The Sticky Gingerbread of My Dreams
…with Cinnamon Caramel Sauce, Cream Cheese Crema & Chocolate Gravel
The difference between regular gingerbread and sticky gingerbread is the moisture level of the baked cake. Sticky gingerbread should be very moist–as in don’t overbake it. I kick up the flavor intensity a notch or two for my sticky gingerbread–thus a triple hit of ginger beer, powdered ginger, and a whopping quantity of fresh ginger. You are unlikely to discern it, but the apple butter provides fruity acidity (which balances the bitter acidity of the molaasses beautifully) and flavor intensity, as well as tenderness and moist crumb. It makes a world of difference in this gingerbread. As for the pepper, you can of course leave it out, especially for the kids, but I love the way the heat builds on the palate with each bite.
NOTE You will notice the decidedly wet batter and may even worry as you pour it into the pan. Never fear! Your gingerbread will turn out beautifully.
NOTE I like this gingerbread to stand tall and proud on the plate, thus use an 8- by 8-inch baking pan. However, if you don’t have this size, a 9- by 9-inch pan will also work.
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (9 ounces)
1 tablespoon unsweetened natural-process cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons freshly ground white pepper, optional but wonderful
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unsulphured molasses
1 cup non-alcoholic ginger beer (or ginger ale) (I LOVE this one)
1 cup apple butter, room temperature (I like this one)
¾ cup unsalted butter, soft room temperature (1½ sticks)
scant ½ cup (2 ounces) peeled, finely grated or pureed fresh ginger (a microplane or spice grinder makes quick work of this)
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
light dusting of powdered sugar
softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream
Cream Cheese Crèma (recipe below)
Cinnamon Bay Leaf Caramel Sauce (recipe below)
Chocolate, Gingersnap, & Toffee Gravel (recipe below)
- Coat an 8- by 8-inch metal baking pan lightly with vegetable oil spray and then with flour, tapping out any excess. Reserve.
- In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, allspice, cloves, and salt
- In a large saucepan, bring molasses, ginger beer, apple butter, and butter to a simmer.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda. Caution: Mixture will expand in volume.
- Stir in grated ginger, and vanilla. Reserve.
- In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
- Slowly whisk liquid ingredients into the egg mixture (to temper the eggs).
- Add flour mixture and with a large balloon whisk, whisk for a full minute. Batter will be rather fluid.
- With a flexible rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes, until top of cake looks set and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with very moist but not gooey crumbs. Do not over bake this cake. Under baking slightly is decidedly better than over baking.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. (No, you should not cut and eat the cake while it is still warm. Yes, of course you will. It’s FABULOUS warm from the oven.)
- when the cake is cool, cut it into twelve, 2- by 3-inch pieces. Serve with one or more of the optional accompaniments.
Makes one 8- by 8-inch cake; serves 12.
Cream Cheese Crèma
This accompaniment is more interesting and substantial than whipped cream and lighter than frosting. It’s the perfect counter balance for this intensely spicy gingerbread.
6 ounces chilled, premium cream cheese
½ cup chilled heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
- Using a small hand held mixer and a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until creamy and smooth.
- Add the cream and powdered sugar, and beat until softly whipped.
- Cover and chill until needed.
Makes about 1 cup.
Cinnamon Bay Leaf Caramel Sauce
Although sticky gingerbread is often served with a caramel sauce, I felt it might be gilding the lily. You know, too much cloying sweetness. But although completely decadent, it works.
To avoid the perceptible slight grittiness that powdered cinnamon adds to an otherwise velvety caramel, I infuse the cream with whole cinnamon, vanilla, and bay leaf prior to using the strained cream in the caramel. Don’t be put off by the bay leaf; it adds an evocative flavor note that works very well here.
1 cup heavy cream
5-inch length Mexican cinnamon, broken into pieces
4-inch length vanilla bean, split in half
2 dried bay leaves
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup heavy cream, optional, depending on desired fluidity
- In a small saucepan bring 1 cup cream, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and bay leaves to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover, and let macerate for at least 1 hour. Strain the cream through a fine mesh strainer. Dry and reuse the vanilla bean if desired. Discard the cinnamon and bay leaves. Reserve the cream.
- In a large skillet with a light-colored stainless steel interior, add the sugar and set over medium-high heat.
- Cook, stirring occasionally with a silicon spatula, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.
- Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm amber hue, about 2-3 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture.
- Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering, and then slowly add the strained cream. Simmer over low heat, whisking constantly until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
- Serve warm or allow sauce to cool at room temperature. It will thicken as it sits. Store in the fridge and rewarm as needed.
