Ginger is a spice that I love to include in my baking during the winter. It’s a warming spice in any recipe that it is used in, not just traditional gingerbreads. Ginger is not always the featured spice in spice-laden cakes, but it is the featured spice in this Double Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. The ginger in this cake comes in two forms, ground ginger and crystallized ginger, both helping to deliver lots of ginger in a cake that is also flavored with molasses and laced with a touch of cinnamon.
I like working with ground ginger for a couple of reasons, not least of which is that I always have it on hand in my spice cabinet. Ground ginger has a softer, warmer flavor to it than fresh ginger does. I tend to associate this flavor with gingerbread and with the holidays, which is why I opted to use it instead of adding sharper freshly grated ginger root into the cake batter. For best results, make sure that your ground ginger is relatively fresh (purchased within the past year), so it is potent.
The second type of ginger is crystallized ginger, which is chunks of fresh ginger that have been candied. You can buy it in chocolate chip-sized pieces and in larger chunks that need to be chopped by hand. The crystallized ginger adds pockets of intense sweetness and spice, amping up the ginger flavor overall, throughout the cake. I also used a handful of crystallized ginger to decorate the top of the cake.
Since I included crystallized ginger as a garnish, I opted to use a simple vanilla cream cheese icing between the layers of this cake. The soft tang of cream cheese is a classic match for ginger and molasses cakes of all shapes and sizes, as it contrasts well with the sweetness and spice of the cakes. There is enough frosting that you could completely cover the cake in a thin layer, but I prefer the open-sided “naked” cake look for this particular recipe. If the crystallized ginger on top of the cake isn’t quite enough for you, add a handful to the middle layer of cream cheese icing between putting the top cake layer on. The cake will keep well for several days after baking, stored in an airtight container.
Double Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat, then turn up the heat to medium and cook the butter for 4-6 minutes, until the butter begins to brown. Once the butter starts to brown, it will brown quickly, so watch it carefully. Remove from heat when butter is golden and smells nutty. Pour into a large bowl and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Set aside 1 tbsp of browned butter for the frosting (below).
Stir sugar, egg, molasses and vanilla into cooled browned butter and whisk to combine.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.
Turn cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely and remove the parchment circles on the bases of the cakes.
Once they have cooled, place on cake round on a cake plate and top it with half of the cream cheese frosting. Place second cake round on top and spread remaining frosting over it. Sprinkle crystallized ginger on top of the cake for decoration.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-oz package cream cheese frosting, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 -3 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar until frosting is creamy and relatively thick. Spread on top of cooled cakes.