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Eric Akis: Gingerbread cake, just like Mom used to make

Kentucky Gingerbread is an old-fashioned gingerbread recipe, resulting in a cake that is rich with molasses and spice and not overly sweet.
This dense, dark, nicely spiced gingerbread can be served warm or at room temperature. ERIC AKIS

Last week, in the morning, after a night of wintry weather, I looked out my front window and saw neighbourhood kids frolicking in the snow, grinning all the way.

Their smiley faces reminded me of my own childhood, when after a snowstorm my brothers and I would get bundled up, hurriedly head outside and have some fun. We’d be outside for hours, it seemed; enough time for my mom to bake us something sweet to eat when we finally went back inside to warm up.

On some of those occasions she made gingerbread — the cake, not the cookie. And I can still recall it’s wonderful aroma and how happy I felt when she gave me a big warm square of it topped with whipped cream.

That remembrance caused me to have a craving for gingerbread and not long after I was baking some. I didn’t use my mom’s recipe because, like other mom’s did back then, she used a mix that I think was made by Robin Hood Flour.

That was not a problem, though, because many years ago my wife introduced me to her favourite gingerbread recipe that became my favourite, too. It’s called Kentucky gingerbread and the recipe came from the late, famed, Canadian food writer/editor Margot Oliver’s Weekend Magazine Cookbook, published in 1967.

It’s old-fashioned gingerbread rich with molasses and spice, that’s dark and dense and not overly sweet, despite the amount of sugar used. It’s an interesting method because of the way the ingredients are mixed together. But the end result is a not overly thick batter that, when baked, yields a dense and appealing, full flavoured gingerbread.

You can serve the gingerbread warm or at room temperature. Oliver, like my Mom and me, serves it with whipped cream. My wife likes to serve it with lemon sauce, and I’ve included that option in today’s recipe that’s an adaptation of the one Oliver published all those years ago.

Kentucky-Style Gingerbread

Dark, dense and delicious gingerbread you can serve warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream or lemon sauce.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Makes: 12 to 16 squares

1 cup vegetable shortening

• vegetable oil spray

3 large eggs, beaten

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup cooking molasses

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp ginger

2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp hot water

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup boiling water

1 cup whipping cream, whipped and lightly sweetened with icing sugar

• icing sugar, to taste

Put the shortening in a small pot, set over medium heat, and heat just until melted. Remove pot for the heat and cool 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a non-stick, 13- by 9-inch baking pan with oil spray.

Make the batter for the gingerbread by placing the eggs in a large mixing bowl, or bowl of your stand mixer. Beat eggs well. Add the sugar, molasses, spices and melted shortening and mix until well combined.

Put the 2 Tbsp of hot water in a small bowl, add the baking soda, and stir to dissolve.

Mix the baking soda mixture into the batter. Now add the flour and mix well until combined. Finally, mix the boiling water into batter. (The batter won’t be overly thick, yielding a dense and divine gingerbread when cooked.)

Pour batter into the baking pan, scraping the bowl to ensure you get all of it. Bake the gingerbread 45 minutes, or until it springs back when gently touched in the centre.

Cool gingerbread a few minutes and serve warm, or serve at room temperature. To do that, cut the gingerbread into squares, plate them, dust with icing sugar and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Eric’s options: Instead of whipped cream, top plated servings of the gingerbread with lemon sauce. To make it, place 1 cup granulated sugar in a small pot. Add two large eggs and beat thoroughly. Mix in the grated zest and juice of one lemon. Add 1/2 cup of soft butter to the pot, and then stir in 1/2 cup boiling water. Set pot over medium heat and cook and stir until a thickened sauce forms. Serve lemon sauce hot, or at room temperature.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.