Mr. Glad and I were taking a walk along the bike path yesterday afternoon when he noticed a sweet aroma in the air. “Gingerbread or something like that,” he guessed. Ah, gingerbread, I thought, that is just the thing for a birthday cake tonight.
Our friend May was going to be at our house for dinner and I had planned a belated birthday celebration; when we got home I began to put this one together. It’s the recipe I’ve used most often for 40+ years, the original idea of “Wheatless Gingerbread” found in Joy of Cooking.
I wrote about my history with that cookbook last year, and my intention to get the latest edition, which I have since done — actually, it was a gift from my husband — partly because it is the 75th Anniversary Edition. This book includes many recipes from previous editions, plus many new and modern ones, and I do like it. So far my only complaint is the sans serif font that it is printed in.
But it doesn’t have this strange recipe that I customized into many incarnations, hoping to make it ever healthier and more to my liking. Always I was trying to make pastries and baked goods less sweet because that way you can also better taste the butter and everything else.
(It just occurred to me that if you make your cakes too sweet you also won’t be able to be as discerning as Bettie Botta of tongue twister fame, who “said this butter’s bitter if I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter but a bit of better butter will make my bitter batter better.”)
The last version before this had been enough to fill a lasagne pan, because healthy gingerbread is something you can’t have too much of, if you have at least a couple of hungry kids around. But! Now we don’t have any of those – so last night I made yet another improved version, cutting the old quantities in two again. Also, May can’t eat milk products, so I substituted coconut oil for the butter in this one.
The original recipe that called for cornstarch had the most tender and crumbly texture, and even this improved cake does not hold together well (as we found last night!). Especially if it’s children who will be eating it, either have a dog to lap those tasty crumbs off the floor, or take the cake outdoors for a picnic.
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole rye flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Put the oil, sugar and molasses in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir to melt. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Sift the remaining dry ingredients together. Add the eggs to the liquid ingredients, then stir in the dry ingredients and pour into a greased 10- or 11-cup pan.
Bake in an oven preheated to 325° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
When it was nearly time to serve the cake I began to tell May about my memory of a birthday cake she had made for me almost 30 years ago, and how when it broke into pieces she used extra ice cream in the seams to reassemble the pieces. This had made an extra yummy cake and no one minded a bit. We laughed about this and other evidence of our similar cooking styles.
May was hovering with her camera over her cake, which made me think to remove it to a plate to make it more photogenic, and what do you know? It broke into three pieces! May thought it a special sign of blessing that the shallow divot off the bottom was in the shape of a heart. So that it would be visible for the photo op, before I set that last piece back into place I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on the rest of the surface.
There were no complaints about our warm and homey, lovey and spicy treat. Happy Birthday, May!