I've had a jar of molasses in the cupboard for a while, and I've spent that time trawling for suitable recipes and excuses to bake with it. It's taken a few months to get it into this gingerbread layer cake, baked to share with our cat-sitter and friend, Tash.
The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen - I know that Deb Perelman is a bit of a perfectionist with her recipes, and I like that she takes understated, realistic food photos in her own small home kitchen. (They're still a good deal prettier than mine, I know.) I trust her to bake a good cake.
In fact, I think I just entrusted her with baking my first layer cake. The batter was pretty well-behaved; with oil and not butter for the fat, it didn't even need creaming with an electric beater. It just called for a bit of patience as I baked and cooled the three layers, one at a time, late on a Monday night. I whipped up the mascarpone cream on Wednesday morning and stacked up my cake with care, ignoring Perelman's cranberry garnish entirely.
For a vegan version, I'd recommend replacing the eggs with ground flax seeds in the cake batter. I'm not sure how best to replicate the whipped dairy cream, but I reckon coconut cream or yoghurt is the best bet.
Here the cake and cream have a surprisingly light texture. With a cup of molasses, a cup of brown sugar and a cup of white sugar in the cake batter, it's as sweet as Kimmy Schmidt. It's also got Kimmy's brutal aftertaste, a heated, malty mix of molasses, stout and ginger that depends on the triple-layered whipped cream to remain palatable. A small slice goes a very long way (and here it differs from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, because I polished that off in just a few days).
Gingerbread layer cake
(a recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
1 cup stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cardamom
spray oil for greasing cake tin
1/2 cup icing sugar
Place the stout and molasses in a large saucepan and bring them to the boil. Turn off the heat and whisk in the bicarb soda - the mixture will froth up but hopefully be contained by your large saucepan. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Preheat an oven to 180°C. Trace and cut out three pieces of baking paper to fit the base of a springform cake tin. Line the tin with just one of them, and lightly spray the tin inside with oil.
Place the sugars in a large bowl and whisk in the oil. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Whisk in the cooled stout-molasses mixture until smooth. Sift over the remaining cake ingredients, and stir them into the batter until just combined.
Pour one third of the cake batter into the tin and bake it until it passes the skewer test, about 20 minutes. Allow it to rest in the tin for 5 minutes before gently turning the cake onto a cooling rack. Repeat twice more with the remaining cake batter to form three cake layers.
To make the mascarpone cream, pour the cream into a large bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Whip the cream with an electric beater until soft peaks form. Add the mascarpone and whip it into the cream until well combined.
To assemble the cake, carefully transfer one cake layer to a serving plate. Pour a generous cup of the mascarpone cream onto the centre of the cake, spreading it out but leaving about an inch cake border. Transfer a second cake layer onto the top; its weight will push the cream out towards the edge. Repeat the process with another generous cup of cream and the final cake layer. Make the top layer of cream thick and wavy and spread it right to the edge of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing and serving, with any extra mascarpone cream on the side.