Claudia Fleming’s Stout Gingerbread

I could probably name about a dozen people who could be called baking legends. One of them is Claudia Fleming, who was the pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern, and whose book, The Last Course, became a cookbook classic.

Claudia was known for desserts that managed to balance seasonal fruits, as well as chocolate, spices, herbs, grains, and even vegetables, not by using fancy techniques, but by presenting them with contrasting or complementary ingredients. The Last Course is a compilation of some of her best desserts, which came out in 2001. (My copy, above, is a first edition and I’m proud to say I was one of the first people to buy it.) As books do, this one eventually sailed out of print and used copies went for steep prices. I held on to mine, resisting offers to sell it. But I’m happy to report that The Last Course is back in print, and available to all.

Claudia now owns an inn outside of New York City, but is ready for her come back. And I can’t think of any better way to do that than to give her book a second life. (The only downside is that I don’t think my copy is worth $300 anymore. Which is fine because mine is personally autographed and I cherish it.)

Back when I was baking professionally, I made a number of recipes from her book. And I think I need to apologize to her because when I did get to meet her in person, I may have come off as a little stalkerish. I never made Claudia’s famous Stout Gingerbread because I always made my own Ginger Cake (from Ready for Dessert) , but hers has won so many accolades that I decided it was time to give hers a go.

Claudia’s cake has a very generous dose of spices, with lots of ground ginger complemented by cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom, as well as fresh ginger, for good measure.

The cake bakes up beautifully into a big, dark, moist, generous cake. That said, there was extra batter since I chose to bake mine in a 9-inch (23cm) loaf pan. So if you go to the same route, you’ll have about a cup (250ml) of batter remaining, which you can bake off in a small cake pan, or in a few of the indentations of a muffin tin, which are nice to have to snack on as a baker’s treat, or for breakfast.

Molasses, or mélasse, isn’t a common baking ingredient in France, but can be found in natural food stores. It’s the stronger-tasting type of molasses, unlike most American molasses that are used for baking, which are referred to as “light” or mild molasses. If using a stronger type of molasses, that can be cut 50:50 with mild honey or Golden syrup. Treacle is a close cousin of molasses and can be used as well, although I don’t have a lot of experience using it and if using what they call black treacle, which sounds similar to strong-tasting blackstrap molasses, I’d cut that with honey or Golden syrup as well. There’s a good guide to the types of molasses here, for those who want to take a deeper dive in that direction.

Caramelized oranges were a recommended accompaniment with this cake, which I served alongside. You could also serve it with poached pears, a scoop of cinnamon ice cream (or vanilla ice cream), or sabayon. In the summer, you can put strawberries or peaches into play alongside, with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

The caramelized oranges are easy to make. To do so, peel and segment eight oranges, a mix of navel and blood oranges will be prettiest, if you can get them. In a medium, wide saucepan or skillet, heat 1 cup (200g) sugar with 1/2 cup (125ml) water along with a few drops of lemon juice or 1 teaspoon light corn syrup. Cook until the syrup it turns a deep amber color, remove from heat, and immediately add 1/4 cup (60ml) water to stop the caramelization. The mixture will bubble up and steam a bit, so be careful. (For details on caramelizing sugar, check out my post: How to make the perfect caramel.)

Rewarm the mixture over low to medium heat, stirring if necessary, to dissolve and smooth out the caramel. Remove from heat and stir in the oranges along with a tiny pinch of salt. The oranges can be made up to a day in advance, but they don’t improve if made any farther ahead.

