Spiced Ginger Cake: Delicious!

April 19th, 2015

Ginger Cake 1

Ruth Reichl, food critic, former Gourmet Magazine editor, and prolific author has just published her first novel called Delicious!.  This is a “must read” for foodies.  The evocative descriptions of making, tasting and enjoying food is so much a part of the story that it kept me reading long into the night.  The main character is a twenty something gal from California who moves to New York City to interview for a job at a food magazine called Delicious!; think Gourmet Magazine.  Her assets for the job are a perfect palette for discerning flavors and an ability to write well.  One of her tests for getting the job is to cook something for the editor.  She makes this gingerbread cake.  She is hired immediately and all of the staff want her recipe.

Ginger Cake 2V

In the book this is called Gingerbread, but to me it is more like a ginger spice cake.  It is the only recipe in the book and is worthy of its starring role.  The flavor is complex.  You must grind whole spices to achieve the desired flavor.  Whole peppercorns (Yes, peppercorns in a cake), whole cloves, whole cinnamon sticks, and whole cardamom.  There is a generous amount of freshly grated ginger root (1/4 cup) and the zest of 2 to 3 oranges.  Once the cake comes out of the pan it is painted with a bourbon reduction and then drizzled with an orange and powdered sugar glaze.  The cake is moist and so good that it is now my favorite by far.  David is off on a motorcycle trip for two weeks.  I had a dear friend spending the weekend with me since I am still finding it hard to get around.  I have an appointment for x-rays on Monday to determine if I have broken anything in my leg. Jackie and I dug into the cake on Friday night and we both oohed and aahed over it as we scraped our plates clean.  She said “Hurry up and take pictures of this so we can have more”.

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

I highly recommend this book.  The scenes of an Italian Market and different restaurants are a fun look at New York City.  There is also a story line about a girl who writes to James Beard during World War II.  It is an historical look at how Italians were treated during the war.  Many places stopped serving spaghetti because it was considered “Enemy Food”.  All and all, this was a fun read and the recipe is an added bonus.

BILLIE’S GINGERBREAD ( From Delicious! by Ruth Reichl )

Whole black peppercorns
Whole cloves
Whole cardamom
1 cinnamon stick (I used 2)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large pieces fresh ginger root (1/4 cup, tightly packed, when finely grated)
Zest from 2 to 3 oranges (1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 6 cup Bundt pan.

Grind your peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom (individually) and measure out 1/4 teaspoon of each (You can use pre-ground spices, but the cake won’t taste as good.)  Grind your cinnamon stick and measure out 1 teaspoon (Again, you can use ground cinnamon if you must.)

Whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a small bowl.

In another small bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk into the sour cream.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until the mixture is light, fluffy, and almost white.  This should take about 3 minutes.

Grate the ginger root-this is a lot of ginger-and the orange zest.  Add them to the butter/sugar mixture.

Beat the flour mixture and the egg mixture, alternating between the two, into the butter until each addition is incorporated.  The batter should be as luxurious as mousse.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until cake is golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Remove to a rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

1/2 cup bourbon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

While the cake cools in its pan, simmer the bourbon and the sugar in a small pot for about 4 minutes.  It should reduce to about 1/3 cup.

While the cake is still in the pan, brush half the bourbon mixture onto its exposed surface (the bottom of the cake) with a pastry brush.  Let the syrup soak in for a few minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack (I used a serving plate).

Gently brush the remaining mixture all over the cake.

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted or put through a strainer
5 teaspoons orange juice

Once the cake is cooled, mix the sugar with the orange juice and either drizzle the glaze randomly over the cake or put it in to a squeeze bottle and do a controlled drizzle.

Printable Recipe


21 responses to “Spiced Ginger Cake: Delicious!”

  1. penny @ the comforts of home says:

    Oh Penny! I hope you did not break anything. I am glad you have someone staying with you. This cake looks and sounds wonderful as does the book.

    Let me know what happens after the xrays!

  2. Barbara says:

    I’ll be anxious to try it, Penny. And read the book. My bread pudding recipe comes from a book published years ago and it was also the only recipe in the book. It’s divine, so this will be too.
    I make Maida Heatter’s Gingerbread and it has pepper in it as well. It’s darker, more like one thinks of gingerbread. I like the idea of light and all that fresh ginger.
    Hope nothing is broken! Let us know. Keeping fingers crossed for you.
    My daughter gave me Huckleberry. It’s a delight and I’ve already posted several recipes from it. I’d like to make almost everything in it. (Trying not to buy any more cookbooks….I have way too many!)

    • Penny says:

      I know what you mean about too many cookbooks, but I can’t seem to help myself. I went to the Doc. yesterday and x-rays show that I have a sprain, nothing fractured. Thank goodness. Thanks for your concern Barbara.

  3. Monique says:

    I am ready to beg the Blogger Gods..I don’t get your posts..I know I sound like a broken record..one day we shall overcome!

    Penny I love Ruth Reichl and thanks for the heads up..I am wondering if you read her previous books?
    Tender at the bone? Comfort me with apples?
    Loved Tender At the Bone..
    I have already printed up this cake..as it looks nothing like a gingerbread..but ginger:) If that makes any sense..
    You must get well soon..Yes et xrays..our neighbor just came back from Florida w/ a broken foot..It will heal..but they are happy he got the xrays..
    Take care!
    Try this link for the pizza..but I think you have a wood oven?
    For pizzas?

    This recipe enables a great crust w/out..
    And I like the BBQ flavor..I use Costco rotisserie chicken..a whole chicken is to much for J and I..so I make this 2 days later:)


    • Penny says:

      Monique, have you tried subscribing to my blog by entering your email address in the box provided on my home page? That might be the best way to be notified.
      The only other Ruth Reichl book that I’ve read is her first one where she talks about what a horrible cook her Mother was. I need to read more of her books.
      Thanks for the link to the pizza. Will check it out.
      So glad that the x-rays showed only a sprain and not a fracture. Thanks for thinking of me.

  4. Madonna says:

    I love those ooh and aah moments. I actually have all the ingredients but the ginger. I will put this on my list to make soon.

    I saw a television interview with Ruth Reichl. She said her mother was such a terrible cook that she gave her guest food poisoning. She said it was a determining factor in her search for great food.

    Health issues will slow you down. Hope your trip for X-rays turn out well.

    • Penny says:

      Thanks Madonna, I know you will love this cake. It just takes time to grate the ginger and grind the spices. But that is what I love about baking. It seems soothing somehow and with my limited mobility, I don’t have far to go when I am baking in the kitchen. Just a sprain by the way. Thanks for your concern.

  5. Cassie says:

    This looks and sounds delightful! Perfect for a spring dessert (or breakfast or teatime!) with a scoop of good vanilla bean ice cream… Mmm… Also, that book sounds like a great beach read! Love the photos of this cake, even if you were rushed to snap them!

    • Penny says:

      That is exactly how we served the cake Cassie, with vanilla ice cream. We also decided it would be good with strawberries and whipped cream. Hope you had a great trip to Asheville.

  6. Monique says:

    I took a chance and calculated my ingredients..and made 1/2 recipe in a smaller Bundt type.
    It is so good..my kind of treat w/ coffee..at 11.15 AM..:)
    Unfortunately we are not southern..:) had no Brandy..Cognac.. yes..
    I Googled.. and Rhum was suggested..so I used rhum and a touch of vanilla paste..
    I didn’t have any whole cloves..so I left them out..I wanted that freshly ground punch:)
    No glaze..I had enough Orange zest..just icing sugar..

    I love the fresh ginger and cardamom in it..
    Thank you!

  7. Susan says:

    I hope your x-rays didn’t show any breaks, Penny, although they say sometimes a bad sprain can be worse than a break. I love a good spice cake and this sounds wonderful and can’t wait to try it!

    • Penny says:

      Susan, You will love it. x-rays showed just a sprain, but you are right, it is not fun. Hubby is out of town and I just hired a dog walker because with our hilly terrain, I can’t do it. Kitchen work is no trouble. Hee!

  8. Bonnie says:

    My book group read Delicious and I made the cake. We loved the book and the cake. I’ve also read all of Ruth’s memoirs and loved them as well.
    Hope you are on the mend!!


  9. Penny says:

    Thanks Bonnie. The cake just gets better and better. That bourbon sop and orange glaze just adds to it the longer it sits. I love Ruth’s writing also.

  10. Kathleen says:

    This cake sounds perfectly delicious. I can’t wait to read the book!

  11. Ellen says:

    Just wondering before I make this- does it really take between 2-3 oranges to make 1 1/2 teaspoons of grated zest? It seems like a lot of grating to end up with just a teaspoon and a half.

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