I don’t know what it is about gingerbread, but it’s the perfect cake for December and the holiday season. It has jubilation written all over it–just try and remain grumpy when you catch a whiff of gingerbread in the air! As the temperatures drop to freezing and below, the sharp ginger spice and the sweet, earthy pear undertones speak to me. Gingerbread smells of Christmas, and even though I am of the Hannukah persuasion, I bake gingerbread with abandon every holiday season, filling my apartment with warmth and a desire to curl up on my couch watching Sleepless in Seattle reruns on television, while eating cake with mugs of hot tea. Often I dream of Christmas trees and their smell. I so long for one.
Pears and ginger strike me as dessert soul mates. And since we’re left with (not great) apples and citrus to pass he winter months, pears are particularly satisfying this time of year. I always have them on hand around this time to snack on, to pair with cheese, or to tuck into this cozy, homey, fragrant gingerbread.
When I spied this recipe in Gourmet magazine a few months ago, I immediately clipped it and waited for just the right (cold) moment to bake this cake. And so on Sunday when it was cold, rainy, and downright miserable outside, I set out to bake some gingerbread, and was amazed not only at just how quickly the whole thing came together, but also how good it tasted. Fresh ginger is key here, and while it’s a bit of a pain to peel and grate, it makes all the difference in the taste! I like to take large knobs of ginger, peel them, and pulverize them in my small food processor. I keep the jar of grated ginger on hand for whenever the mood strikes me – it tends to sit well for a week or so. This makes using ginger a total cinch.
Yo might have noticed: this is not the prettiest of cakes, but where it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for with flavor and taste. I had this with a cup of strong black tea (Assam is my choice) and would recommend that over a cup of coffee. I also extended the baking time for about 7 minutes as my cake pan was 8 inches and not 9. I had to make do with what I had at home and it worked out just fine.
Try as I may, the holiday season makes me want to go all out and get a tree (shh, I know it’s not part of Hanukkah!) and decorate and leave out milk and cookies for Santa. Dare anyone judge me?
Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2008
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup grated peeled ginger
1 Bosc pear, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, knocking out excess.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
On low heat, melt butter with water.
Beat together brown sugar and molasses with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Beat in flour mixture at low speed until just combined. Add butter mixture and ginger, beating just until smooth. Pour into cake pan.
Peel pear and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Scatter over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly.