The cookbook featuring recipes from "the neighborhood" that I bought at the Christmas bazaar the my church in Tucson had earlier this month includes this cake. It is going to come out like gingerbread, and perhaps it was one of the recipes that evolved into the gingerbread recipes we know.
Gingerbread was a known recipe in Colonial times, probably because molasses was much more common than sugar. It is one of America's native foods, in the sense that the recipe grew out of the spiced, plum-pudding-type baked goods that were popular in Europe. Dried and preserved fruit was usually included in the puddings, hence the name Plum Pudding and others. Fruitcake is also part of that group.
I should mention, by the way, that I discovered an excellent fruitcake being sold at Safeway in Tucson, in their bakery section. Since I have never made fruitcake successfully--I don't think I moistened it enough to give it the right texture--I am always looking for a great fruitcake that is easy to find. I don't want to make it, but I also don't want to drive for many miles to find one. So I am delighted to stop by Safeway a couple of times during the Holidays.
But a vintage cake recipe should always be checked out, and in the interests of cultural continuity I bring you this one.
1936 MOLASSES CAKE
1 cup light brown organic sugar
1/2 cup organic molasses
2 Tablespoons organic butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 large organic egg, at room temperature
1 cup hot water
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until light. Beat in the molasses and butter until they are completely incorporated.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the baking powder, soda and flour. Lowering the mixer speed to its lowest level, fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in three parts, alternating with the hot water.
Pour the batter into a 7-by-11-inch baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove it from the oven when it is no longer soft in the top-middle and place it on the stove top to cool to room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Another option for this cake is a lemon frosting or lemon sauce that can be served hot over the cake.
As you are planning your Christmas and New Year's Eve menus, consider the winter flavors of sugar and spice while you enjoy the heartier meals that make sense during the cold weather. I guess that is kind of ironic considering that it was 80 degrees in Tucson yesterday--brilliant sun--and it looks like that today with maybe more clouds. But it makes me happy for two reasons: we enjoy it down here in Southern Arizona, but also it means that bad weather is not gearing up here and then heading for the eastern half of the country to dump more rain and snow that they have already been coping with.