In the Kitchen: Chocolate Ginger Cake

The other day I thumbed through a small notebook I often carry when I’m out of the house (which isn’t often). And came across a recipe I’d obviously found in doctor’s-office magazine. Chocolate gingerbread. I’d notated my jottings: Better Homes & Gardens January 2009 (what can I say? I’m a historian!). 

Random Photo Series, 2014

Random Photo Series, 2014

Been in there almost six years. Decided it sounded good. So I made it using the recipe below. But: to write this post, I go-go-ducked and found the original.

It's from Nancy Wall Hopkins, who named it Chocolate Gingerbread. The recipe that follows is my version of her cake (because, really, it's a cake, not a bread.) 

The original recipe calls for a 12” cast iron skillet. I liked the idea and used same to make my cake. But, as I note below, it’s not necessary.  

No pix. I had the thing all cut up for freezing before I realized I’d not taken a photo. What can I say? 

Chocolate Ginger Cake

  • 2-3/4 c flour
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1/4 t ground clove
  • t baking soda
  • t baking powder
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 c molasses
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • 2 T butter
  • couple of tablespoons of fresh ginger, slivered or shaved or whatever. Just not chunks.
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • hefty cup of chopped bittersweet chocolate. 

NOTE on the chocolate: Aim for rich and dark. Be generous: it has to stand up to the ginger flavor. You're aiming for small chunks. Good chocolate is hard to chop, that’s for sure. If you have a food processor you trust, use that to chop. Easier alternative: if you can find quality chocolate in “chip” form, use those. And if you’re feeling brave, it would be interesting to melt the chocolate and lace it into the batter. 

Oven to 350.

Mix dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, carefully mix the molasses and melted butter, and then mix those with 1 cup of water. 

NOTE: Here's where my first attempt went awry. I mixed the molasses and water and then added the melted butter. And the butter broke. Badly. I wasn’t sure if the cake would even “work.” It did, whew. BUT: experience now suggest: mix the molasses and butter together. When they're well mixed, dilute with water. That's the essence of this step: you're creating the cake's liquid base by diluting a hefty dose of buttery molasses.


In a 12” cast iron skillet: cook the ginger and the other 2 tablespoons of butter. Essentially saturate and slightly cook the ginger in the fat. Not rocket science. Pan off the heat.

In a separate bowl, whip the butter a bit. Add the sugar. (The original recipe called for a full cup. Too much for me. I want to highlight the spice and chocolate.) Add the eggs one at a time. Mix well.

This is the step for thorough mixing. Because once you start adding the flour, you want to handle the batter as little as possible. (Gives the cake a more even, more moist texture.)

It's time to add the dry ingredients, the molasses mixture, and the chocolate chunks.  Fold in the dry and molasses alternately, ending with liquid if you can. Then gently fold in the chocolate. 

Pour the batter into the cast iron skillet, which should be good and warm. Not sizzling, but warm. At this point, I (gently) mixed the ginger-and-butter coating into the batter. Turns out he original recipe pours the batter over. No mixing. So I’d do that next time. 

Into the oven. The original recipe recommended cook time of 40-45 minutes. I tested mine at 40 and it was done. And, in my opinion, after tasting it, about two minutes overdone. So: keep an eye on the time. Remember that the cake will continue to bake after you take it from the oven. Next time, I’ll check the cake at 35 minutes.

By the way: I always set my cake pan on a metal pan sheet pan before it goes in the oven. Much easier, much safer, to maneuver the cake. 



Random Photo Series, 2014

Random Photo Series, 2014

No problem. You've got choices. 

You could simply eliminate the ginger cooked in butter. It’s not clear that it added that much. If you opt for that route, you could move those two tablespoons of butter to the molasses mix. Indeed, that might improve the cake over all. It'd be a bit more buttery.

If you want to keep the cooked ginger and butter, do one of two things. 

  1. Pour it into your buttered baking pan, and then pour the batter on top of that. 
  2. Pour the batter into the baking pan first. Then pour the butter and ginger over the top. This would probably work especially well if you used a tube or "bundt" pan (where what is the top as the cake bakes becomes the bottom once it’s removed from the pan).

And speaking of bundt-style pans: That’s my pan of preference for cakes. It’s what I’ll use next time should I decide against the cast iron pan. Make sure to grease and flour the pan well.

Otherwise, use a 13 x 9 inch pan. 9 x 9 is a bit too small, I think. This is a fairly dense cake. If you opt for 13 x 9, I’m guessing the cake will bake to “done” faster than in a cast iron pan. So start checking it at  25 minutes. If you go with the 13 x 9, make sure to butter and/or line with parchment.