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I used to associate gingerbread with the ominous. I think at some point I truly believed there to be an evil witch in the depths of a dark green forest living in a human-sized version of an intricate Christmas cookie house, piped with sticky white frosting and ornamented with rainbow gumdrops and other enticing confections.
Once the threat of the witch faded, I moved from fear of gingerbread to firm dislike. I didn't understand these gingerbread homes and gingerbread men we made in grade school art class. The cookies were always stale and tasted of dusty old spices with here and there a hint of guest bathroom soap. Surely these were never—even prior to decoration and over-handling by dirty little fingers—meant for consumption!
My attitude towards the gingerbread genre has changed with the experience of eating moist, dense, fiery ginger cakes that are everything those crummy cookies were not.
Molasses and dark brown sugar quietly set the stage for this particular cake, with a blend of dried ginger, allspice, cloves and assertive fresh ginger taking the spotlight. This is not a shy cake; it's bold, spicy and, served with a silky custard that's also no wallflower.