Gingerbread. Why do we only make this at Christmas? It’s the perfect winter cake to console post-holiday blues. The twinkly lights and decorations have gone into hibernation, the sun still sets way too early for my liking, but I will not be defeated by January gloominess. It seems entirely appropriate to share a recipe full of warmth and comfort. And this is by far the best gingerbread I have ever tasted.
It’s dark, spicy, soft and squidgy with a lovely snowfall of icing sugar on top. The perfect anecdote to help you through the dark, cold nights that follow the holiday season. And wow, does it make the house smell good! The gingery aroma emanating from the oven pulls me out of my post-Christmas slumber and gives me a boost of motivation that is desperately needed this time of year. And even better, the recipe couldn’t be easier. One bowl, mix, bake and eat.
The dry ingredients are combined together in a large bowl – flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. I use a whisk to combine. It’s important to whisk the dry ingredients for about 30 seconds or so (or until your arm starts to ache a little!) because you want the gingerbread to rise evenly. This will only happen if the baking soda is distributed well throughout the batter.
After you’ve whisked like crazy, make three small wells in the dry ingredients with the end of a wooden spoon. The wells get filled with apple cider vinegar (the vinegar activates the baking soda), vanilla extract and vegetable oil. Don’t worry if the hole with the oil spills over, this happens to me every time.
Gingerbread features two star ingredients. Ginger, obviously. And this stuff. Treacle, or molasses. This heavy, sticky, slightly bitter syrup is what gives the gingerbread a color so dark it looks like chocolate. I absolutely love the distinctive richness treacle adds. Love it, love it, love it. I use Lyle’s Black Treacle in the UK, but I’d use a good quality blackstrap molasses if I were in the US.
Ok, treacle rant over. Next comes the final mixing of the wet ingredients. Pour the cold water over the dry ingredient/well mixture and mix until combined. Pour in the treacle and give the batter a final mix until it’s shiny and smooth. I like to bake my gingerbread in a circular 9″ pie pan, but an 8 1/2″ square pan works well too.
And here it is, hot out of the oven. Comfort shows up immediately.
A final dusting of icing sugar. A hot cup of tea. It stays moist for days. You don’t even need eggs. There’s no reason not to make this!
- Plain or all-purpose flour, spooned and levelled: 1¾ cups (220g)
- Baking soda: ½ teaspoon
- Fine sea salt: ½ teaspoon
- Ground ginger: 2 teaspoons
- Ground cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
- Ground allspice: 1 teaspoon
- Dark brown muscovado sugar: ½ cup (120g)
- Apple cider vinegar: ½ teaspoon
- Pure vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon
- Vegetable oil: ⅓ cup (80ml)
- Cold water: ⅔ cup (155 ml)
- Black treacle or blackstrap molasses: ½ cup (120ml)
- Icing sugar: 2 tablespoons (15g)
- Prepare the oven by putting a shelf in the lower third position and preheating it to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/150 degrees C for a fan oven).
- Combine the flour, baking soda, fine salt, spices and brown sugar in a bowl. Whisk together until the baking soda and spices are thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- Make three small wells using the end of a wooden spoon. Pour the apple cider vinegar into one hole and the vanilla into another. Pour the oil into the last oil. Don’t worry if it spills over.
- Pour the cold water on top of the dry ingredient/well mixture and gently combine with the wooden spoon. Add the treacle and mix again until the batter is glossy and smooth.
- Pour the batter into the baking pan and smooth the top until it is even, pushing the batter into the corners or edges first. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes (start checking at 25 minutes) until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar before serving.