Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall
Active Time:
20 Mins
Total Time:
2 Hours
Yield:
Serves 9

Nothing makes a house smell more like Christmas than the sweet and spicy aroma of a freshly baked pan of gingerbread. We’re not talking about the crisp cookies or the houses covered in icing and candy. The taste of those holiday delights just can’t compare to a slice of tender, richly spiced gingerbread cake. The practice of baking and sharing gingerbread originated in Europe several hundred years ago and then made its way to the colonial South as families immigrated to the region and brought their recipes and traditions with them. Ginger from Asia and dried spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, and cloves arrived by ship into Southern ports and traveled inland because they were easy to transport and store. Whole dried spices kept well and retained their flavor and aroma for months. When combined with affordable sweeteners (like molasses or honey) and farmstead staples (such as butter and eggs), gingerbread could be made by home bakers when more expensive ingredients were not an option, which is why it became a wildly popular dessert. If you don't have all the ground spices on hand, you can substitute two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice along with the black pepper.

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together brown sugar, molasses, boiling water, and cubed butter in a medium bowl until butter melts. Whisk in baking soda and salt. Let stand until lukewarm, about 25 minutes. Whisk in egg.

Step 2

Whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and black pepper in a small bowl; add to brown sugar mixture, and whisk until smooth. Pour into a generously greased (with butter or cooking spray) and floured 9-inch square pan.

Step 3

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Transfer gingerbread to a wire rack, and cool completely, about 1 hour. (For the best texture, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container, and let stand at room temperature overnight before serving.) Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Step 4

Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut into 9 squares. Serve with Brown Sugar-and-Ginger Whipped Cream.