Gingerbread Cakes with Brown Butter Icing

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This is a nice rich cake. Rich not because it’s loaded with fat but because of the color and depth of flavor. It’s spicy, but not too spicy. The brown butter in the icing is a little something extra to think about as it hits your palate. I think it would go really well with a pint of stout as well as a good cup of coffee or a strong black tea.

Gingerbread Cake (makes 18-24 mini cupcakes or 1 small loaf, about 6-8 servings)

8 oz. (1/2 stick) (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar (60ml) (I used coconut palm sugar, but you can use any dry sweetener you like)
1/2 (120ml) cup molasses
1-1/4 cups (300ml)all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5ml) dried ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) ground cloves
1 teaspoon (5ml) baking soda
1/2 cup (120ml) boiling water
1 large (US) medium (EU) egg, room temperature

Brown Butter Icing:

2 Tbsp. (28g) ( unsalted butter (not clarified butter or ghee–you want the milk solids to be present)*
3/4 cup (180ml) powdered sugar
1/2 (2.5ml) teaspoon vanilla
1 Tbsp. (15ml) milk

*The milk solids are removed from ghee or clarified butter. If left in, when heated, the solids will brown, and that’s what we want for this recipe.

If you don’t want the brown butter flavor, and just want a plain icing, don’t melt or brown the butter, just bring it up to room temperature. The regular icing is what is on the whole loaf cake at the very bottom of this post.

Chopped candied ginger for decoration (optional)

Grease and flour the pans. If you’re using mini muffin pans, either use paper liners or make sure you grease and flour the pan well (including the top), or they won’t come out. If you go without the liners (as I have in the photo) because you like the look or want the icing to run down the sides, only fill them to 3/4, so the crown doesn’t overflow and you can easily run a knife around the edges if you need to. For the loaf version of the cake I used a 5 x 7 x 2″ pan, but any small loaf pan will do. If you want to make a larger cake, double the recipe and use an 8 x 8″ square pan.

I think it’s best to make the icing after the cake has been made and cooled. Icing tends to get thick and develop a crust when it sits around. If you do make it ahead and it gets too thick, just add a little milk to thin it, but do so sparingly or the icing will be too runny.

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, ginger, cinnamon and cloves together, and set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the butter until light.

Add the sugar and molasses and mix well.

Add the baking soda to the boiling water and add to the the butter mixture. Mix well.

Add the flour and spice mixture and mix well.

Beat in the egg.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or cups.

If you’re not using paper liners, fill them a bit less than what you see in the photo.batterinpan

Place on the middle rack in the oven. If making mini cakes, bake for 15-20 minutes. Check on them at the 10 minute mark. If a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, they’re done. If making a larger cake it will likely take a bit longer, around 25 to 30 minutes.

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Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake, and remove the from the pan to cool completely.

To make the icing:

In a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat. You’ll see the milk solids separate. After a few minutes the solids will start to brown. Wait until they are light brown and then pull the butter off the heat. This happens quickly so don’t walk away. If you let them get too dark they will be bitter.

In a small bowl, whisk the butter together with the rest of the ingredients, adding one tablespoon of milk at first, more if it’s too thick. Cover and set aside.

Once the cakes are cool, drizzle or pipe the icing over the top. Serve immediately. The cake will last for a few days, but it is best when fresh.

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