Makes about 1¼ cup.
Chocolate, Gingersnap, & Glazed Pecan Gravel (or Dust)
This easy dessert garnish is the creation and specialty of my good friend and culinary magician, Rosalyn Rourke. She chops Lindt bittersweet, semisweet, and white chocolate bars, crisp shortbread cookies, and sugar-glazed pecans to achieve this heavenly mix. For our use here, I subbed Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnap Cookies for the shortbread cookies.
You can chop the chocolate gravel to a dust if you like, depending on how you intend to use it. But it’s quite effective here to leave the chocolate chunks on the coarse side and then sprinkle them over the hot caramel. You will be rewarded with luscious melted pools of chocolate in the hot caramel.
BTW, this is great to snack on.
3.5 ounce Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Intense Dark chocolate bar
3.5 ounce Lindt Excellence White Coconut chocolate bar
2 ounces Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps (12 cookies)
1 cup Diamond Brand Glazed Pecans (or homemade)
- Break the chocolate bars into manageable size pieces.
- Put all ingredients into a processor fitted with the steel knife and pulse to chop, either coarsely or finely. Alternatively, on a cutting surface, chop with a large French knife to desired coarseness.
- Seal in a Ziploc bag and store in a cool, dry location until needed.
Makes about 3 cups.
Copyright 2012 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.
Greetings from Nepal, Susan
I had never heard of “sticky” gingerbread, thanks to you, now I can make a batch of my own! Such an amazing innovation. Please keep sharing more! All the love xoxo
Susan S. Bradley
Thank you Ushmana! 🙂
This gingerbread is absolutely amazing. I made it using an 8 inch square pan as recommended. I was wondering however if I could use a loaf pan as well? I’d love to make some to give away during the holidays and a loaf of this gingerbread would make a wonderful gift.
Susan S. Bradley
Mark, yes a loaf pan will work too. You may need to adjust the baking time s bit.Happy baking! 🙂
I’m going to make several small mini loaves of this to give out on Christmas 🙂 Do you think they will keep in the fridge for 2 days without changing texture. Also, any suggestions on baking time for 8 mini loaves in a convection oven greatly appreciated!! Thanks!
Susan S. Bradley
Gwen, this cake keeps very well so that shouldn’t be an issue. As far as bake time, depending on the size of your mini loaves, I’m guessing 25-30 minutes. But better to watch for the signs of doneness. “Bake at 350°F until top of cake looks set and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with very moist but not gooey crumbs. Do not over bake this cake. Under baking slightly is decidedly better than over baking.” Hopee this helps, happy baking! 🙂
Much THANKS!!! Making them now 🙂
Love that you used fresh ginger! I love your science experiment! Very cool.
I certainly will be dreaming about these tonight! Gingerbread is hands down my favorite Holiday treat! I love that you used fresh ginger! Pinning to make ASAP!
Your gingerbread looks absolutely divine! My kids would love this…and I would too!
I love this gingerbread and have pinned it so I can remember to make it when the holiday craziness is over. But even better is your explanation of your baking adventure trying to figure out why this version is so wonderful. My kind of gal:)
This gingerbread looks so good, I feel that it would be a dangerous thing to have in the house!
wow and more wow this cake looks so moist and decadent I need a slice now looks so good =)
There is an age old dilemma in my family of cream cheese frosting versus whipped cream for gingerbread. I see you have solved that one easily lol! The one ingredient that did surprise me was the cocoa powder–can you taste it? I am going to try this for sure–it look gorgeous!
What a lot of fabulous options for your cake! Looks and sounds really good. Thanks so much for linking to my humble recipe. 🙂
Susan S. Bradley
Thanks Kellie! Love connecting with other bloggers with a passion for cooking. 🙂
That was a really great post! I have been trying to find the gingerbread I remember….and what I have found is always too dry and lacks the flavor that made me close my eyes and escape to heaven for a few moments! I will definitely be giving this recipe a try. I especially liked the rationale you provided. Thank you!
Thanks so much for these recipes! I’ve been on the hunt for a good gingerbread recipe for a long time, but have never been too successful in finding one that everyone in my family liked. Even Martha Stewart’s fell short of my expectations. Yours looks like it has potential and I’m going to give it a try for sure! Happy Holidays to you and yours, Susan!
I MUST remember to pick up some apple butter and ginger beer next time I’m in town, because I’ve been wanting sticky gingerbread forever. No recipe I tried did it- I had actually convinced myself that I’d imagined having sticky gingerbread at some point as a child. It will be mine now!