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It’s a gingerbread time of year. My cousin Christopher sent me a note this past week asking about Grammy’s gingerbread, feeling like a little spicy dark cake would help round out his snowbound New York life.
What? I did not yet have this on the blog? I couldn’t believe I had not posted it yet, but then I remembered why: Conflicting hand-written recipes. Which was the real one?
As it turns out, the pan was the clue; only one recipe specified the correctly shaped baking pan. Grammy made her gingerbread in a bundt or tube pan, creating a round cake with a big hole in the middle. If you were serving this for any sort of occasion, that big hole was a perfect “bowl” for a pile of whipped cream.
That’s not what made this gingerbread stick, though. What I remember best about this O-shaped gingerbread was the lament. Almost every time Grammy made it, her gingerbread fell. A sunken crease deflated the ring, and Grammy wondered what on earth had gone wrong. According to her, this dessert was a failure every time. She’d apologize, she’d agonize, she’d throw her hands up–ignoring the fact that everyone loved her gingerbread.
I envisioned fixing Grammy’s perennially collapsed gingerbread, solving its issues. But really, why? It tastes delicious. It’s an excellent foil for whipped cream and for homemade applesauce. It always stays moist, a challenge for many gingerbreads.
So rather than say the cake needs fixing, let’s just call it like we see it: Fallen gingerbread. Go ahead and smile when you see that crease. Tell people this is exactly the way the cake should be. And if your cake DOESN’T fall, shoot me a note and tell me what you did differently!
- ½ cup butter (1 stick) at room temperature
- 1½ cups brown sugar
- 1 egg, well-beaten
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup molasses
- ½ cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube or bundt pan. (I’d suggest you do this even if the pan is nonstick.)
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg. Sift all dry ingredients together; mix water and molasses. Add the dry and the wet alternately to the butter and sugar mixture, about half of each at a time.
Pour batter into the pan, and transfer to the oven. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester, skewer or broom straw inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in pan, then loosen around the edges and turn out onto a serving platter. Serve either warm or at room temperature.
I went through Grammy’s recipes with my father — her son — several times. We would look for what was not there, such as Tipsy Parson, as well as talk about the recipes I already had.
When Dad got to Grammy’s pumpkin pie recipe, he stopped and smiled. “People who didn’t like pumpkin pie were converted when they ate Grammy’s,” he said.
The pie is lighter than most pumpkin pies, thanks to the trick of separating the eggs and beating the whites. I’d also credit the relatively large quantity of grated nutmeg for the pleasure in this pie.
Grammy’s Pumpkin Pie
- Pastry for one-crust 9-inch pie
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cream
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Put pumpkin puree in large bowl. Add salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and egg yolks; mix. Add sugar, cream and melted butter; mix. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Add to pumpkin mixture and fold in gently.
Line pie pan with pastry; pour in pumpkin mixture. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until pie filling puffs up and begins to brown; a knife stuck in about two inches from the edge should come out clean. If crust begins to get too dark at about the 20-25 minute mark, protect it with a crust-cover or strips of tin foil to prevent over-browning.
Recipe and photograph copyright 2009 Garside Group LLC