Claudia Fleming's Stout Gingerbread
Print Recipe
One 9-inch (23cm) cake or 10-cup (26cm) bundt pan
Adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming If you're avoiding alcohol, you could try it with ginger beer, root beer, or non-alcoholic beer, which don't have the background bitterness that Stout gives the cake, but should do fine. If you do try it with an alternative to the stout, let us know in the comments how it turns out. As mentioned this made plenty of batter, a little more than my loaf pan could hold. Since loaf pans vary (Claudia uses one that's 5-inches deep), only fill it 3/4s full. Additional batter can be baked in a small cake or loaf pan, or in a few indentations of a muffin tin. You can also bake it in a 9-inch (23cm) or 10-cup (26cm) bundt pan. If you use a bundt pan, I'd avoid using one with too many small ridges and so forth; sticky batters like this tend to get stuck in those narrow crevices, and you may have issues getting it out. The baking time will be in the range of 50 minutes to 1 hour, but check before as baking times will vary depending on the depth of the batter, if using a different kind or type of pan than indicated
1 cup (250ml) stout, such as Guinness
1 cup (250ml) light molasses
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum free
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (90g) packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (180ml) neutral-flavored vegetable or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (peeled)
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Spray a 9 x 5-inch (23 x 13cm) loaf pan with nonstick spray, or butter, then line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper. Spray or butter the parchment paper. (You can also bake it in a bundt pan. See headnote.)
2. Heat the molasses and stout in a medium-to-large saucepan until it comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the baking soda. Set aside to let the foam subside and allow the mixture to cool
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the granulated and brown sugar until there are no lumps, then whisk in the oil.
5. Whisk in the cooled molasses mixture into the eggs, then gradually whisk in the dry ingredients, stirring only in one direction. (To prevent lumps.) Stir in the fresh ginger.
6. Scrape the batter in the prepared pan, filling it three-quarter's full. (See headnote.) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out relatively clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Serving: Let cake cool then release from pan. Slice into servings. (See serving suggestions in the post.)

Storage: The cake will keep for up to 5 days at room temperature, or can be frozen for up to 3 months.


Claudia Fleming\'s Stout Gingerbread is a classic!

Never miss a post!

57 comments

  • Deborah
    November 12, 2019 3:45pm

    I love her book and am the proud owner of the first edition. It is inspirational and I like to read it a good once a year along with my other fave book, The Zuni Cafe cookbook. Reply

  • Susan Scheffler
    November 12, 2019 3:50pm

    This is a wonderful gingerbread. I made it every year as a seasonal treat in my restaurant. Thanks for highlighting it and Chef Claudia. Reply

  • Joanne
    November 12, 2019 3:57pm

    Can you use butter instead?

    Thanks, and love your blog! Reply

    • November 12, 2019 5:50pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t tried it with butter. Oil is 100% fat and butter is around 80% so not sure if you can do an even swap out. Oil is usually better for these kinds of cakes for moisture, but if you do try it with butter, let us know how it turns out.

      And glad you like the blog! : ) Reply

  • Christina
    November 12, 2019 4:48pm

    I love all things ginger and look forward to trying this. However – nothing beats your ginger cake recipe; it is a masterpiece, and I also love it for breakfast! Thank you! Reply

    • November 12, 2019 5:51pm
      David Lebovitz

      Happy you like my cake. But it was fun to take Claudia’s out for a spin, too! Reply

  • Philip
    November 12, 2019 4:48pm

    Since in the US brown sugar is actually white sugar with molasses added back in, you could probably just use white sugar with standard molasses rather than worrying about “light molasses”.

    I use cane sugar with a bit of molasses added when a recipe calls for brown sugar. it’s more economical, you can add more or less according to taste, plus nothing is more frustrating than finding your brown sugar has turned to stone. Reply

  • joan hersh
    November 12, 2019 4:56pm

    this is one of my favorite recipes. i never knew i liked gingerbread before i tried this. it’s true, that a bundt pan is tricky and some of the cake can get stuck in the grooves. it foolishly never occurred to me to try a loaf pan, but i’ll be doing that as soon as i dash to the store for some milk stout (a perfect fit for a cake) and ginger. thanks david! (a drizzle of chocolate ganache on top of the cake doesn’t hurt things, either) Reply

    • Deborah 2
      November 13, 2019 2:09am

      I have Claudia’s recipe for rustic apple tart from last week’s NYT Food section. Having read the article I immediately went to request the book from our local library. Not surprisingly, they don’t have the original edition, and the new one is on order. I’m not certain I can wait (and I have a gift certificate for our local bookstore…) – but first will try this gingerbread. I’d be doing it now, except I don’t have any fresh ginger. Bummed. I do see 3 eggs where they are said to be in the list. Reply

  • Laura
    November 12, 2019 6:46pm

    Here is the list of ingredients I see hope this helps everyone

    1 cup (250ml) stout, such as Guinness
    1 cup (250ml) light molasses
    1/2 tablespoon baking soda
    1 1/2 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup (70g) rye flour, or 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour (total)
    2 tablespoons ground ginger
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum free
    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
    1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
    3 large eggs, at room temperature
    1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
    1/2 cup (90g) packed dark brown sugar
    3/4 cup (180ml) neutral-flavored vegetable or grapeseed oil
    1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (peeled) Reply

