December 5, 2018 10:46:07 AM
Good gingerbread is dark and moist, with an intriguing hint of bitterness and a peppery finish. Usually it's a rustic square cake or maybe even an attractive Bundt, but it's never quite sophisticated enough to serve as the centerpiece holiday dessert.
We wanted to transform homey gingerbread into a stately layer cake. The problem? Traditional recipes are too moist to be stacked four layers high. We knew we could fix the excess moisture problem by cutting back on the molasses or coffee in our recipe or adding a bit more flour. But both strategies would lighten the color and dull the flavor.
Instead, we added a conventional cake ingredient that's unconventional in gingerbread: cocoa powder. Cocoa contains a high proportion of absorbent starch; just 1/4 cup of it soaked up the cake's excess moisture, so the crumb was no longer objectionably sticky. The cocoa also deepened the color and flavor of our gingerbread without making the cake taste chocolaty. As a bonus, it diluted some of the gluten, making the cake's crumb more tender.
Sprinkling chopped crystallized ginger over the top of the cake completed the holiday gingerbread revamp. Use a 2-cup liquid measuring cup to portion the cake batter. Do not use blackstrap molasses here as it is too bitter.
GINGERBREAD LAYER CAKE
Start to finish: 3 hour 30 minutes
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup brewed coffee
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
5 cups frosting
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
Nutrition information per serving: 590 calories; 201 calories from fat; 23 g fat (3 g saturated; 5 g trans fats); 38 mg cholesterol; 365 mg sodium; 94 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 75 g sugar; 3 g protein.