Molasses Coffee Spice Cake

Molasses cake with sauce on the side

Kitra: Welcome to fall.

Jordan: Kitra claimed a copy of Everyday Dorie from our father and if ever there was a cookbook made for fall, it’s this one. Glancing through it, every recipe that jumped out at us just screamed FALL.

I had bookmarked a couple of fall baked goods to start with, including this cake which just fascinated me. It looked so simple and yet had a combination of very strong ingredients. Seemed like as good a place as any to hop in.

For a cake with (as Kitra says) very strong ingredients, it’s surprisingly subtle. There’s molasses, there’s coffee, and there are tons of spices, but none of them particularly stand out from the rest. This is not a molasses cake, or a coffee cake, or a spice cake. It’s all of the above.

It comes together as… Brown and warm. You can’t quite tell how or why, but that’s what you know about it. Which makes sense, given the number of warm brown ingredients.

We’ve been trying to find a good way to describe it, and I think the best we can do is “comforting.” It’s not flashy, it’s not extravagant. It’s a cake that is there for you when it’s raining outside and you just want to eat something kind-of-but-not-too sweet.

And because it’s both pretty thin and not too sweet, it’s easy to imagine eating a bunch of slices at once.

Though it doesn’t demand that you eat it all at once. We’ve made those kind of cakes before (hello, pecan browned butter cake) but this isn’t one of them. This is a cake that allows you to have a slice and walk away satisfied. Which, as anyone who has ever eaten way too much sugar at once and suffered the consequences later knows, is sometimes a good quality in a cake.

And if you leave it be for a day or two, you’ll be rewarded. The flavors settle into each other on the second day, and the glaze settles into everything, creating a slightly moister cake.

Is it our favorite cake we’ve ever made? Not necessarily, but sometimes you just need a cake that feels like a reliable lumpy sweater, and this is that cake.

Molasses cake with sauce on the side

Molasses Coffee Spice Cake

From Everyday Dorie

Notes

Depending on where you shop, you might only be able to find blackstrap molasses. Despite the name, it’s not an acceptable substitute—Stella Parks has a good explainer on the differences between blackstrap and true molasses, and you should definitely seek out a regular sweet molasses for this cake.

You can use either coffee or espresso for the cake; espresso will obviously give you a stronger coffee flavor. The glaze requires instant espresso powder, and trying to just substitute some regular coffee instead won’t give you the flavor you want here.

For the glaze, make sure you use a true white chocolate—preferably a high-quality one—and not baking chips or a cheap bar that’s mostly sugar and palm oil. It should include cocoa butter in the ingredients. Dorie notes that the glaze will be far more than you need, but we found that we liked having a bit alongside each slice of cake as we ate it.

This is a good make-ahead cake, as a day of resting allows the flavors to deepen and the glaze to moisten the cake a bit.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups (204 grams) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 stick (½ cup, 4 oz) butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup (132g) brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup molasses
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup hot coffee or espresso

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with parchment and grease and flour the entire pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl with a handheld mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar on medium until well-creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the molasses and beat for 2 minutes more. Add the egg and beat for another 2 minutes, then stir in the vanilla.

While the butter mixture does its thing, combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, five-spice, cinnamon, and pepper.

Once the butter mixture is done, add the dry ingredients and mix on low (or by hand) until it’s just combined. (Set the empty bowl aside, as you can use it for the glaze.) Add the hot coffee bit by bit and continue mixing on low until it forms a cohesive batter without any sections that are more liquid than others.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 28-33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. Be careful here—even though our initial test still showed a batter-y center, it only needed about two minutes more.

Move the cake to a wire rack to cool, turning it out of the pan once it’s cool enough to handle. Once the cake has cooled to room temperature, top with the glaze, allowing it to set before cutting and serving. Note that the glaze will want to pool in the middle of the cake; feel free to spread it out as much as you need to.

Glaze

  • 1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 5 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons butter, softened

In the bottom of a small-to-medium bowl (you can use the one you used for the dry ingredients above), dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water. Add the chopped white chocolate.

Using either a saucepan or the microwave, bring the heavy cream to a boil. (This should take right around one minute in the microwave.) Pour the cream over the chocolate and let rest for 30 seconds before whisking it thoroughly, until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is well-combined. Add the butter in two pieces, whisking until that is blended as well.

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