I’m not a big gingerbread fan. I think it’s nice, but not particularly wonderful. That said, I think it has its place. And by that, I mean wintertime. Gingerbread is for when it’s cold outside, when there are fires in fireplaces and people are sipping mulled wine. I think of Christmas (even though I don’t celebrate it- I’m Jewish), all the spices and warmth, the sweaters- it’s sweater weather at Christmastime- and scarves.
So gingerbread doesn’t really fit in right now, in July (or June, when I made this!), when the temperatures are getting into the 90s and the sun goes down late. People don’t need jackets, even at midnight, and no one wears scarves except my friend Emma, who only wears them as fashion accessories (and takes them off pretty quickly because really, Emma, it’s too hot for that). No one needs the spicy warmth of gingerbread in summer. But it was in the chapter, so I had to make it! And this is just one of the two gingerbread recipes in ACC (and this chapter), so I will have to be making that one soon, too.
I’ve actually never had gingerbread as a cake before. When I think of gingerbread I think of man shaped cookies and am reminded of feeble attempts at being a gingerbread-house architect (I assure you, they are were not pretty). If you have a second, google “gingerbread” and you’ll see: all of the top results are cookies or houses, not cake.
This was a quick and easy recipe. I made no substitutions or changes. I’m not the biggest fan of using shortening as opposed to butter, but luckily I found some lying around. I also didn’t have enough molasses, so I had to go to the store. It was only later that I found MG’s little tip on the side: “if you start to make it and realize you dont quite have enough molasses, make up the difference with honey. I was desperate one morning and tried it-pretty delicious!” Oh well. I’ll need the molasses later, anyway.
The recipes in ACC have little side bars with stories about the recipes and/or tips. My favorite thing about this recipe (and, in all honesty, this cake) was the sidebar. Apparently this recipe comes from a 1971 edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. MG shares the introduction from the Editors: “Dear Homemaker: From cover to cover, this Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book was written with you, the homemaker, in mind…. Whether you’re an experienced cook, or a newcommer to the world of cooking three meals a day, we want it to be your best friend in the kitchen.”
MG comments: “Well, bless your heart, Editors. My best friend in the kitchen is my microwave, which heats two of the three meals I eat every day. While the Editors might have missed a few episodes of Maude and probably the entire feminist movement, most of the BH&GNCB baking recipes have withstood the test of time.”
MG is right- BH&GNCB recipes have withstood the test of time- I have a copy from the early 70s, and it’s one of my favorite cookbooks. My mom got it years ago and I’ve found a number of great pie recipes in it. Mine doesn’t have an introduction, and I’m not sure what year it was published so it may or may not be the same one MG has. I checked, though- the gingerbread recipe is exactly the same except my cookbook specifies light molasses and MG says that she uses dark/robust. I used molasses that was labelled neither light nor dark nor robust.
The unfortunate thing is that this snarky little tidbit was my favorite part of this recipe. I’m not going to lie- I was not impressed. Now is really not the time for gingerbread, so I couldn’t really embrace it. It did rain the morning I took this to work- a nice bit of June gloom to help us pretend it was the proper time for gingerbread, but it wasn’t really enough.
It wasn’t bad, but since I am not a gingerbread fan, I didn’t think it was great. But it was properly spicy and was a good representation of gingerbread. And it got eaten, which was the point. Maybe I’ll try this again in six months, when it’s cold out.