I made a mistake. I assumed, given that I surround myself with tons of cake inspiration (recipes, pictures, courses, pans, etc.) that my birthday cake would jump out at me. The one that screamed "make me!" I didn't really give it much though, assuming that an idea would pop out at any given moment. Yeah, I assumed wrongly. As the day inched closer, my ideas dried up. I thought maybe lemon cake? Maybe peanut butter? Maybe tiered? Couldn't settle on an idea at all.
Finally, I stumbled upon this recipe. It is essentially a giant molasses cookie, but as cake, and with frosting! My house smells like giant molasses cookie. Yum! The frosting is delicious, and balances out the bitterness in the cake. After making two cakes last weekend, and one in addition to this one for this weekend, I was very tempted by the idea of a cake with "bitter sweetness," as quoted. It was time for a small sweetness break.
The one trouble I had with this cake was in the doneness test -- when I first checked on the cake at 45 minutes, as written in the recipe, it was still soup in the middle, so I didn't even poke it with the tester. Five minutes later, it had firmed up, and puffed up, so I thought maybe it's okay, and poked in the tester. Big mistake: the cake sunk, and still wasn't finished baking, so it stayed sunken in the middle. I ended up giving it an additional 5 minutes (so 55 minutes total baking time) and cooled it for well over an hour before removing it from the base of the springform pan in order to put it on my cake pedestal for the party.
One note: this cake is for molasses lovers only. It's quite potent with molasses and espresso nearly overpowering the spice. If the idea of a strong spiced cookie doesn't appeal to you, keep moving. More spice for me!
The cake is quite tall when baked and frosted. It will easily serve 16 people. Frosting recipe can be found here.
Dark and Damp Molasses Spice Cake
Makes: 10 inch springform pan
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) unsulphured blackstrap molasses * (see Note below)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp espresso powder (optional, but strongly recommended)
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter or grease a 10-inch springform cake pan.
Place the chunks of butter in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Pour in the molasses and whisk in the brown sugar and white sugar. Whisk as the butter melts. When the butter has melted and is completely liquid, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy, give it a final stir and turn off the heat. Set the pan aside to cool. (The molasses will look slightly separated from the melted fat; they won't be smoothly combined.)
Use a clean dry whisk to combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl. (The espresso powder is optional; it will lend one more dimension of flavor to your cake.)
Whisk the vanilla, eggs, and milk into the saucepan with the molasses and melted butter. When it is completely combined, pour this liquid slowly into the bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk thoroughly to combine, making sure there are no lumps.
Pour the thick batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 20 or 30 minutes, then run a thin, flexible knife around the inside of the pan to help the cakes edges release. Remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely on a cooling rack before icing.
* Note on molasses: If you want the very dark, nearly black cake seen here, use unsulphured blackstrap molasses. Lighter molasses varieties will still work fine in this cake, but it won't be as dark or have any many bitter notes. If you want a lighter spice cake, then use regular molasses.