Spice House Gingerbread

It isn’t too late for gingerbread! I had been eying this recipe before the holidays but somehow never got around to making it. I am sorry I waited, it is a real keeper.

A few days ago I realized that both my ginger and ground cloves were too old to use. I grew up in a family where spices were kept in the pantry until they were all used up. They became dusty relics of the past. Some of our spices were, I kid you not, at least ten years old! (I bet my mom is still using spices she has had since the early 90’s.) Now we’re told that spices have a shelf life of about a year and that after that their flavor weakens dramatically. It is true. Believe it. Please believe it.

Fresh spices can make or break a recipe like gingerbread and so it is important to keep your stock as fresh as possible. One economical way of doing this is to buy in bulk. When you buy in bulk you are able to buy small amounts of the things you only use once or twice a year and larger quantities of the spices you use weekly/daily. Chicagoans are lucky to have The Spice House.

The Spice House is another of my favorite sources for food in Chicago. Walking into the small shop you are immediately hit with the aromas of hundreds of different spices. It is a pretty wonderful experience. The shop has a superb staff that is not only very friendly and helpful but also real experts on the spices they sell. You can buy as little as an ounce of a spice or as much as a pound. In addition to being the best quality spices you will find, they are also very reasonably priced. Much cheaper than shopping at a supermarket and much cheaper than any of the brand names that are out there. A couple of months ago I vowed that I would never again buy from anyone other than The Spice House and I am loving that decision. It provides me with an excuse to visit one of my favorite places more often.

With fresh spices in hand, I set out to tackle Ina Garten/James Beard’s gingerbread. This cake will be a huge hit in your house. I sometimes find gingerbread to be a little too heavy and sweet, due in part to the molasses but this cake is brightened considerably by a generous addition of orange zest and an orange and sugar glaze. It is spicy and sweet and pretty close to perfect.

Gingerbread (adapted from an Ina Garten recipe which was adapted from a James Beard recipe)

  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup minced dried crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease an 8×8-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Remove from heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt together in a small bowl. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth.

Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

When the cake is cool, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice together until the desired consistency is reached. Add more sugar or juice to thicken or thin the glaze. Pour over the gingerbread, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake. Allow glaze to set and then cut into 9 pieces.

13 comments to “Spice House Gingerbread”

  1. It’s never too late for gingerbread! You’ve also guilted me into thinking about what spices in my cupboard might be past their prime (which is no bad thing, because only this week I’ve been hearing about a new fresh spice supplier here in Ireland, which I am going to have to check out…)

  2. Oh you make me want to live in Chicago! I have a hard time in my area (coastal NC) finding a decent grocery store. My selection locally is like a Walmart…prepackaged meal haven, to get to a decent standard one I drive an hour, to get a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s I drive 3 hours! To have a store dedicated to spices near me! How lucky you are. The gingerbread looks wonderful, though I never frost mine.

  3. Hi Lindsay! I had never tried frosted gingerbread, but became an instant fan. Also, you can order on-line through the Spice House!

  4. First thing I thought was “it’s too late for gingerbread” – but then saw your statement to the contrary. You’ve convinced me!

  5. Oooh, orange zest and glaze sound PERFECT for gingerbread. Thanks for reminding me to get new spices.

  6. Will you post something new? My finger is getting tired from hitting the refresh button over and over. Thanks xoxo.

  7. How do you do that? I mean, make it look so de-licious!!!! You know, some of us are trying not to eat sweets right now. So, where are you putting yours? Do you have one of those workplaces where everyone waits to see what Tim brings? Or do you just have an invincible metabolism?

  8. Yes, my coworkers and friends are well fed.
    My metabolism isn’t as invincible as it once was, so I have to be careful. Everything else I eat is pretty healthy and so it seems to balance out the sweets.

  9. Huge lover of all spices and herbs. I just had a questioned about molasses. I have been reading a lot of recipes lately that state unsulfured molasses. I just only ever see molasses labeled cooking molasses. Any suggestions or thoughts on that issue?

  10. Hi SMM:
    Cooking Molasses will work fine in this recipe. As I understand it, cooking molasses is a blend of “fancy” molasses (lighter and sweeter, produced from an earlier stage of processing sugar cane) and blackstrap molasses (dark and bitter, produced from the final stage of processing sugar cane and therefor containing less sugar). I wouldn’t use Blackstrap molasses for baking because I think it is too bitter and not sweet enough (although it actually the healthiest of these options and is often found in health food stores). Unsulphured molasses, made from sun-ripened sugar cane, is lighter and sweeter which is generally why it is called for in baking.

  11. I live like 2 blocks away from the Spice House and actually stopped in today to replenish a few things. I love it!

  12. Tsk, tsk, tsk — your website is bound to add more “wealth” to my hips, but what the heck — ya only go around once! I’ve already downloaded several of your recipes and will most certainly give them a try. Have you ever tried a simple lemon glaze on your gingerbread? That’s how Mom used to make it and it’s quite good.

    Don’t know if I’m your first fan from Washington, DC, but I’m sure I won’t be the last. Many thanks for your irresistable photos and scrumptious recipes!

  13. This is such a gorgeous cake! The texture is amazing. I was surprised because I don’t think I’ve ever made something like this without eggs before. However, even with all the delicious (fresh!) spices, the taste of molasses is what comes out, which I guess makes sense as there’s an entire cup of it. I suppose the molasses must be part of the texture and is the source of sweetness, but I wonder if there’s a way to reduce it a bit to bring out the ginger etc.

What do you think?