  • Pat Bagg
    November 12, 2019 8:22pm

    Thank you for reminding me of how much I love this book. Haven’t cracked it in a few years but now I have. It is the perfect thing to make on this snowy cold day in Portland Maine. Reply

  • Lenita Firth
    November 12, 2019 8:50pm

    I will try this, but how can anything beat YOUR “Fresh Ginger Cake”? This recipe is wonderful and it’s in your book titled “Room for Dessert.” When did it change its name to “Ready for Dessert”? Reply

  • Sally
    November 12, 2019 8:58pm

    I put a slice of apple in my jar of brown sugar. This keeps it soft. Reply

  • Jinni
    November 12, 2019 10:42pm

    Thank you so much for sharing, I love gingerbread all year round and it’s exciting to try another recipe!
    (Glad this isn’t one of the signed cookbooks you lost). Reply

  • Ryan
    November 12, 2019 10:53pm

    I’ve done this with butter before and sort of mashed it together with Shuna Fish Lydon’s gingerbread. It’s delicious as written too.

    I replace half the oil with butter, making it 3/8 cup of each, melting the butter with the stout and molasses. I also reduced the amount of sugar and brown sugar to 1/2 cup each.
    I add 1 tsp of fresh black pepper with the other dry spices and 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger which is added after final mixing to make sure it doesn’t clump, I use a high quality blackstrap molasses Reply

  • November 12, 2019 11:55pm

    Just about my favorite kind of cake! And thank you for the tip on the book. I checked with Powell’s here in Portland. Lucky me! Four days ago someone sold a pristine 1st edition of the book and I picked it up. Feels like quite the coup d’etat! Reply

  • cindy m
    November 13, 2019 12:56am

    I love this cake! I’ve been making it for years, always knowing it as the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread Cake. I love the idea of serving it with caramelized oranges; will have to try that! I also enjoy drinking the remainder of the stout while I’m baking it. ;-) Reply

  • TJ
    November 13, 2019 3:03am

    I – like several others here – love this cake! I make it in my fanciest Bundt pan, which gives it a beautiful sugary crust. I’m not allowed to show up for our family holiday gathering without it – we serve it with just a dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream. One family friend in her 90s swears it tastes just like her mother’s recipe. It’s a surprisingly simple and very special cake. Reply

  • Carol
    November 13, 2019 2:41pm

    This cake is very very similar to The Marrow’s Ginger Stout Cake on the Cooking with the NYT website. In their recipe they generously butter the pan, then coat the pan with demerara sugar (shake out the excess). This keeps the cake from sticking and gives it a nice crunchy coating, which is very pleasing.I love the idea of rye flour here and am going to try it very soon. Reply

  • Sarah D.
    November 13, 2019 2:52pm

    I JUST made this cake last night, or a nearly identical one. I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and I make it in a bundt pan. It’s my husband’s favorite! Reply

  • Jim
    November 13, 2019 5:13pm

    Your have quite an admiring following( including me) after all the comments I may sit back and just drink the stout. Jim Reply

  • elissa3
    November 13, 2019 7:42pm

    I can’t use vegetable oil. Has anyone ever tried using walnut oil as a substitute? And, if so, volume for volume? I know it’s more expensive, but I’m thinking its flavor wouldn’t be overpowering in this recipe. Also, might work at 350 degrees. . . Reply

    • Sarah
      November 15, 2019 12:05am

      I like and use walnut oil many times. Shouldn’t be a difficulty. Reply

  • Liz C
    November 14, 2019 1:34pm

    Regarding molasses: for any other British readers, I made David’s fresh ginger cake today (saw this blog post but didn’t have stout in the house), with his suggested 50:50 split of golden syrup and black treacle (Lyle’s – is there any other?!) and it had turned out beautifully.

    I also followed your suggestion, as I didn’t have the required 9inch pan, to bake the excess mix in a muffin tin (instead of being tempted to overfill my 8 inch pan). The cake was perfectly cooked and allowed me to “test” before cutting into my main cake, which is for guests.

    These tips might seem simple but make all the difference and are a big part of why I love your blog David! Thank you! Reply

  • Elaine C
    November 15, 2019 10:46am

    This looks great, can’t wait to make it. I think I’ll serve it with poached quince – I still have some fruit on the counter from my tree in Seattle. Reply

  • K.
    November 16, 2019 2:19am

    I’ll add The Last Course to my wish list. Thanks for the heads up.

