Mention Gingerbread Men and like many my thoughts will turn to the Christmas season. Baked into a round or square cake pan, the association with winter holidays fades for me. Nonetheless, December finds the TWDers baking Gingerbread Baby Cakes. These are definitely not your mother’s gingerbread (my mom’s came from a box courtesy of Betty Crocker). In Johanne Killeen’s version, gingerbread takes the form of individual butter cakes featuring fresh and ground ginger, plenty of molasses, as well as a few ingredients you might not expect. Our host for this week is Karen of Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Should you want to bake along, you will find the recipe on her blog or in the pages of Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. Other TWD bakers’ efforts are linked here.
Johanne Killeen, sometimes accompanied by her husband George Germon, were frequent guests of Julia Child in her later PBS series, including Baking With Julia and In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs. Both are trained artists; George taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, a not-too-shabby art school in the smallest of these United States. Johanne’s background as a photographer is reflected by the balance of flavors, colors, and textures in her desserts.
As most butter cakes generally do, Gingerbread Baby Cakes start with assembling the dry ingredients, then proceed to creaming together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. At this point whole eggs are incorporated one-at-a-time into the butter-sugar mixture. The butter mixture tends to break a bit. I found it did so even further when adding the molasses. Thankfully, the batter becomes uniform once more as the dry ingredients are incorporated. As per the instructions, I folded the dry ingredients by hand; next time I would be tempted to use the stand mixer on it’s lowest setting to accomplish this task.
As written the recipe is portioned to yield eight 4″ diameter individual cakes. I “only” have four such pans in my arsenal, so after filling the 4″ pans, I poured the remaining batter into a 7″ round. For the baby cake pans, I brushed the sides and bottom with melted butter as directed. For a bit of insurance, I lined the bottom of the 7″ pan with buttered parchment as well.
Possibly owing to the sheet pan, my baking times was a little longer than written — around 30 minutes for the 4″ cakes, and somewhat longer for the 7″ cake. While baking may seem like more of an exact science than general cookery, the truth is that times and temperatures are guidelines at best. I judged doneness by look, touch, and a well-placed toothpick.
After a short stint cooling in their pans, I removed inverted the cakes, flipping them right side up to rest on parchment lined racks. Each of the baby cakes save one, left a bit of cake in the pan. With the buttered parchment lining, the 7″ cake released perfectly. On that basis I’ll be sure to line every cake with parchment next time.
The resulting cakes are definitely full of flavor. One baby cake went to my local library. A librarian correctly identified both the coffee and cocoa. Being well-stocked with cookbooks, she pulled Baking With Julia from the shelf to consult the recipe. For my tastes, these cakes were a little too strong with molasses flavor. I attribute that to my use of Brer Rabbit “Full Flavor” molasses. Milder molasses would have been more palatable, alas “Full Flavor” was all my local store carried. A generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream is almost mandatory.
The next time I make these cakes, I’ll substitute honey, cane syrup, or another liquid sweetener for some of the molasses. Likewise, I’ll cut back the espresso powder, and perhaps bump the ground ginger up a tad. An encore may be as soon as this month. Last year the brothers and their wives received homemade fudge and cream caramel. This year, a few ginger bread cakes may find their way under the tree.