This recipe is gingerbread the way I like it - not too sweet, fragrant with ginger and a strong molasses flavour, dark chocolatey brown in colour and with that soft and gooey texture that's as far from cakey as it gets. Or as Nigella would probably describe it... "downright wodgey".
I'd been toying with the idea of pairing this traditional gingerbread with persimmons, since they're in season and I think their delicate sweet and almost-spicy flavour is just the thing to go with the warm spiciness of the gingerbread.
The thing is, most of the time persimmons are usually just pureed and mixed into the batter when making a cake, which didn't seem like the right approach here since the subtle persimmon flavour would be completely overwhelmed by the strong spice-and-molasses flavour of the gingerbread. I also knew from experience that this sort of gingerbread batter comes out much too runny to properly support any whole pieces of fruit, which would have left me with a quasi upside-down cake... that that just didn't seem like the way I wanted to go, either.
1 cup blackstrap molasses
½ cup golden syrup (see Ingredient Note)
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup water
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
⅛ tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a lightly buttered 9" x 12" x 2" baking pan with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized saucepan set over low heat, combine the molasses, sugar, golden syrup, butter and water. Cook, stirring frequently, until butter is melted and ingredients are combined. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, allspice and cloves. Set aside.
Once the molasses mixture is cooled and just slightly warm to the touch, pour into a second large mixing bowl. Crack in the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in milk, vanilla extract and grated ginger, and stir until blended. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring just until the mixture comes together (the batter will look very runny and lumpy, but resist the urge to add more flour or to continue stirring as you'll only make the gingerbread tough - embrace its imperfections).
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 45-55 mins, or until top feels springy and a tester inserted into the cake comes out with a moist crumb. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed with a few wedges of Poached Persimmons (see below) and a generous dollop of whipped cream.
Ingredient Note: Golden syrup is a traditional British ingredient. It's relatively easy to find in Canada (one of the last remnants of our colonial past, along with jars of Marmite in the supermarket and our habit of pronouncing "lieutenant" as "left-tenant"). My grocery store usually keeps it near the pancake mix, usually right next to the table syrup.
If you can't find golden syrup where you live, light corn syrup is a perfectly good (albeit not-so-authentic) substitute.
2 cups water
¼ cup sugar
4 slices ginger, about ½" thick
4 firm-ripe Fuyu persimmons
¼ cup dark spiced rum
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine water, sugar and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the mixture reaches a boil and sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and let steep, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, fish out the ginger slices and discard. Stir in rum.
In the meantime, peel the persimmons and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half into eight wedges.
Return the poaching liquid to the stove and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Gently slide the persimmon wedges into the syrup, reduce heat to low, and poach for 15-20 minutes or until fruit is tender when pierced with a fork.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the persimmons from the poaching liquid and set aside. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the syrup back up to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid thickens to a syrup, about 10-15 minutes. Pour the syrup over the persimmons and allow to cool completely before serving.