    I make this gingerbread often during the holidays. I always warn people that it is very “grownup” gingerbread. Dark, spicy, complex. I adore it. Reply

  • Pam
    November 16, 2019 1:57pm

    Delicious! Loved the dark intense flavor. Used 2 smaller pans, followed the original recipe and they came out perfect. Reply

  • susan t.
    November 16, 2019 6:31pm

    thank you, David! making this as we “speak”… (you are a patient man with the peculiar visual display quirks. not a problem for me, but you are so kind to those who have been problems.) cheers for the holidays! Reply

    • Susan Hickd
      December 1, 2019 11:36pm

      Don’t know if this is helpful or not, but if a recipe calls for a large amount of molasses, I always cut it with 50% honey, golden syrup, or whatever, and am always pleased with the results. I like the flavor of molasses, but not excessively. I have been doing this for 40+ years, it is a no brainer, so fear not in terms of following David’s advice. Of course, I have always been fearless re: substitutions. Reply

  • rose
    November 16, 2019 8:46pm

    Chocolate stouts are everywhere here – I may try it with that. I would never have put oranges with this so I can’t wait to try that out. Reply

  • David
    November 21, 2019 2:28pm

    I really wouldn’t worry about all of these comments about mysteriously missing ingredients. They are all there and were there from the beginning. It’s not difficult to scan an ingredient list and to “not see” a line or two. Reply

  • R. Leicht
    November 21, 2019 9:18pm

    Downsizing, I recently sold my original copy to Bonnie Slotnick, she still might have it if you are looking for it. Reply

  • pen
    November 22, 2019 1:11am

    made it today great flavor thankyou for that recipe. Loved all your books.. Reply

  • Cathy
    November 24, 2019 9:47am

    The eggs are listed on the ingredient list, but I had to search a while as I was expecting a short line, not “3 large eggs, at room temperature”.
    I love gingerbread recipes, always trying to find one as good as my Mum’s… Reply

  • Brooke
    November 24, 2019 3:01pm

    I think you meant a half TEASPOON of baking soda? My loaf is volcanically erupting over the sides of the pan. Not pleased. Reply

    • November 24, 2019 3:12pm
      David Lebovitz

      The original recipe does call for 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda. I’ve linked to the original ingredient list here, from the book. Reply

      • November 24, 2019 8:35pm

        I have been making this cake for years, using 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda.
        I did find that 3/4 cup of oil gave me a very heavy, greasy cake, so I have been using 1/2 cup of oil for the past 7 or 8 years.
        I did have to use a bigger loaf pan ( 4 x 13″ pullman) for the cake since the reduced oil amount has it rising farther.
        My family is split over whether it should be served with whipped cream of a lemon sauce.
        It will be on our table soon, since we have a home-brewed oatmeal stout conditioning in the fridge now. Reply

        • November 24, 2019 8:59pm
          David Lebovitz

          Thanks for chiming in and letting me know you used the 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda. I did ask the author and she said it was definitely 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) of baking soda. I’m making it again today and posting it on my Instagram Stories. Reply

  • Brooke
    November 24, 2019 3:10pm

    I confirmed that the measurement was supposed to be a half teaspoon on the Epicurious site, where the same recipe is (has been) posted. Half a tablespoon seemed very wrong as I was trying to measure it, but I figured this had been proofread and tested by many people. What a waste of effort and ingredients! Reply

    • November 24, 2019 3:19pm
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Brooke: I do see that others used 1/2 teaspoon but when I tested the recipe, I used the 1/2 tablespoon mentioned in the book and didn’t have any issues with it. In my French Ginger Cake recipe (in Ready for Dessert, pg 46), I use 2 teaspoons of baking soda (but no baking powder) however this recipe came out fine when I baked it. I remade it again today just to make sure and you can see the results in my Instagram Stories. I also checked with the co-author of the book, and she confirmed it should 1/2 tablespoon baking soda. (There seems to be a few “Epicurious” posts about this cake that have been added over the years, including this one here that uses the 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda.)

      If your cake overflowed, perhaps it was baked in too small of a vessel. As noted, only fill whatever pan you’re using 3/4s full. The recipe makes a lot of batter, and as also noted, I ended up baking the excess in a separate small cake pan.

