Thanksgiving week. We made it. Have you already started prepping? We had friends over this weekend for a Friendsgiving party. I made plenty of pie crusts the day before (I made this apple slab pie and 2 pumpkin pies) and a few more yesterday for Thanksgiving. I’ll make 3 more pies tomorrow (salted caramel apple pie, apple cranberry pie, another pumpkin pie!).
So much pie, you’d think that’s all we’re eating this week.
While we’re all in full Thanksgiving mode right now, I want to share something you can make over the weekend and the weeks leading up to Christmas. This spiced gingerbread loaf will make your home smell completely divine as guests come and go, not to mention put you in a completely festive holiday state of mind. Even more festive than Buddy the elf! Smiling’s my favorite.
What I love about this loaf is that it’s breakfast, snack, and dessert all rolled into one. Orange icing and all. You can make the loaf as muffins (see my notes!) or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Have a slice with coffee in the afternoon or top with homemade whipped cream and fresh cranberries.
The possibilities are endless and if you have a few minutes to spare, you can whip up this gingerbread batter.
Pretty standard batter here with 1 bowl for dry ingredients and 1 bowl for wet. We’ll cream butter and brown sugar together, then add an egg and vanilla. Brown sugar for extra molasses flavor and moisture. To thin out the molasses and provide some liquid for the gingerbread batter, mix it with equal parts HOT water before adding. About the molasses? There are varying intensities of molasses on store shelves from lighter molasses to blackstrap molasses. Go for a dark molasses, also sold as “robust” molasses.
A few I favor: Grandma’s Robust Molasses, Grandma’s Unsulphured Molasses, or Wholesome!’s Organic Molasses (this stuff is potent and delicious! It’s what I used in the pictured loaf.)
This loaf is a deeply spiced gingerbread. There’s plenty of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. The three spices I use the most this time of year! Also: I add black pepper. I KNOW. I love it so much in my pumpkin pie, I figured why not?? in gingerbread too. There’s not much– only 1/8 teaspoon– but just enough to make this a suuuuper spiced gingerbread, unlike any other’s I’ve ever tried.
Son of a nutcracker! This gingerbread is dark!
The gingerbread is quite moist and awesomely impressive left plain, BUT when there’s an opportunity for icing we never skip it. Right?
I made a simple and quick orange icing for drizzling on top of the soft and spicy gingerbread. And highly suggest the citrus! It’s a light and fragrant contrast to the richer, more intense flavors in the gingerbread. It’s just 2 ingredients: orange juice and confectioners’ sugar. You’ve got both on hand, so why not pour on top? You won’t regret this.
Cranberries for color. You can even sugar them if you’d like!
This is any busy cook’s holiday favorite because it’s so simple. I will definitely be making this spiced gingerbread loaf, oh I don’t know, FOREVER.
Spiced Gingerbread Loaf
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 3/4 cup (180ml) unsulphured or dark molasses
- 3/4 cup (180ml) hot water (about 100°F (38°C))
- 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature1
- 1/3 cup (67g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 2-3 Tablespoons (30-45ml) orange juice
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper together until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl or dish, whisk the molasses and hot water together.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 1 minute until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the hot water/molasses and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Avoid overmixing. Batter will be thin. Whisk out any big lumps.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for around 50-60 minutes or until the gingerbread loaf is baked through. All ovens are different and your loaf could take a little more or less time. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the gingerbread loaf. If it comes out clean with only a couple moist (not wet) crumbs, it is done. Allow to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack before removing from pan.
- Make the icing: Whisk the confectioners' sugar and orange juice together. Drizzle over cooled loaf.
- Leftover loaf keeps well covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The flavor gets even better after a day or two!
Make ahead tip: The loaf can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Loaf can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
- Soften butter quickly with this microwave trick!
Muffins or cupcakes: Simply pour batter into muffin liners or a greased muffin pan. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 20-22 minutes.
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