I remembered this recipe as soon as it popped up on Food52. It is indeed a Genius recipe, original to Marion Cunningham, from her lovely little book “The Breakfast Book”. And, because one of ginger’s favorite flavor pals is citrus, it got me thinking…I had a craving for cake, and a lot of lemons at my disposal. So, I made Ms. Cunningham’s fresh ginger muffin recipe, baked it in a round cake pan, and cloaked it with a lemony cream cheese frosting. Et voila! A quick and easy cake, with great ginger and lemon flavor, and just slightly fancified for afternoon tea. When baking what is originally a muffin recipe in a cake pan, use a lower oven temperature, and take care not to overbake. I added a little baking powder, for more “lift”. The texture of the cake is like a quick bread, and it is the perfect platform for a topping of rich, tart frosting.
I think the ginger flavor of this cake is even better the second day. It would be very good for brunch or breakfast, if you’re feeling a little self-indulgent. Maybe this weekend?
Fresh Ginger and Lemon Cake
- For the cake:
- 2 ounces fresh gingerroot , peeled (or not, it's up to you)
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 heaping tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk , kefir, or a combination of yogurt and milk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
- For the frosting:
- 3 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons softened , unsalted butter
- Juice of half a lemon
- Finely grated zest of half a lemon
- 2- 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- Additional lemon zest , for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
Chop the gingerroot into very small pieces, either by hand or in a mini food processor. Put 1/4 cup of the sugar and the ginger in a small skillet or saucepan and cook, over medium heat, until the sugar melts. Set the mixture aside to cool. Mix the grated lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of sugar together in a small bowl, using a fork to thoroughly combine the two. Add this lemon sugar mixture to the ginger and stir to combine. Set aside while you prepare the batter.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter to soften. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Add the buttermilk and mix well. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add these to the butter, egg, buttermilk mixture and blend just until combined. Gently and quickly mix in the ginger-lemon mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes (the baking time will depend on the size of the pan you are using). Watch carefully so as not to overbake the cake. Remove as soon as the top of the cake is firm and a tester comes out mostly clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and softened butter together in a medium bowl. Blend in the lemon juice and zest. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar until the mixture is a spreadable consistency (you may not need it all).
Frost the cooled cake, making decorative swirls on the top, and sprinkling on additional lemon zest, if you like. Store any leftovers, loosely covered, in the refrigerator. If the cake has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before serving.