Ina's Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

DSC03792One of the benefits of the site is that visitors can read recipe reviews written by those who have already tried the recipe out.  These reviews are very helpful to me when I am trying to narrow down my choices, and although I am relying on other peoples' opinions, a long list of positive or negative reviews is usually a good indicator.

That being said, one of my pet peeves is a review on Epicurious that starts out with the reviewer listing  the multiple changes that he or she made to the original recipe.  This sometimes goes on for paragraphs.  Inevitably, the posting ends with the reviewer telling us how incredibly awful and inedible the recipe was.  What a surprise.  You changed virtually every ingredient, the oven temperature, the cooking vessel, and the technique, and the recipe didn"t turn out perfectly?  Go figure.  As far as I'm concerned, "reviews" such as these are not only a waste of space, but they skew the results of what could be a "four fork" recipe.

My friend Meredith has this same grievance, and apparently we are not alone.  She found this DSC03762Epicurious review one day while looking at a recipe for Bacon and Mushroom Mac and Cheese (I know--yum!)  This witty individual does a fantastic job of mocking the type of review that I detailed above--enjoy!:

"In keeping with the proud tradition of the cook from Jamaica Plain, MA, I say RECIPE SCHMECIPE! So instead of macaroni I substituted shredded eggplant boiled in 7up instead of water. Rather than make a cheese sauce, I combined mayonnaise, lingonberry jam, 4 cups of sea salt and one large casaba melon. Bacon? You must be kidding. No, I used half a pound of sweetbreads and one whole flounder. I baked the dish at 550 for 3 hours, then moved out of town to start a new life as a palm reader in Fresno. This dish was truly a life-altering one and I highly recommend it to all adventurous epicures."

Pretty funny, huh?  Epicurious is not the only site featuring these types of reviews.  A few nights ago, I watched the Barefoot Contessa's Thanksgiving dessert special on Food Network (Jacob, a.k.a. Food Network Addict, was lucky enough to be personally invited by Ina Garten to be part of the show---soooo jealous, but he did a great job!)  Ina prepared the most fantastic looking spiced gingerbread, which I swore I could smell as it baked in her enviable kitchen.  Immediately deciding that this is a must-try recipe, I logged onto to print it out.  To my surprise, the recipe showed a 3 out of 5-star rating, a rarity in Ina's case.  As I read the reviews, only 1 reviewer had actually prepared the recipe!  The others simply speculated on whether eggs had been left out of the ingredient list, followed by a low rating.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Being the Ina Garten fan that I am, I felt obligated to try the gingerbread recipe, as written, so that I could write an educated review.  Plus, I was really craving gingerbread.  Well folks, I am very happy to report that no eggs are needed!  Ina's extremely fragrant gingerbread came out of the oven nicely risen, dark, and moist.  The unique addition of crystallized ginger and golden rum-soaked raisins adds texture and a bit of a kick.  It is indeed a delicious, perfect-for-the-holidays recipe--not that I ever doubted you, Ina!  Here are a few extra tips for making Ina's seasonal spiced dessert:

  • I made a few modifications to Ina's recipe, and the gingerbread still turned out to be delicious (I love a flexible recipe!)  I used a 9-inch square pan instead of an 8-inch.  I also added the raisins along with any remaining rum, as opposed to just the raisins, to the DSC03756 batter.  Finally, I topped the finished gingerbread with powdered sugar instead of the glaze.  I have always preferred gingerbread this way, but I'm sure that the glaze is outstanding too )maybe next time....)
  • Ina also suggests serving the gingerbread with lightly sweetened rum whipped cream.  Just flavor sweetened whipped cream with a little bit of rum instead of vanilla.
  • Crystallized ginger can be found in various parts of your grocery store, depending on the company.  Whole Foods sells it in the bulk bins.  Some grocery stores keep it in the produce section, while others place it in the natural foods area.  You might even find it in the baking aisle.  When all else fails, ask an employee for help!
  • Although it is probably best eaten the day that it is made, the gingerbread can be stored, tightly wrapped, for 2-3 days.  Wrapping it tightly will help to retain moisture.  The flavor will intensify a bit over time. 

Ina's Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

Serves 9


¼ cup dark rum

½ cup golden raisins

8 tablespoons unsalted butterDSC03757

1 cup unsulphured molasses

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons orange zest

2 ⅓ cups flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

⅓ cup minced dried crystallized ginger

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2-3 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.  Spray the parchment paper.

Place the rum and the raisins in a small saucepan, cover, and heat until the rum boils.  Turn off the heat and set aside.  Place the butter and the molasses in another small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.

Whisk together the flour, baking, soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a medium bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth.  Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean.  Set aside to cool completely.

When the cake has cooled, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice and pour it over the gingerbread, allowing it to drip down the sides.  Allow the glaze to set.  Cut the gingerbread into squares and serve.   

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  1. Just made this wonderful Old Fashioned Ginger Cake.......... it taste wonderful, a little dense in flavors but very nice......... yes warm with some homemade or great vanilla ice cream would be heaven........ I have to say, I didn't have raisins, so I sub, cranraisins......and its very nice.

    1. Thank you so much, Kathleen! Yes, the flavors are definitely dense.....but I love how they develop over time. Vanilla ice cream would be the perfect pairing!!

  2. Very funny!  I loved reading your comment 🙂  Nice to know that I am not the only one!
    Glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  3. It was awesome but instead of using ginger I used loose tea, I didn't have raisins so I used peas (similar sizes)and I didn't have the crystalized ginger either so I put in potato skins. It tasted awful and I'd never recommend this recipe! Just kidding 🙂 I am not a fan of people who do this either. I followed the recipe and it's great!!!!

  4. I agree with you 100% about people reviewing recipes based on huge changes to the recipe or not making it at all. "I give it 1 star because it uses shortening and I don't use shortening." Makes me nuts.

    And I love Ina. I was at BJs and they had all her books for $22 each ... it was all I could do not to complete my collection!

  5. Hi Marilyn!

    Thank you for your comment. My brother used to be the same way, always asking my mom if there was any "stuff" in her recipes (such as raisins or nuts.) I think that the gingerbread will still be delicious without the crystallized ginger. You could always add a touch of extra ground ginger to the batter if you think that you will miss the spice. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Thanks so much for the thorough review. I had the same reaction when I read the reviews on the Food Network website!! How can anyone give a rating without making it? My daughter is allergic to eggs and I was so excited to see this recipe. Unfortunately, she doesn't like "things" in her cake (aka, raisins, ginger, etc). The raisins seem pretty important and I wouldn't leave them out - they also tend to blend in with their surroundings well. But I'm considering leaving out the candied ginger - do you think it's critical?

  7. Thanks for posting an as-as recipe. Garten's recipes, while not health conscious, always work. I hit only 1 recipe in 5 books that was not to my liking. I absolutely love gingerbread and plan this for the holiday season.

  8. Hi Lauren!

    I went for the vanilla bean ice cream over warm gingerbread--great combination. I'm sure that the spiked whipped cream would be equally delicious.

  9. This looks amazing. I may have missed it in your post - how did you serve it? Warm with vanilla ice cream or spiked whipped cream?

  10. I never understood why folks change things and then whine about them. Totally DUH moment! I'm so glad you posted a good gingerbread recipe--I wanted to make some for Christmas! Hooray!

    And thanks for the kind words about my writing. 🙂

  11. This is wonderful looking, love anything with ginger & Ina has such fabulous baked goods. Lovely food photo. Perfect Thanksgiving desert.

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