Last night, I was sitting in my group therapy trying to keep my mind in the room. It wasn’t the conversation that was distracting me; it was the contents of my fridge.
There was a long time after I got sober 3 ½ years ago where I had to make very deliberate, conscious decisions about ingredients that I would cook with – or, more importantly, ingredients I would have left over in my kitchen afterwards. “Alcoholists” like me have to be careful. I am lucky because I was never a person who needed to drink WHILE I was cooking, as so many people are, but after the meal was cooked, look out. For the first year of my sobriety, to have that open, half-full bottle of wine sitting on my counter, calling to me, would have been too much for me to bear.
Things change with time though. Your relationship with booze changes. The temptations for danger evolve into appreciations for accomplishments. I mean, I’m not foolish. I give my alcoholism the respect and gravity it’s due. I’m still aware- when I’m opening a bottle of wine, say- that I could just drink it right then and there. But I’ve learned to play the fantasy through and see that it would end in disaster.
So what was it in my fridge last night that was diverting my attention?
I think ginger is stupendous. It’s bold and challenging one minute, and then gentle and comforting the next. It plays as well with proteins and vegetables as it does with desserts, adding a depth of flavor matched by few.
This ginger cake recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated. It contains fresh ginger and dried ginger as well as some pepper to give it a little extra kick. It’s not spicy to my taste, just delicious, but if you’re someone who is very sensitive to spices you can reduce the fresh ginger by half. I frost this cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream, adding a splash of vanilla to it as it whips, but you can also leave it frosting-free and serve it with vanilla ice cream. Actually, I love a piece of it a la carte for breakfast too. I’d eat it all day long if I was left to it.
Oh, I almost forgot. I was so excited to reunite with my cake after my meeting last night that I RAN for the bus and made it!
- 3/4 cup stout
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2/3 cup mild molasses
- 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting pan
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger (see note*)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square baking pan or 8 inch springform.
2. Bring stout to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam vigorously). When foaming subsides, stir in molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until dissolved; set mixture aside. Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper together in large bowl; set aside.
3. Transfer stout mixture to large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil, and grated ginger until combined. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture in thirds, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles. Bake until top of cake is just firm to touch and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack, about 1 1/2 hours. Cut and serve warm or at room temperature.
*note: I always use a lot of ginger in this cake because I think that sweet/ spicy combination is a delicious surprise. If you prefer a less spicy cake, use 1- 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger.