unseasonally simple December 8, 2010

Two weeks until Christmas. I can hardly believe it. I remember when the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas sort of meandered along and the season drifted along at this mellow pace. Maybe it’s the hazards of getting older. We have more obligations and more distractions from what’s really important this time of year. I remember when baking chocolate chip cookies with my mom was quite the holiday ritual. She would buy decorated metal tins and we’d stuff each one with tissue paper and hand them off to family friends as a homemade treat – my mom did make exceptional chocolate chip cookies. If we felt fancy, one of us might make curly ribbon bows on them before they were doled out.

Frankly, I miss those days. Where the holidays didn’t feel like an audition for a reality show on HGTV or Hallmark. Don’t get me wrong – I’m in awe of folks that bake, style, spend, give. The Martha Stewart era of holiday treats definitely has its merits. This year, though, I’m plotting how to spend this time simply – spending time with my loved ones and friends collecting memories instead of just stuff.  Ball jars of pickled things and preserved lemons. Hopefully a batch of my mom’s snowball cookies. Simple cakes and ever simpler frostings. This is one such cake – and it’s a doozy.

I recently got a copy of a book I’d been peeking at for some time – NPR’s All Cakes Considered. It’s a charming collection of cakes curated by the public radio’s resident cake lady, Melissa Grey. The book is gorgeous and the feeling it has is the feeling I’m having: cozy, straightforward, simple and homespun. This cake gets its quirky name because it contains beer…hence the ATF (alcohol, tobacco, and firearms). I’m not gonna lie – I picked it because it’s name was spunky and a little off kilter for this holiday season. That’s where the jokes end – this cake is awesome. It’s not as sweet as your traditional gingerbread cake. That’s where the gingery cream cheese frosting comes in. It’s so silky with a hint of spice. I’ve topped mine with more crystallized ginger because I had a boatload of it – feel free to do chopped nuts or leave it alone if you so choose.

ATF Gingerbread Cake with Gingery Cream Cheese Frosting – serves 8 to 10 and makes either a 8″ square or 9″ round cake – recipe originally found in All Cakes Considered

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup dark beer (see Tip) – I used Rogue Brewery’s Mocha Porter
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, broken into small chunks

Tip: That’s roughly two-thirds of a bottle from a six-pack. Measure out the 1 cup and drink the rest of the bottle, not the rest of the six-pack. Remember: friends don’t let friends bake drunk.

– Center a rack and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the sides and bottom of pan with baking spray.

– Cream the butter with the mixer on medium speed, add the brown sugar, and beat well. Still at medium speed, add the egg, molasses, and dark beer all together. Beat well for 1 to 2 minutes.

– In a separate bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking soda, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and salt together. Add the batter in thirds, beating well after each addition. Using a spatula, fold in the crystallized ginger.

–  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick or thin knife inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Gingery Cream Cheese Frosting

From the All Cakes Considered cookbook: “Now, as you might suspect, ATF Gingerbread is a more aromatic and less sweet gingerbread than what you’re used to. If you’re one of those who needs the sweet and doesn’t mind just a little more kick, I recommend this frosting, which I found in Sharing Our Best, a community cookbook project sponsored by the Gideon Sunday School Class of Providence Baptist Church, in Gloucester, Virginia. The recipe makes enough to heavily frost one 8- or 9-inch layer, or the top of a cake baked in a 10-inch tube pan.”

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

– Cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at medium speed. Add the confectioners’ sugar gradually, add the ginger, and beat until smooth.


marla Dec 8, 2010 07:12 pm

I love homespun, simple & great tasting! This gingerbread cake sounds like it has the perfect balance of sweetness & flavor.

tami Dec 10, 2010 05:12 pm

It really does, Marla. So balanced and moist from the beer. Thanks for stopping by the blog :)

The Blue-Eyed Bakers Dec 8, 2010 08:12 pm

Ok we love this cake’s name – we’d make it just because of that. But we also adore gingerbread and any kind of cream cheese frosting…!

tami Dec 10, 2010 05:12 pm

Anything is a vehicle for cream cheese frosting, I think :)

tiina { sparkling ink } Dec 9, 2010 06:12 am

This would fit our holiday table perfectly. Love the flavor combo. And the photograph is gorgeous, as always!

tami Dec 10, 2010 05:12 pm

That means so much coming from you, tiina!

Rebecca Dec 9, 2010 11:12 am

that looks so pretty. and made my mouth water, too with all the crystallized ginger topping it.

tami Dec 10, 2010 05:12 pm

Thanks, Rebecca. All of the cakes in All Cakes Considered look incredible!

Angharad Dec 9, 2010 09:12 pm

Everything about this is calling my name: dark brown sugar, molasses, beer, cloves, cinnamon – there’s obviously such good flavour in it! Ginger cake was always a favourite of mine growing up but I’ve never tried my hand – this might just be THE recipe!

tami Dec 10, 2010 05:12 pm

Angharad- It’s nice and gingery without the burning/tingling taste that ginger can give sometimes. Do let me know if you try it. PS. your blog is lovely! :)

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Chris Dec 16, 2010 11:12 pm

Looks delish, especially with the crystallized ginger on top of the cream cheese! Love the scalloped sides. And, I am so excited you baked!

tami Dec 19, 2010 01:12 pm

Thanks Chris. You know what an effort it is for me to get over my trepidation about baking :)

Laura Dec 22, 2010 11:12 pm

I love the tip! Where were you with that tidbit a couple of nights ago… ;)

Kirsten Feb 1, 2011 05:02 pm

Yum! I can’t wait to make this cake! I’m so glad that this one turned out well for you, because I tried their dark chocolate red velvet cake…and I was sorely disapointed. It’s always a bummer when something published in a cookbook lets you down…but maybe the author can redeem herself if this one is rockin’. Thanks!

Jared Dec 29, 2012 02:12 pm

Yumm!, looks very good for me it was more of a weekend binakg or a bakend f1_f1I made Chocolate cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache (My 1st time ever since cooking school), French Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, Strawberry cream cheese cookies (From Userealbutter’s blog) and Japanese Cheese Cake!! O_O it was a good practice since a friend of my mom asked me for 50cupcakes for a wedding this weekend (I’m still afraid of catering hehe).Do you have any favorite frosting recipe?,, I have made royal icing and cream cheese icing, but I want to try something else

E Tarif Aug 30, 2013 10:08 am

I have tried to make this. Although I am not very experienced in cooking or baking, the result was amazing. It is a great recipe.