Allow me to introduce you to one of my oldest and most special cakes, Crumb-Topped Gingerbread! This recipe is adapted from a cookbook by one of my favorite writers named Crescent Dragonwagon. My very first cookbook was her Soup & Bread book and it influenced my cooking more than any other cookbook. Later I bought a copy of The Dairy Hollow House Cookbook on my first trip to Eureka Springs where she owned a bed and breakfast called The Dairy Hollow House. She wasn’t in when I stopped by so I left my copy for her to sign and picked it up later.
Years later I went to a reading for her newest cookbook, Cornbread Chronicles, and brought my beloved Soup & Bread for her to sign. It’s a pretty fun thing to meet one of your favorite authors and the person responsible for many of your family’s favorite dishes. We even had a photo taken together. Such fun!
Now On To Gingerbread
My recipe for Crumb-Topped Gingerbread is based on her recipe called Elsie’s Gingerbread. I have the same ingredients but have changed the method a bit to suit how I cook. As you become more comfortable in the kitchen it will be easier for you to change and adapt recipes to fit you and your style. If you don’t like or have a particular ingredient or prefer to do things in a different order you will learn when and how you can change a recipe up.
The fun thing about this recipe is that you make a simple crumble with the flour, sugar, spices, and the butter, save some of the crumble , then add the wet ingredients to the remainder to make your batter. The extra crumble mixture becomes your topping. You don’t have to cream any butter or use a mixer or anything.
Molasses and Other Special Things
For this cake you will need molasses and buttermilk. You can make a substitute for buttermilk by mixing a teaspoon of vinegar into a cup of milk. The acid in the buttermilk, or the vinegar if you make the substitute, reacts with the baking soda to help the cake rise. Buttermilk is really best but I don’t usually have any on hand so I use the vinegar trick.
There is no substitute for molasses, I think everyone should have some on hand. It keeps forever and is very useful to have. Gingerbread and gingersnaps call for molasses but I often use it for cooking too. When I make chili I add a tablespoon of molasses to balance the acid of the tomatoes. This works with pasta sauce as well although you may not need a tablespoon. My pumpkin pie recipe calls for molasses and a little bit is good in pecan pie too. You would replace part of the corn syrup with molasses to add a deeper flavor to the pie.
Now for the recipe. Tips and trick will follow.
Crumb-Topped Gingerbread Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoon molasses
- 1 cup buttermilk, or substitute
Combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, ground ginger, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Cut or rub in butter to make a crumb mixture. I rub it in with my hands until it’s fine crumbs.
Reserve about 1/3 cup of mixture for the topping. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the rest of the crumb mixture and stir to blend. Now add the egg, molasses, and buttermilk and quickly but gently combine.
Pour into a buttered baking dish, a 9 inch square size works well. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes and cool for a bit on a wire rack. I like to eat it while it’s warm, preferably with a cup of hot coffee. I prefer most things with a cup of hot coffee.
Tips and Tricks
- Substitute whole grain flour for part of the all-purpose.
- Use olive oil instead of butter. The texture will be a bit different but it’s still delicious.
- Use gluten-free flour in place of the all-purpose.
- Add an extra tablespoon of molasses for darker richer cake.
- Make muffins by reducing the sugar to 3/4 cup and adding nuts and raisins if you like. It makes 12 to 16 muffins depending on how much you fill the muffin tins.