Sunday, December 16, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

I had gingerbread once as a kid and didn't love it. Then I never had gingerbread again...for like forty years. I just assumed I wouldn't like it. However, my feelings were complex because I wanted to like it. Gingerbread is quintessentially festive and it smells SO GOOD. I needed to like gingerbread. So, I  decided to try it.

I did a little research because I wanted to give it the best chance. Most people said good gingerbread depends on the type of molasses you use. All of the recommendations said to use unsulphured molasses because it is the sweetest and makes the best gingerbread. My grocery store only had one jar of Grandma's brand molasses and it happened to be unsulphured so I was thankful for that. 

The second thing I noticed was the addition of ground ginger, cinnamon, and clove. I have never liked a heavy taste of spice in my desserts. I find it too overpowering, in both aroma and taste. After years of experimenting with spices, I've found that I simply DO NOT like clove at all. It is simply far too strong, so I always leave it out.

Making the gingerbread was easy! It came together in no time and filled the house with a wonderful holiday aroma. The color was a lighter brown and I could tell right away that my gingerbread wasn't overly spicy. Major success! I decided to serve mine with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I was pleasantly surprised and found the gingerbread to be delightful.  

The flavor is similar to pumpkin pie, which makes sense considering the spices are the same, but the texture was much different since gingerbread is quite dense and thick. I know some people shy away from dense cakes and desserts, but not me. I found the dense texture of the gingerbread to be a wonderful contrast to the cool and creamy whipped cream I served on top. 

Ruth calls this Old-Fashioned Gingerbread and it definitely does look and feel old-fashioned. It's simple dessert, nothing flashy, and something about the scent of the spices takes you back to your Grandma's kitchen. Overall, I really enjoyed this for dessert and will have no issues finishing it off in the coming days.

 Is gingerbread my favorite dessert? No, I still prefer chocolate and fruity desserts the most, but I definitely DO LIKE gingerbread and can see myself making a batch each season to celebrate Christmas.

 What are your thoughts? Do you like gingerbread?

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 9

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
2/3 cup hot water

Notes: I left out the cloves because I'm not partial to them. Include them if you'd like.

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.

Stir together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt into a bowl. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in molasses (batter may look separated). Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture, then add water and mix until batter is smooth about 1 minute.

Pour batter into baking pan. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for about 20 minutes and serve warm.


  1. I haven't made gingerbread in ages. Sounds like the perfect holiday dessert. Growing up, my mom would make it and serve it with a lemon sauce. Sounds weird, but it was delicious!

  2. Your gingerbread looks wonderful. I'm not a big cloves fan either, so good call on leaving them out.

  3. Saying I like ginger bread would be a stretch, but I'd eat it and enjoy the taste. I have to say though, my preference will always be chocolate and fruit desserts. Thanks for asking!

  4. I have similar feelings toward gingerbread, but really think I need to give it another go. I don't mind a ton of ginger and cinnamon but totally agree that cloves (and even nutmeg) are just too overpowering.

  5. My family doesn't particularly like gingerbread either but I do. I think it is the quintessential holiday dessert. Glad that you could revisit this dessert and like it. Merry Christmas.


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