generous Tbsp. I agree.)
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter your cake pan (I would line the bottom with parchment paper to ease removal, but go with what works for you.)
- Cream the butter and brown sugar together. Beat until it’s fluffy.
- Beat in the molasses, then the eggs, beating well after each addition.
- Add the dry ingredients and the vanilla, and mix to incorporate.
- Add the buttermilk, and mix in.
- Turn the batter out into the cake pan, spreading where necessary to even out the batter.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes. Test for doneness after 20 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
- Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and frost (optional) or serve.