Fresh Ginger Cake; OR, Sometimes I'm My Mother


 My mother, since I've known her, has always been a very spontaneous woman. One morning, when I was probably in junior high, parked in front of school with my brothers -- we were all a year and a half apart, with yours truly smack dab in the middle -- my mother casually decided that Instead of school today were are going to Magic Mountain, how does that sound? Incredible, of course. Don't get me wrong, she's the most stable woman you will ever meet. She sat with me when I was sick, scared, bored, or needed help with math homework. She made me go to school even on organized ditch days; in fact, I had perfect attendance in high school. You see, it is such stability which makes her spontaneity even more spontaneous -- you would never expect these things from this sweet little woman, now would you? This, I am certain, is how she came to have so many skills and hobbies. Anything with her hands, those restless hands: gardening, or sewing, or fixing the plumbing, or installing shelves, or reorganizing the entire garage just because, or, more importantly, creating delicious delicious meals and desserts.

My mom very rarely uses recipes. She is a natural in the kitchen. Yes, even with baking! She grew up in a big family, which I'm sure is a great excuse to cook, as there is always someone around to eat what you make, probably even, if I may say so, the disasters. This is why she is able to just whip something up like a cake, out of thin air, like magic.



There were days my mother would start baking at some unreasonable hour in the morning, when the sun was still very much asleep. A mix of spontaneity and culinary desire, perhaps? They were usually bundts or loaves, with citrus flavors and cardamom and sifted confectioners' sugar on top. Each cake was consistently perfect, with the crust just a bit crispy, while the inside was fluffy, like magic. And the whole house would smell like cake. Along with two brothers, the cake would never make it through the day, or more accurately, through the morning.

I think I am like my mother in these moments. In these moments I want to bake just for the sake of baking, even if no one pays any attention to it, even if it just sits there. Alas, usually, I am fearful of baking for no one. It makes me feel lonely. It makes me feel like I should own at least ten cats. So, I usually don't. This, my dear friends, means, when it comes to cakes, which are big by nature, I rarely bake them. What a sad world, n'est-ce pas? 

Last night, I decidedly ignored the usual anxiety-ridden dialogue, and was instead heavily distracted with the thought

Why doesn't my apartment smell like cake? 

It's a little place, the smells will spread quickly. 

I'm not yet quite like my mother, able to just whip up a cake with the ingredients in my pantry. I have to plan these things out. I have to find a recipe. And given how fickle I can be, I need to find a recipe just before I bake it, before I get a chance to change my mind. This is how it came to be that I finally attempted David Lebovitz's Fresh Ginger Cake, and, naturally, how I came to love it. As you will, too, once you decide it's okay to bake for yourself. Especially, this cake. Apparently you can keep it in the fridge for about 5 days, or better, freeze it, without losing its fluffiness! This is amazing. I had never even conceived of not eating the whole cake within the same day. What a revelation! 

In keeping with the theme of my mother's bundts and loaves, which eventually I will post recipes for, I used a loaf pan for this cake pan recipe. It was perfect. I used a 9 x 5 loaf pan, in case you were wondering. Also, I do not have a proper cake pan. Details, details. 

Note: I changed the ingredients from the original recipe a bit, based on what I had in my pantry. For example, I only had blackstrap molasses and preferred pumpkin spice. I will highlight the new ingredients. If you want to follow David's recipe exactly, which is probably as amazing as he is, you can find it in his book Ready for Dessert. Next time, I want to add lemon juice and zest and cardamom. I think my mother would find those ingredients to be fitting.



Fresh Ginger Cake

 adapted from Ready for Dessert by  David Lebovitz


4 oz fresh ginger 
3/4 cup organic blackstrap molasses
1 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup organic canola oil
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp ground black pepper 
1 cup water
2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, room temperature


Before we begin, I must say that there will be a time, after mixing some of these ingredients, that you might say to yourself, as I did,What is this goo? But trust me, this goo becomes something delicious. Do not be afraid!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with oven rack in the middle. 

Butter OR line with parchment paper a 9 x 5 loaf pan. 

After measuring 4 oz, take the ginger, cut off the skin, and chop finely. I would have used a food processor, which I recommend, but I really just dislike cleaning it. So, I chopped it by hand, which is what I usually do when I have time on my hands. 

Bowl #1: Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. Let the gooeyness commence! Don't mix in an attempt to change the gooeyness, just mix. You'll see the magic soon. Set aside. 

Bowl #2: Mix the flour, pumpkin spice, black pepper. Set aside. 

Magic time: Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off heat, and mix in the baking soda. POUR the hot water mixture into Gooey Bowl #1, and mix! Voila! Not so gooey anymore, huh? In fact, is it anything but beautiful? 

Stir the chopped up ginger into Gooey Bowl #1. 

Gradually mix Dry Bowl #2 into Gooey Bowl #1. The outcome will not be thick, it will not be gooey, but it will be something wonderful. 

Now, add the eggs into Gooey Bowl #1. Mix well. 

Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan, and bake for an hour -- Actually, I wish I had baked it for about 5 or so minutes longer, so the top would be magically crispy. Next time! Insert a toothpick through the center to make sure it comes out clean. 

Let sit for about 30 minutes before serving this fluffy ginger magic.