Wild-winged Ginger Cherubs came to me in a vision the other night and whispered in my ear:
Ginger Cherubs: You must create a snacking cake that clears the nasal passages and is low in fat.
Me: Could such a thing exist?
Ginger Cherubs: It could and it must. The whole world depends on spicy, sweet, and low-fat cakes.
Me: Well, I can’t let the world down. I promise! I promise I’ll carry out this mission, even if I don’t have a 9-inch square, baking pan! I’ll just use whatever I have on hand!
Ginger Cherubs: That’s why we chose you.
And then they were gone, but not forgotten. I woke up this morning, started the laundry, and then I whipped up a batch of low-fat gingerbread cake so spicy, it felt like a herd of Ginger Cherubs smacked me in the face. However, as I was always taught: When ginger slaps you in the face, turn the other cheek for good health. I lifted my fork and gladly turned my cheek again and again and again. That’s how much I liked this cake, so I’ll share the recipe with you—along with some other random facts for good measure.
Random Fact One: “Horn root” is the original name in Sanskrit for ginger and this spice has been used for over 5,000 years in India and China to not only treat different ailments, but also to flavor foods, according to Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects by Ann M. Bode and Zigang Dong.
Random Fact Two: Kenneth F. Kiple (2007) of the Bowling Green Department of History tells us in A Movable Feast: Ten Millennia of Food Globalization that during the 11th-13th centuries in Europe, Crusaders returned from the East with a variety of spices. These spices included cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, mace, nutmeg, and pepper. Mostly the wealthy enjoyed these spices in different recipes for health and festive feasts (103).
Random Fact Three: Gingerbread reached great popularity in medieval Europe, according to Amanda Fiegl, a Smothsonian.com contributor, who traces the origin of gingerbread using Steven Stellingwerf’s work The Gingerbread Book as a guide. A summary of its contents can be found in her article, “A Brief History of Gingerbread.”
Random Fact Four: An original recipe for “course gingerbread” can be found in the 1683 version of An English Housewife by G. Markham, which is transcribed by K. Robert. This recipe requires medieval cooks to gather a quart of honey, refine it over the coals of a fire, and then combine it with ginger, pepper, licorice, anise seeds, and saunders or red sandalwood, according to medievalcookery.com. Wine and ale can be added—along with “manchets” or breadcrumbs to make a thick paste. The instructions then indicate that three cakes can be formed from this mixture and that they should be dried “gently.”
The medieval recipe above inspired some of my choices for ingredients. Though I didn’t choose ale or wine, I did find some rum in my pantry—along with molasses instead of honey. There was no need for pepper, either, because the amount of ginger I used would have overpowered the pepper. (After all, I wasn’t visited in a dream by the Pepper Cherubs. Only Ginger Cherubs exist, which is why hardly anyone bakes a Pepperbread cake these days.)
Preheat the oven to 350° and spray an 8×8 square baking pan with cooking spray
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup reduced fat butter spread (6 tablespoons)
¼ cup egg substitute
¼ cup dark rum
1 cup molasses
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup hot water
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Then, beat in the eggs and stir in the molasses and rum.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and all spices. Then, mix in the hot water to make a smooth batter. Add a few more teaspoons of hot water if the mixture is too thick or powdery.
Bake for one hour or until a toothpick, inserted in the middle, comes out clean.
Icing on the cake would be nice, but it’s not necessary. I couldn’t wait to try the cake, so I never got around to icing it. It is a dense, somewhat drier cake, but it’s not too dry and it’s not overly sweet. That ginger also just hit the inside of my nose immediately, but in a good way—as tempting as that sounds.
Me: Alex, you have to try this cake! You can really taste the ginger!
Alex: (Trying the cake) Oh, my gosh! It’s so good, Mom! We have to share this with Dad.
Me: He’s at the store right now, trying on jeans, but I’ll text him immediately because this is really important. (Texting and talking out loud): The cake! Oh, the cake is so good and spicy.
Nate’s Text: Great! Success!
My Text: Yasss!! Get home now.
Nate’s Text: I’m trying on pants.
My Text: You’ll need new pants anyway after you try this cake. I can’t explain what that means. Just come home immediately.
Nate did not come home immediately. He came home with new pants and tried them on and modeled them before tasting the cake. After that, he shoved a piece of cake in his mouth and said it was “good.”
I agree with Nate. It’s good. It’s ginger slapping good.
Your Turn: Any favorite gingerbread cookie or cake recipes? Feel free to share—especially if you have any links from your blogs that you would like to list in the comments section below.