In a break from tradition, I chose to substitute honey for molasses. Molasses is typically a requirement in gingerbread and ginger hermit cookies, imparting both the characteristic deep brown color and a full, dark, slightly bitter flavor. But it's a flavor I find highly distinct and old-timey (I call hermits "granny cookies," ranking them as to oatmeal raisin cookies as oatmeal raisin cookies are to chocolate chip) and kind of overkill when there's already darkness and bitterness implicit from the stout. Whereas I would be hard-pressed to distinguish one brand of molasses from another, honey has a magnificent variety. I played it safe and used an extra-dark buckwheat honey from New Hampshire, probably as close to molasses as I could get. The Williamsport area offers varieties of dark amber goldenrod honey and rich red-brown Japanese knotweed honey that would be ideal.
|Sweet & hot, like me|
The star performer of gingerbread is, of course, the ginger, and this recipe is no slouch. Three different types of ginger root are used: the fresh grated root (actually much easier to grate if you peel and freeze it, first), the dried powder most people expect, and finely minced nubs of chewy crystallized ginger, for interest. Complimented by the warmly familiar blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, each bite packs an intense burst flavor. The thick, honey-sweet glaze offers a milder counterpoint. Those with a less pronounced passion for ginger could reduce the fresh and ground quantities by half a tablespoon.
|Let them eat cake|
Honey stout gingerbread cake, honey glaze
Adapted from Kim Laidlaw
For a virgin version, replace the stout with cooled espresso.
1 cup stout (such as Guinness, measure the dark liquid level, not the barm floating on top)
1 cup honey
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon half and half
Preheat an oven to 325 F and butter and lightly flour a Bundt pan, placing it on a rimmed baking sheet.
Whisk the stout, honey, brown sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract, and eggs together in a large bowl.
|Deep & dark|
In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, and salt. Mix in the crystallized ginger.
|Mixin' in the fixins|
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold with a wire whisk until just combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center pulls free clean.
|Good to the last drop|
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate and remove the pan to cool completely.
|Note how the finished cake pulls away from the sides|
Whisk together glaze ingredients in a medium bowl and drizzle over cooled cake, sprinkling with more minced crystallized ginger for effect.