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Dark gingerbread cake with rum and citrus

This recipe has been sitting in my files for years, and while we’re on the cusp of summer, gingerbread cake is a comforting reminder of what is behind us—and something to look forward to. This cake uses a lot of ginger, both fresh and powdered, and you could use either oranges or lemons for the citrus. It’s great by itself with a cup of tea or coffee, or served with lashings of rum-augmented whipped cream, or spoonfuls of lime or lemon curd.

Gingerbread cake out of the oven and pan

Adapted from two inspirational recipes, black sticky gingerbread at 101 Cookbooks, and Alice Medrich’s dark-and-stormy gingerbread from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (2012). All dry spices are ground.


  • vegetable oil (grape seed, sunflower, or canola), for greasing
  • 13 1/2 ounces whole wheat pastry flour
  • 5 1/2 ounces dark brown sugar, such as Muscavado or molasses sugar by either Billington’s or India Tree; break apart as many of the lumps as possible
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces fresh ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup rum, either golden or light
  • 1/4 cup orange or lemon juice—plus the zest, set aside
  • 3/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • (optional) 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • (optional) 1/2 teaspoon grains of paradise
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk, cold
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda


  1. Grease a 9×13 inch (or, 11×15 inch, for a thinner cake) baking pan, as well as a measuring jug with the vegetable oil, for easier pouring of sticky ingredients. Line the pan with parchment paper to provide a sling for easy removal. Preheat the oven to 325ºF degrees.
  2. Sift the flour into a bowl. Gently stir in the brown sugar, and set aside.
  3. In a cup for an immersion blender (or, a food processor), purée the fresh ginger root, rum, and citrus juice. Pour this into a large, non-reactive sauce pan.
  4. Measure out the molasses and honey in the greased jug, then add them to the sauce pan, along with the butter. Over low heat, stir until the mixture is smooth; remove from heat.
  5. Whisk into the sauce pan all the dry spices, citrus zest, salt, and milk. When the temperature of this mixture has cooled less than 120ºF, to avoid curdling, whisk in the eggs one at time until smooth.
  6. Whisk in the baking soda, followed by the flour and brown sugar. The batter does not need to be perfectly smooth, so a few small dry lumps are okay.
  7. Pour the batter into the greased pan, and place it in the oven.
  8. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes; a smaller pan will take a bit longer due to a thicker cake. Test with a skewer (no batter sticking to it) for doneness, near the beginning of the estimated time period.
  9. Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before removing it from the pan and onto a rack.
  10. Slice and serve warm, or at room temperature. Optionally garnish with whipped cream (enhanced with more rum!) and/or citrus curds. Store covered in the fridge, and it’ll become pleasantly stickier over the days (kind of like a spicy candy); allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Or wrap in parchment paper, then foil, and freeze for longer storage; defrost by baking at 275ºF (still wrapped up in both paper and foil, to avoid drying out) for about 30 minutes.

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