      Reply

    • Susan Hicks
      December 1, 2019 11:48pm

      I don’t see how the information from Epicurious is superior to that of the recipe and cookbook author, but maybe that’s just a personal quirk (?). Reply

      • December 2, 2019 11:42am
        David Lebovitz

        Epicurious has several recipes for this cake on their site. Unfortunately on many large food websites these days, anyone can post a recipe and/or the recipes aren’t tested. Back in the day, all the Epicurious recipes were from the superb test kitchens of Gourmet and Bon Appétit, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Also I’ve seen half recipes on Epicurious, missing some of the ingredients and/or steps. So yes, it’s always best to check a recipe against the original one in the book. Reply

  • Jessica
    November 24, 2019 6:49pm

    I just made this yesterday. Love it! I used only dark molasses and I love how it turned out. Two things I definitely want to try out: the aforementioned Ginger Cake and Claudia’s book. Thanks for the heads up on the book. And I love your blog! Reply

    • November 24, 2019 6:58pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks Jessica, and glad you liked the cake! Can you let me know if you used 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda, or 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda?

      I edited the recipe because there was a question about it, although I just circled back to the author who said it should definitely be 1 1/2 teaspoons (which is 1/2 tablespoon) so I’m going to make it again today to check, but interested in what you used. Thanks! Reply

  • Kathryn
    November 25, 2019 12:13pm

    I made this yesterday and used the 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda. It turned out great. Spicy moist gingerbread! I don’t have orange so I put a lemon glaze on it and will probably make a cream cheese frosting today too to go on some of the little muffins that were made! Great recipe David and I think it’s correct as is. Reply

    • November 25, 2019 2:01pm
      David Lebovitz

      The glaze sounds like a great idea – glad you liked the cake! Reply

  • November 25, 2019 5:40pm

    I made this in a loaf pan on the smaller side (probably 4.5″ x 7.5″) and used the excess batter in muffin tins (yielding an additional 9 muffins).

    I baked the muffins for 20 mins and they came out great, with a slightly crisp top that lent a nice textural variety. I haven’t sliced into the loaf yet, as I’m saving it for a meeting this evening, but I baked it for an hour and it seems perfectly moist.

    For reference I used black strap molasses, nothing fancy, just the standard grocery store variety. I also used the 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda. The stout/molasses mixture definitely got dangerously large as it came to a simmer, and I had to be cautious with it when I poured it from one vessel to the other, but had no issues with overflow at the baking stage.

    I absolutely love the complexity of this cake. Bitter and rich, just sweet enough with lots of spice.

    Thank you for sharing!

    p.s. my Grandmother had all of your books and in a funny little twist on the norm, SHE introduced me to your blog a few years before she passed! Thanks for all of the great content :) Reply

    • November 26, 2019 1:00pm
      David Lebovitz

      Appreciate you reporting back and glad you enjoyed the cake. And that’s a funny story about your grandmother – glad she enjoyed the blog, too! Reply

  • Neel
    November 26, 2019 5:12pm

    Looks so beautiful but impossible to get stout in India. Can beer be a substitute? Reply

    • November 30, 2019 1:16pm
      David Lebovitz

      It could be but beer isn’t as strong or as dark as stout. It should work just fine. If you do try it, let us know how it works out. (I did see that Simba makes a stout beer in India, if you want to try and track it down.) Reply

  • Rachel
    November 27, 2019 5:06am

    The loaf cake is still in the oven–just pulled out the extra I poured into the muffin tins–really tasty! The surface is caramelized just enough, and the ginger lingers in the mouth. Love this! Will make the oranges tomorrow and bring it for my work potluck on Thursday. Reply

  • Stephanie
    November 28, 2019 1:38am

    I added a bit of salt and some sugared, sliced green apples. This is definitely the best ginger cake I have ever had. Reply

    • December 2, 2019 11:43am
      David Lebovitz

      Happy you liked it! Usually the baking soda provides enough salt in a recipe like this, but I’m like you; I don’t mind a little extra salt either ; ) Reply

  • Victoria
    December 1, 2019 9:33pm

    Hi David, Thank you for including the baking times for a loaf pan. Similar to another reader, I’ve made Gramercy Tavern gingerbread in a bundt cake many times and it’s about 50-50 whether it actually comes out intact. But either way, it’s always delicious and one of my favorite cakes of all time. We’ll be traveling this xmas, and am thinking of making as a loaf cake in advance — way easier to transport than a bundt cake! Reply

Leave a comment